To say that Los Angeles Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff’s rookie season was a disappointment would be an understatement. Jeff Fisher, true to his word, named Case Keenum the team’s Week 1 starter, placing the Draft’s No. 1 overall pick on the bench for the majority of the 2016 season. Fans - who’d waited patiently while Fisher, Rob Boras, and Chris Weinke worked on “developing" Goff - waited until Week 11 to see their QB of the future take his first regular season snap.
With Goff at the helm, the Rams lost seven consecutive games, finishing their season 4-12; far below the 7-9 punchline that’s been with them for much of the Fisher era. Statistically, it wasn’t pretty. Goff finished his rookie campaign having passed for 1,089 yards (155 ypg), and with more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (5). With almost half a season under his belt, Goff is still in search of his first career win.
Blame, however, cannot be solely laid on Goff’s shoulders. I’ll spare you great detail on how his receivers rarely did him any favors, or how the protection from the offensive line was downright dreadful. They’re facts, but if you’ve heard them once, you’ve heard them a thousand times.
But, having put both Fisher and Keenum behind them, it’s now Goff’s team and he needs to show drastic improvement between year one and year two. While sometimes flashing glimpses of why he was the Draft’s top pick, there were also times where he looked uncomfortable, even lost, throughout the course of a game. Inadequately reading coverages pre-snap, not calling necessary audibles, not going through his progressions, and sometimes simply holding onto the ball for too long, Goff often looked the part of a rookie.
Now, with an entire offseason where he’ll work with the team’s starters, there’s one burning question regarding Goff’s future success, and what it’s going to take for him to turn things around in 2017: What does he have to do in year two to take the next step?
Rams’ GM Les Snead, who recently sat down with NFL Network’s Steve Wyche, provided some insight as to new Head Coach Sean McVay’s focus for Goff this offseason. Making things slightly more difficult, Goff will need to learn his second offense in as many years. But McVay has one priority for his starting QB this offseason.
If he had one priority for Jared, it’s this...Sean, coming from his background, really wants the quarterback to understand protections. Because at that point, during the course of a game he should know where his protections are weak and strong, and know: "uh oh, we’ve got a problem coming -- but the offense has a built-in answer and I’ve got to get to that answer real quick." And I think that would be progress of where Sean would want Jared to get.
Makes sense, right? Over the final seven weeks of the season, Goff was sacked 26 times. Kirk Cousins, who McVay worked very closely with in Washington was sacked only 23 times in 16 games last year.
Though it begs the question of how the former regime didn’t recognize this as an area of opportunity for Goff throughout the course of the regular season; more specifically after Week 11 when he spent most of his time (which there wasn’t much of) trying to avoid an imminent sack. A lack of true development, and no signs of adjustments, ultimately lead to the painful conclusion of a season that, about this time a year ago, looked to have some promise.
McVay’s priority, however glaringly obvious it may seem, simply goes to show that he understands what needs to be improved upon immediately - aside from personnel moves, which he’s also addressed - if the Rams and Goff are going to show signs of life on offense in 2017.
It remains to be seen whether rubber will meet the road in that regard, but for now at least, McVay - who helped lead one of the league’s top offenses in 2016 - appears to have a firm grasp on the issues that plagued his team last season.