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Rams can’t get back to Super Bowl if Jared Goff struggles against good defenses again

Obvious points with not so obvious stats

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Texas Tech at West Virginia Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Against the Arizona Cardinals in 2019, LA Rams quarterback Jared Goff was as good as a player who had MVP consideration a season earlier: two games, 743 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions, 8.4 yards per attempt and 9.6 adjusted yards per attempt. In some respects, Goff had played even better against the Cards last season than he did in 2018 when the Rams were in the Super Bowl and Arizona had the worst record in the NFL.

It was most of the other 14 games that were a problem for Goff and the Rams.

The Cardinals defense ranked 23rd by DVOA last season, 29th against the pass. He also played well against the Cincinnati Bengals, 30th in defense and 28th against the pass. And he played well against the New Orleans Saints, who actually did have an above average defense, ranking 11th overall and 13th against the pass. Goff was also productive in both games against the Seattle Seahawks, though their defense wasn’t as stout as it used to be, ranking 18th overall and 15th against the pass.

In general, Goff’s struggles came against above average defenses and while this may seem obvious and inconsequential to you, I argue that it is not. The only quarterbacks in 2019 to average more than eight yards per attempt against defenses ranked above average by DVOA were Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo.

The two Super Bowl quarterbacks.

This comes courtesy of a reddit post sharing how each 2019 QB did against defenses who had a negative DVOA (good) on defense. I’m not saying Garoppolo was fantastic against good defenses — only Philip Rivers threw more than his 10 interceptions in such contests — but Kyle Shanahan got what he needed and the San Francisco 49ers went 8-2 in those games. The Niners did also have a great defense and that unit showed up against Goff.

In the 20-7 loss at home, Goff was held to a season-low 3.25 yards per attempt. In the 34-31 loss on the road, Goff completed only 58-percent of his passes. The Niners ranked second in defense last season. The Pittsburgh Steelers ranked third and Goff had a season-low passer rating of 52.1 against them. The Baltimore Ravens were fourth and his rating was 62 in that contest. No matter the stat or measure you choose, it’s going to be poor.

All gathered, only four quarterbacks posted a lower passer rating last season against teams with an above average defense by DVOA: Mitchell Trubisky, Josh Allen, Andy Dalton, and Sam Darnold.

This is not the company that a “$134 million quarterback” wants to keep.

In these seven games, the Rams went 2-5, and Goff completed 163-of-262 passes, 61.7-percent completions, 6.98 Y/A, five touchdowns and nine interceptions. This would leave him with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the other nine games against below average defenses, which is also a bit concerning as it is clearly too many picks and not enough scores for what once was an elite offense.

Goff averaged 7.17 intended air yards in this game, indicating that Sean McVay and Goff were hesitant or unable to push the ball downfield; only Gardner Minshew, Garoppolo, Tom Brady, and Derek Carr had lower figures there.

Garoppolo’s number was low, but Shanahan’s offense still produced 8.41 Y/A and 68.3-percent completions with 12 touchdowns in those 10 games. Carr completed almost 71-percent of his passes in those eight contests. Brady may in fact have been washed up for all we know but still had nine touchdowns and four interceptions in eight games against above average defenses.

Of course Goff and the Rams need to do better. Better in general and better against good teams. Now we have a better idea of just how much better.