The Los Angeles Rams’ quarterback and Cal alum Jared Goff has accomplished a lot in his sophomore season, leading the NFL’s highest-scoring offense and taking the Rams to their first winning record since 2003. But his greatest accomplishment may be that he will now always be the textbook case in what a change in environment can do for a talented young player.
After a dismal 2016 season that had writers calling him an immediate bust and one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, Goff hasn’t even needed the entirety of the 2017 season to show that was he more than deserving of the No. 1 overall pick last year.
It’s hard to explain just how poor the 2016 Rams’ offense was under former head coach Jeff Fisher unless you could actually watch a four-hour game and see for yourself that the offensive highlights came courtesy of the punter. Fisher made the smart decision to not make Goff the starting quarterback right out of the gate, opting to play Case Keenum instead.
But behind an awful offensive line and an uninspiring wide receiver core, the Rams were putting up a pitiful 15.4 points per game through nine games. With his job on the line, Fisher decided to play Goff before he was ready, and with a quarterback still adjusting to the league without any help, the team plummeted to 12.1 points a contest.
The Rams made a variety of moves over the offseason to try to remedy their offensive woes, some promising, some not. All-Pro left tackle Andrew Whitworth got paid big money to help keep Goff upright. After seven games of never having more than 2 ½ seconds to throw the ball, Whitworth was sure to be a big help in Goff’s life.
But the additions of wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, both coming off underwhelming years, didn’t seem like such obvious bets to pay off.
It all came together, though, when 31-year-old Sean McVay turned out to be the offensive mastermind that he was promised to be after his stint as the Redskins’ offensive coordinator. From week one, he made it clear that he would not let the unique talents of Goff, Woods, Watkins and running back Todd Gurley go to waste as the new-look Rams put up 35.5 points per game in their first four games of the season.
Goff, whose strengths lie more in his accuracy on deep throws than in his anticipation of subtleties in intermediate routes, looked much more comfortable in an offense that stretched the field vertically and gave him looks all over the field.
Woods’ speed worked over the top of defenses, Watkins is a perfectly made jump-ball receiver, Gurley keeps the defense honest and has taken huge strides as a pass-catcher and rookie Cooper Kupp has shown a true connection with Goff early on. Goff’s ability to make throws from every angle and to each location on the field has made him the perfect conductor for this newly high-flying offense.
Goff has jumped from historically awful numbers in his first year to being in the top 10 in passing yards, passing rating and yards per attempt this year, and is also in the top 10 of Pro-Bowl voting at the moment. Despite what some analysts will say, he is fundamentally the same quarterback last year as he was this year. He’s made some minor technical adjustments, but this isn’t a case of personal redemption as much as him finally getting the help he needed.