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Farewell, “System QB”

What got the Rams so worked up over such an empty phrase? And where did it even come from?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

It came seemingly out of nowhere.

On Wednesday, ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry posed a seemingly innocuous question to Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay about QB Jared Goff:

Some people might say that Jared’s a product of your system, but having Jared as your quarterback, how much does that allow you to do with your system?

For one of the few times (and maybe only time) in his nascent career as a head coach, McVay was a little...upset.

Yeah, I mean (QB) Jared (Goff) is the one making the plays. It’s our job as coaches to try to put him in position and our players make the plays. I think that’s a total discredit to him and all the different things that he’s doing. I mean he’s making the throws, he’s making the calls at the line of scrimmage, he’s making the calls in the huddle. So, I think it’s our job as a coaching staff to collaborate and try to put together plans on a weekly basis that give our players a chance to have success. But, ultimately I know this, you’re a lot better coach when you’re working with players like Jared Goff and I feel really fortunate to work with him. His growth over the last couple years, his ability to be able to be unphased by things – whether they be good or bad throughout the course of a game – his ability to make all the throws, you can change the launch point with him. He recognizes – I think he’s got a great feel for the game. So, the possibilities, you’re not limited in a way that you can utilize him in any way and because of his just overall poise and confidence in his demeanor, it helps me too. I’m a little wired if you guys didn’t know that. So, I think his even-keeled demeanor during the game is actually helpful for me and I think it’s a nice complement. He’s done a great job and I feel lucky to work with players like him.

The LA Times’ Gary Klein followed up with Goff at his media availability:

Jared, Sean said today that the notion that you are a product of the system is not necessarily true. How do you kind of view how you’ve been able to develop over the last few years?

Goff was his typically unflappable, nonchalant self:

Yeah, I’ll be a product of the system if we win games, as much as I want. We just continue to go out there and keep playing, keep putting up 30 points and call me whatever you want. I feel like I’m just continuing to develop and continuing to get better. As time goes on, I hope to continue to get better and keep learning from (Head Coach) Sean (McVay) and keep trying to be the best leader and quarterback I can be.

And that was that.

Nobody declared Goff a “system QB.” Nobody even explained what it meant. Still, the phrase took off.

Rams Twitter was quick to defend Goff from the phrase even without knowing what it meant. While national media went into the Rams’ Week 3 game against the crosstown pre-rival Los Angeles Chargers covering the #FightForLA, local media largely honed in on the phrase that was never uttered.

And what’s perhaps most interesting is how deep the offense has been felt from inside the organization despite to my awareness nobody actually calling him a system quarterback.

The social media team was clearly sensitive to the term:

As was starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth:

And even after the Rams’ demonstrative 35-23 win in which Goff and the offense were absolutely stellar, NFL media’s Mike Silver has a report that shows McVay was STILL transfixed on making sure the term doesn’t get attached to Goff’s name:

If you’re inclined to assume [McVay praising Goff to his father after the game was just being nice], you’re missing the message behind McVay’s glowing assessment of his quarterback: Goff is not the product of his system. He is the pulse of it.

”Saying he’s a system player -- that’s just disrespectful,” McVay told me after the game, still steamed over a question suggesting as much that he’d received in a press conference last Wednesday. “It’s a total discredit to a great player. Those who know, know. Flip the tape on. People who know what it looks like to play the quarterback position at a high level know what they’re seeing.

McVay was still steaming over a question from Wednesday. After winning a huge game on Sunday.

Does that sound like Sean McVay? Has there been anything that has stuck in his craw like this ever? Sure, a bad playcall or other mistake that he’s responsible for seems to upset him. He’s a perfectionist who wants to do his job as best as he can. But this has nothing to do with his perfectionism. This is just media framing.

And I’m not sure where it came from or why it upset the Rams so clearly.

The question perhaps is if it will linger.

Goff was masterful on Sunday in the best performance of his young NFL career. Will it kill the strawman who deemed him a system QB? Perhaps. We’ll have to see if the media continues to pepper McVay, Goff and others in the locker room on the phrase. It clearly irks them in a way that most things don’t.

So perhaps we must say goodbye to our favorite new phrase.

It came into town unannounced and largely unwanted. And after a wild week, it might have died a short and necessary death.


Goodbye, “system QB” Jared Goff. We hardly knew ye.