When Jared Goff threw for 450 yards and two touchdowns against Northwestern University opening day last season, fans were hopeful that Cal football finally recruited a player that could lead the program to Rose Bowl contention.
But as the 2013 season began to get away from Cal, fans grew more and more aggravated over Goff’s crucial game-changing mistakes. Despite his struggles, Goff displayed potential through flashes of accurate passing and timely decision making. Overall, if the Bears want their freshman to emerge as a star, Goff will need a better group of surrounding talent.
Taking a look at Goff — true freshman, four-star recruit, 7,500+ yards and 90+ touchdowns in high school, 6’4 — it’s reasonable to see why so many fans were excited. This was supposed to be their guy — the guy that put up video-game numbers every game leading the Bears to new heights.
“Our goal is the Rose Bowl,” Goff said before the start of his 2013 campaign. “That’s what I feel like we can accomplish. We’re good enough to do it right now. We just need to put it all together.”
That did not happen. Instead, Cal went 1-11. Goff committed 16 total turnovers, throwing 10 interceptions and led the nation with six lost fumbles.
Goff did have “positive” statistics such as 3,508 total passing yards and 320 completions, both of which are now Cal single-season records. In addition, Goff also threw 18 touchdowns and even ran for a score himself in the school’s lone win against Portland State.
But these numbers are misleading, especially when accounting for the fact that only three of Cal’s games were decided by three touchdowns or less.On one hand, he did technically set the record in total passing yards. But on the other hand, it can be argued that a large chunk of Goff’s yards and completions last year came in garbage time.
So what went wrong? Is Goff not the answer? Do the Bears need a new quarterback? These are questions every losing team has to deal with. The truth is, Cal’s terrible season isn’t entirely Goff’s fault. But at the same time, his poor play is also to blame.
When breaking down the Bears’ quarterback situation and their struggles at other positions, it’s inevitable to point out the flaws in the entire team. Goff was sacked 32 total times out of 563 dropbacks. Compared to other quarterbacks, a sack for every 17.6 times he takes the ball doesn’t seem to be that bad. But the Bear Raid is a pass-happy spread offense, which means shorter routes and less yards per attempt, as evidenced by Goff’s 6.6 YPA.
And with Goff’s less than stellar 60.3% completion rating, it’s going to take up a lot of plays before the offense can pick up enough yards to put points up on the board. And the more plays that Cal runs, the more likely it is Goff’s offensive line will grow weary and put the 19 year old in a situation like this.
Usually when passing gets repetitive, teams will run the ball. Especially in spread offenses, establishing a run threat works well when offenses can slowly move the ball up and force defenses to blitz and cheat with their safeties. Once the safeties are out of position, that’s when the Bears can utilize their talented receivers to gain beat corners and separation with deeper routes.
But, Cal has failed this season to produce even a 500 – yard rusher as the combined team total for rushing yards last season was just 1,466. 13 single players this year ran for more yards than the total team. The running struggles are highlighted in their games against Northwestern, Washington State, Oregon State, and Stanford when these teams held the Bears to under 100 yards rushing.
Cal lacks the ability to effectively run the ball and force defensive secondaries to adjust. And this has hurt Goff. Because defenses aren’t worried about a running back pounding straight through the heart of a defensive line, safeties stay where they are in the backfield so when Goff is looking for a big play, this happens.
Despite the tough freshman year, come opening day next season against Northwestern, Goff will most likely be the one taking snaps from the shotgun.
Behind Goff in the depth chart is Austin Hinder, Kyle Boehm, Joey Mahalic, and Cole Webb; however, it’s pretty unlikely these four are going to threaten for Goff’s starting job. Incoming freshman that might make some noise later on as the season draws closer is 6’ freshman Luke Rubenzer, a three-star recruit from Arizona who threw for 9,645 yards and 132 touchdowns on a national high school record 71.9% completion rate and Chase Forrest, a 6’3 three-star recruit who threw for over 2,000 yards in his senior year in Mater Dei HS.
Where Goff falls short is his lack of arm strength and athleticism. But in Sonny Dykes’ system of short routes and frequent passing, scrambling and long passes from the quarterback aren’t necessarily helpful. While Hinder will likely be buried in the depth chart, Rubenzer could have a shot at the starting quarterback job because of his arm strength and ability to put an extra zap on short passes. But for this to happen, Rubenzer will need a very impressive showing in preseason in addition to immense Goff struggles as the season goes on.
In the NFL, quarterbacks on average earn about 8% of the team’s whole salary. In every level of football, quarterback is the most heavily focused position. But at the same time, the other 92% of the team needs to contribute and put the quarterback in a position to succeed. As Cal fans witnessed first hand in 2013, football is a team sport. And no matter how promising a player looks and how bloated his stats are, the quarterback can’t win games without a supporting cast.
Jared Goff is just a sophomore. He’s shown signs that he can be a solid player in the next year or two. But that is completely dependent on whether or not the Bears can address and fix the problems that are greatly noticeable on every other aspect of the roster.
Contact Richard Lee at [email protected].