A report from Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole suggests that the Los Angeles Rams could make a switch to HSOTE Sean Mannion as their starting quarterback mid-season if Jared Goff “struggles.”
Let’s be blunt. This is incredibly clickbaity and incredibly weakly sourced. Acknowledged. It’s also May 17, and the vacuum of the offseason creates space that stuff like this can fill.
There are two things worth considering here.
This coaching staff is not indebted to Jared Goff
When the Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans last year to acquire the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to take Goff, Rams Head Coach Sean McVay was the offensive coordinator for Washington. Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach with the Atlanta Falcons. Quarterbacks Coach Greg Olson was the offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
None of them were responsible for picking Jared Goff. So if his development stunts at any point? If they struggle to help him improve as an NFL quarterback far beyond the 150 yards per game mark or the 5:7 TD to interception ratio, there’s nothing tying them to him in the long term just as there was nothing tying Jeff Fisher and his staff to Sam Bradford. Their door at QB opened because of Bradford’s injuries, chiefly the successive ACL injuries he suffered in mid-season in 2013 and then in the 2014 preseason. McVay’s door might open if Goff doesn’t turn a corner with his game.
Sean Mannion, to this point, is an empty draft pick
The Rams selected Mannion in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, a class punctuated by #10 overall pick RB Todd Gurley but most heavily populated with a flood of offensive linemen. While Gurley provided an instant spark upon his arrival and the offensive linemen have nearly all seen substantial playing time to some degree, Mannion has taken all of 23 snaps in the regular season in his NFL career: 7 in his rookie year and 16 more last season. A year after the Rams took Mannion in the third round, the Dallas Cowboys selected Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Perhaps you have heard of him.
It’s not just that Mannion to this point has been an entirely wasted draft pick, much like Isaiah Battle, the offensive tackle whom the Rams selected in the 2015 Supplemental Draft by using their 2016 NFL Draft fifth-round pick who never logged a single snap. It’s that Mannion, like Battle, should have seen time by now. The options in front of him have hardly impressed. The coaching staff never pushed Mannion into action in 2015 while Nick Foles made way for Case Keenum in a 7-9 season that started 4-8. They never pushed him into action in 2016 while Keenum made way for Goff after a repeat 4-8 start instead led to a 4-12 final record. That Mannion never logged a few drives down the stretch of 2016 tells you how institutionally tied the Rams were to Goff last year.
I think it’s fair, and Cole’s report certainly fans these flames, to assume that institutional loyalty has weakened over the last 12 months.
To what degree? Who knows. I doubt it has much to do with Cole’s soft transfer of Mannion’s “improved quickness of his reads and his footwork.” When did Mannion improve those empty scout-sounding traits? Last season while he wasn’t playing? In the five months since? Yeah, you can strikethrough that one.
What’s worth taking away is just the general reminder that this is Year 2 for Goff and Year 1 for McVay. Whereas Goff could always find another employer if he struggles to improve here (see predecessors Foles, Nick and Bradford, Sam), McVay will likely see a length period between his first head coaching tenure and his second if he can’t turn the Rams into a winning franchise (see predecessors Linehan, Scott, Spagnulo, Steve and Fisher, Jeff).
The pressure in the short term is on Goff to perform. Greater pressure still is on McVay in the long term. Blame rolls downhill, but responsibility climbs uphill. The first inklings of that will come in 2017 if the Rams struggle to turn things around out of the gate.
Here’s hoping it’s a schism we don’t have to revisit come September.