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How does Jared Goff perform in his next start after a terrible game?

Better.

Los Angeles Rams v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Terms like “practice makes perfect” and “getting better with experience” could be misleading. On a grand scale, that idea of constantly getting better with experience may inadvertently cause some people to believe that improvement is something that comes and flows as easily as time.

But improvement and performance is not an even upward slope that consistently gets better each week until one day you are “MVP candidate Peyton Manning” and the next you’re “happy” that you drafted Brock Osweiler four years ago. It’s a rocky mountain slope on the horizon.

At 26, Jared Goff has room left for improvement and development. He’s also proven to have room left for painfully bad games.

In Sunday’s 28-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Goff threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles, getting away with at least three other throws that would have been turnovers if the ball hadn’t been dropped in the process of the catch. This basically all happened in the first half.

This may not be the worst game of Goff’s career, but it has an argument for being the most damning of his performances to date. The Los Angeles Rams have a case for “best defense in the NFL” and held the Dolphins to 145 yards of total offense with two turnovers, but the mistakes by Goff were too much to overcome. The reaction birds are out because of how much Goff has cost the Rams at this point in his career and probably also in large part due to the issues that have faced this offense since the Super Bowl.

The predicament that Sean McVay is in right now is a reality: the division has both a 6-1 team with a quarterback who has thrown 26 touchdowns in seven games and a 5-2 team with a quarterback who has 20 total touchdowns in seven games. The Seahawks have the most points per game in the NFL. The Cardinals have the most yards per game in the NFL.

And the Rams allow the fewest yards per play in the NFL.

The issue for McVay to solve isn’t only, “How do I win the NFC West this season?” but “How do I keep up with Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray and Kyle Shanahan for the next 10 seasons?”

That’s why there will be an immediate and intimidating focus on Goff but there’s another reality we can’t ignore, which is that Goff will play better than he has over the last three games.

That’s not me coming to the defense of Jared Goff, that’s me coming to the defense of statistical probabilities. Humans do not constantly get better. Life is not this: step forward, step forward, step forward, step forward, step forward, step forward.

Life, at its best, may be: two steps forward, one step backwards, one step forward, two steps backwards, three steps forward, one step backwards, and so on until you’re benched for Osweiler. Hopefully you won an MVP somewhere along the line.

I think fantasy football is a bad thing but I would say that if I ever played it again, I would take into account whether the player had a poor game the week before. If he was a player who I generally thought was good, I’d be optimistic about his regression towards a better result. If the player was coming off of an outstanding performance, I’d be cautious about what comes next.

Remember, the Rams scored 54 points in a win over the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018 and I don’t recall anyone mentioning after the game that “This could be the end of the line for McVay’s offense.”

In the first 11 games of 2018, Goff averaged 9.31 yards per attempt and he had an adjusted yards per attempt (accounting for touchdowns and interceptions) of 9.97. It was easy to mention him for MVP after his win against the Chiefs, even if he lost two fumbles.

But in the three games after Monday night’s win over K.C., Goff had one touchdown and six interceptions. His AY/A dropped all the way to 3.66, which is one of the worst marks fathomable, almost as bad as his worst three-game stretch as a rookie under Jeff Fisher and John Fassel.

And as you really should expect, Goff rebounded in the final two games of the year, posting a Y/A of 8.3 and an AY/A of 10.3 in wins over the Cardinals and 49ers.

In the playoffs however, Goff ran into better defenses — which is the concern I’d say teams should have every year when they’re beating bad teams and not playing of the same quality against winning clubs — and his AY/A of 4.84 in the Super Bowl was worse than all but one of his starts in the 2018 regular season.

Between 2017-2018, Goff had seven games with an AY/A of under 6.00, eight if you include the Super Bowl. Then in the 2019 regular season alone, he had six. How has Goff almost always performed after one of his worst games?

As you should almost always expect: he played better. Sometimes a lot better. Given that the Rams next opponent is Seattle, we should expect Goff to have one of his best games of 2020. So we should not be judging Goff based on how poorly he played against the Dolphins, just like we should not ignore what’s been wrong with the offense if he plays spectacularly against the Seahawks.

Here is a rundown of Goff’s stat line when he posts an AY/A under 6.00 and then how he rebounds the next week. I am only looking at the Sean McVay years.

*Also had a fumble lost

Game 5, 2017 - 22 of 47, 288, 0 TD, 2 INT, 2 sacks, 6.13 Y/A, 4.21 AY/A* (16-10 loss to SEA)

Game 6, 2017 - 11 of 21, 124, 1 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks, 5.9 Y/A, 6.86 AY/A (27-17 win vs JAX)

Seahawks were 14th in pass defense DVOA, Jaguars were 1st.

Game 7, 2017 - 22 of 37, 235, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack, 6.35 Y/A, 5.68 AY/A (33-0 win vs AZ)

Game 8, 2017 - 14 of 22, 311, 4 TD, 0 INT, 0 sacks, 14.14 Y/A, 17.77 AY/A (51-17 win vs NYG)

Cardinals were sixth in pass defense DVOA, Giants were 21st.

Game 15, 2017 - 14 of 21, 120, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 5.71 Y/A, 5.48 AY/A (42-7 win vs SEA)

Game 16, 2017 - 22 of 38, 301, 4 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack, 7.92 Y/A, 10.03 AY/A* (27-23 win vs TEN)

Titans were 22nd in pass defense DVOA. In the playoffs, Goff averaged 5.76 Y/A and 6.2 AY/A in the wild card loss to the Falcons.

Game 6, 2018 - 14 of 28, 201, 0 TD, 1 INT, 5 sacks, 7.18 Y/A, 5.57 AY/A (23-20 win vs DEN)

Game 7, 2018 - 18 of 24, 202, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack, 8.42 Y/A, 10.08 AY/A (39-10 win vs SF)

Broncos were 5th in pass defense DVOA, 49ers were 29th.

Game 12, 2018 - 17 of 33, 207, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 6.27 Y/A, 5.52 AY/A* (30-16 win vs DET)

Game 13, 2018 - 20 of 44, 180, 0 TD, 4 INT, 3 sacks, 4.09 Y/A, 0.00 AY/A (15-6 loss to CHI)

Game 14, 2018 - 35 of 53, 339, 0 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 6.5 Y/A, 5.55 AY/A* (23-20 loss to PHI)

Game 15, 2018 - 19 of 24, 216, 1 TD, 0 INT, 2 sacks, 9 Y/A, 9.83 AY/A* (31-9 win vs AZ)

Lions were 24th in pass defense DVOA, Bears were 1st, Eagles were 19th, Cardinals were sixth. The game against Chicago is the only time Goff’s AY/A went down after a performance in which he was already under 6.00. They had the best pass defense in the NFL that year.

Game 1, 2019 - 23 of 39, 186, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack, 4.77 Y/A, 4.13 AY/A (30-27 win vs CAR)

Game 2, 2019 - 19 of 28, 283, 1 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks, 10.11 Y/A, 10.82 AY/A* (27-9 win vs NO)

Panthers were 12th in pass defense DVOA, Saints were 10th.

Game 3, 2019 - 24 of 38, 268, 2 TD, 2 INT, 2 sacks, 7.05 Y/A, 5.74 AY/A* (20-13 win vs CLE)

Game 4, 2019 - 45 of 68, 517, 2 TD, 3 INT, 2 sacks, 7.6 Y/A, 6.21 AY/A* (55-40 loss to TB)

Browns were 18th in pass defense DVOA, Bucs were 13th.

Game 6, 2019 - 13 of 24, 78, 0 TD, 0 INT, 4 sacks, 3.25 Y/A, 3.25 AY/A* (20-7 loss to SF)

Game 7, 2019 - 22 of 37, 268, 2 TD, 0 INT, 0 sacks, 7.24 Y/A, 8.32 AY/A (37-10 win vs ATL)

49ers were 2nd in pass defense DVOA, Falcons were 21st.

Game 9, 2019 - 22 of 41, 243, 0 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks, 5.93 Y/A, 3.73 AY/A* (17-12 loss to PIT)

Game 10, 2019 - 11 of 18, 173, 0 TD, 1 INT, 0 sacks, 9.61 Y/A, 7.11 AY/A (17-7 win vs CHI)

Steelers were 3rd in pass defense DVOA, Bears were 11th.

Game 11, 2019 - 26 of 37, 212, 0 TD, 2 INT, 2 sack, 5.73 Y/A, 3.3 AY/A (45-6 loss to BAL)

Game 12, 2019 - 32 of 43, 424, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack, 9.86 Y/A, 10.79 AY/A (34-7 win vs AZ)

Ravens were 4th in pass defense DVOA, Cardinals were 26th.

Game 14, 2019 - 33 of 51, 284, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 5.57 Y/A, 5.47 AY/A (44-21 loss to DAL)

Game 15, 2019 - 27 of 47, 323, 2 TD, 1 INT, 0 sacks, 7.02 Y/A, 6.91 AY/A (34-31 loss to SF)

Cowboys were 17th in pass defense DVOA.

Game 6, 2020 - 19 of 38, 198, 2 TD, 1 INT, 0 sacks, 5.21 Y/A, 5.08 AY/A (24-16 loss to SF)

Game 7, 2020 - 23 of 33, 220, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack, 6.67 Y/A, 7.88 AY/A (24-10 win vs CHI)

Going into Week 8, 49ers were 13th in pass defense DVOA, Bears were third.

Since 2017, this is Jared Goff in the game following a performance in which he had an adjusted yards per attempt below 6:

318 of 502, 3,881 yards, 23 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 19 sacks, 7.73 Y/A, 7.75 AY/A

That makes his average game look like this:

23 of 36, 277 yards, 1.6 touchdowns, 1 interception, 7.73 Y/A, 7.75 AY/A.

Going into this week, the Dolphins ranked sixth in pass defense DVOA and they’ll definitely be in the top-five now. The Seahawks currently rank 30th in pass defense DVOA, so seeing Jared Goff return from the bye week to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns would not at all be surprising.

How Goff performed against the Dolphins is not the concern. How he performs against Seattle will not be the “test” to determine how to move forward either. It takes a look at the full body of work and that resume tells me that Goff is neither bad enough to consistently sink his team as he did this week nor good enough to raise them up against the NFL’s best defenses.

It’s about more than one game. Goff will be better in the next one. Will he be good enough over the next eight?