For Jared Goff to make the Hall of Fame one day not only does a lot of stuff have to happen, but a lot of unlikely stuff has to happen. I’m not saying that it is more or less likely because of Goff personally, we’re talking about the highest career honor you can reach in professional football and so it’s unlikely for nearly any player with only three full years of starting experience.
However, it may have not seemed all that likely for Jim Kelly, Joe Namath, John Elway, or Matt Ryan, but things worked out even better for those quarterbacks eventually.
In the last three years, Goff has posted these numbers in 47 games:
63.3%, 82 TD, 35 INT, 7.9 Y/A, 4.9% TD, 2.1% INT, 95.4 rating, passer rating+ 106
The former first overall pick has also reached one Super Bowl. But his numbers slipped in 2019 and he posted a passer rating+ of 93, much lower than the 114 and 115 he had the previous two seasons. Passer rating+ doesn’t calculate rating, which comes with all its flaws, it measures the rating against the league average that year. It’s how we know that Joe Namath’s rating of 72.1 in 1968 when he won the Super Bowl wasn’t terrible like it would look today as Namath would be riding the bench and drawing ridicule from Jets fans.
Namath’s passer rating+ in 1968 was 110, roughly the same as posting a rating of 98, as Deshaun Watson did in 2019.
Goff has been well above average in two of his three seasons and the total average of his three seasons as a starter under Sean McVay comes out to him being good, not great. Can we find any other quarterbacks who posted around a 106 passer rating+ in years 2-4 and who were also former first rounders?
Here are the three other QBs besides Goff who were drafted in the first round, attempted at least 1,200 passes in years 2-4, and had a passer rating+ of 106:
- Matt Ryan, 2009-2011
- Troy Aikman, 1990-1992
- Joe Namath, 1966-1968
Aikman and Namath also won the Super Bowl in the last of those three seasons. Ryan reached the Super Bowl in year nine, but the Falcons reached the playoffs in four of his first five campaigns. Ryan’s numbers in years 2-4:
60.9%, 79 TD, 35 INT, 6.8 Y/A, 5 TD%, 2.2 INT%, 88.6 rating, 106 passer rating+
Coming in close at a passer rating+ of 105 is former second overall pick Donovan McNabb:
58%, 63 TD, 31 INT, 6.2 Y/A, 4.4 TD%, 2.2 INT%, 82.2 rating, 105 passer rating+
The Eagles reached the NFC Championship game in his third and fourth seasons, then again in his fifth and sixth, reaching the Super Bowl in the final of those years.
Just below McNabb at a passer rating+ of 104 were Joe Flacco (playoffs in each of his first five seasons, reaching and winning the Super Bowl in year five) and Matthew Stafford.
Just above Goff and company is Daunte Culpepper at 109. He led the NFL in touchdown passes during his second year, his first as an NFL starter, then led the league in interceptions in year three. But he posted his best campaigns in years four and five and then his talent went missing. Culpepper reached the NFC Championship in year two.
Finally at 110 is Goff’s 2017 draft class mate Carson Wentz, who won the Super Bowl (kind of) in his second season, his first as a full-time starter. And Jim Kelly, who was 26 when he eventually joined the league in 1986, and posted a passer rating of 82.5 in years 2-4, helping the Bills reach the playoffs twice in that time. Buffalo then reached the next four Super Bowls.
I didn’t have any criteria in my search that should have led me to Super Bowl quarterbacks and yet that is exactly what I received. Of the 10 QBs I found who were first rounders, 1,200 attempts, rating+ between 104 and 110, eight reached the Super Bowl in their careers, four reached the Super Bowl within their first four years, two reached multiple Super Bowls, and four won rings.
Go down a couple of points and you’ll find a QB who reached the Super Bowl five times and won it twice.
John Elway’s rating of 74.9 from 1984-1986 was actually perfectly average. The Broncos won at least 11 games in each of those seasons, reaching and losing the Super Bowl in ‘86. Elway helped them back in ‘87 and ‘89, finally winning in ‘97 and ‘98. Is Jared Goff off to a better start in his career than Elway?
You could definitely argue that he is and I think that argument is clear above. Is Goff actually better than Elway? That’s not the question I’m asking. Is Elway a fair statistical comp? Era adjusted, it isn’t hard to see that Goff may have shown more promise early in his career.
The Rams have already reached one Super Bowl with Goff. Now will they reach another?
The comps have mostly all had long careers with one team so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Goff get his chances.