Sean McVay is highly regarded for his ability to connect with players and has a history of pushing them to achieve higher levels of production during his five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.
Perhaps the first player that he helped reach new heights was quarterback Jared Goff, who looked totally unprepared for the NFL as a rookie in Jeff Fisher’s uninspiring offense. Goff took an immediate step forward with McVay during the 2017 season, and just a year later the Rams were playing in Super Bowl LIII.
But Los Angeles was outclassed by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots - and it took on emotional toll on the Rams. Things went down hill from there - and the decline was rapid.
Todd Gurley’s knee and the LA offensive line deteriorated. McVay had to simplify the offense in 2019 and into 2020, which resulted in a hesitancy to push the ball down the field.
It seemed often that Goff was second-guessing each decision he made on the field, and it ultimately led to an irreparable riff between the coach and signal caller.
Seth Wickersham followed McVay around for days over a several month period and shed some new light on the divorce in his piece for ESPN this week:
The Rams went 9-7 (during 2019). It was McVay’s worst season. “So miserable,” he says. He let it carry over into 2020, when the Rams went 10-6. McVay was trying to grow into a total head coach. McVay won, but he began to lose faith in the quarterback on whom he had once bet his career, Jared Goff. As Goff struggled, McVay coached him harder. It backfired, destroying the quarterback’s confidence, about which McVay still feels guilty. He felt his intentions were right but the execution was wrong, and he retreated inward, trying to fight his internal storm alone.
When Goff failed to live up to the standards set forth by his head coach, McVay continued to push his quarterback - but in hindsight it’s fair to wonder if McVay may have push the wrong buttons.
Instead of being incredibly tough on Goff, including bluntly calling him out in the public domain, was there another approach that would have helped the former number one overall draft selection turn his career around?
Even though McVay couldn’t figure out how to get the most out of his former quarterback, it seems that Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell may be on his way - Jared Goff has been the talk of Lions training camp and has a newly restored confidence about him.
Goff’s ability to make every potential throw on the field was never in question as a former top draft choice and passer of the highest pedigree. But similar to Carson Wentz after the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts, once Goff started to struggle with the mental aspects of the game McVay and the Rams were unable to help him right the ship.
At just 27 years old it’s certainly possible that the quarterback has yet to reach his prime, and it seems that Goff may be on his way to earning the trust of his new(ish) team. The Lions have re-loaded their offense with improved talent that includes a great offensive line, TJ Hockenson, DJ Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, DeAndre Swift - and eventually Jameson Williams once he is recovered from an ACL injury dating back to his college days.
It’s fair to wonder if Sean McVay mismanaged the development of his former quarterback, though after winning Super Bowl LVI he’s probably not interested in looking backwards.
Perhaps Jared Goff is in the midst of turning his career around and can lead the Lions back to relevancy - it could turn out to be a happy ending for all involved.