Goff Bowl Will Provide Closure For Rams Fans
Jared Goff returning to Los Angeles to play his former team is a lot more fascinating than an 0-6 team playing a 5-1 team should be. Goff was traded to Detroit on January 28th, along with two first-round picks and a third-round pick for Matthew Stafford. A chorus of fans reacted in a fashion similar to Henry Hill when he hears about the Lufthansa Heist in the shower. To simply say the Rams won that trade is obvious and to cite all the advanced stats comparing Goff and Stafford at this point would be mean. Stafford has proven he’s the QB that Sean McVay has always wanted. This game won’t mean much to either team by the end of the year but for fans, this is the first opportunity to gain a sense of closure after a conflicted relationship with Goff.
Normally, when a fanbase has a fraught relationship with a player it has to do with something personal. With Goff, he conducted himself as a model citizen while never appearing short with the media. He never had any social media outbursts or anything to that effect. The consternation always came down to what happened on the field. Goff was a first-round pick many fans were baffled by and when Jeff Fisher refused to give him first-team practice reps and by he got onto the field as a rookie he looked unsalvagable. Enter McVay who along with GM Les Snead, surrounded Goff with the talent to succeed. And he did. His 2017 season was a big jump from his seven-game rookie year. His 2018 season, was his apex and that people forget, but he made some massive throws that helped lead the team to a Super Bowl.
The problem became that despite McVay molding Goff into a starting quarterback he never got better. He peaked in 2018 and despite evidence that he may have plateaued, Rams management gave him a record (at the time) four year $134 million contract in 2019 rather than just pick up his fifth year and buy themselves time to evaluate whether or not he was the future of the franchise. It’s not on Goff for signing that deal, it was on the Rams for offering it in the first place. That said, his 2019 season was BRUTAL. Statistically, he wasn’t that far off from 2018 but actually seeing him play showed someone who was limited as to what throws he could make, and with the running game falling off a cliff after Todd Gurley and his premature extension proved to be a mistake. The line could no longer protect Goff and the defense took a step back so all of his flaws were on full display. Goff isn’t super mobile, couldn’t throw it deep consistently, struggled to make plays at the line, recognize defensive coverage, and didn’t know what to do when his first read wasn’t there.
That all sounds mean but it’s true. McVay seemed increasingly annoyed when Goff would make an ill-advised throw, turnover, or clearly seemed baffled at the line of scrimmage. His playcalling clearly seemed designed to limit Goff’s chances at making a mistake. The problem is this wasn’t a well-kept secret and life was made fairly easy for opposing defenses. Now, in 2020, the Rams finally got their line and running game settled (especially when Cam Akers broke out) and that meant the playcalling could be opened up a little. That said, as evidenced in the losses to Miami, San Francisco, Jets, and Seattle (the Bills loss was different), Goff almost singlehandedly cost the Rams. They frequently settled for screens on 3rd and long rather than go for it deep. After the home loss to the Niners, a game that the Rams had won, McVay seemed at the end of his rope. It took 56 games but McVay finally called out Goff publicly (conversely it took Lions coach Dan Campbell just six).
When Goff broke his thumb in Seattle and both fans and McVay got a look at mobile John Wolford it was all over. McVay seemed reinvigorated and the offense had a life to it that it hadn’t all year. Goff played heroically in the wild card game after the Wolf of Ball Street got knocked out. He held the offense together much like his thumb was thinly held together post-surgery. Yet a week later he had to start in Green Bay and the defense couldn’t function the same and thus Goff couldn’t keep up with Aaron Rodgers (not many could). Then Les Snead was ambiguous about Goff’s future and that caused speculation that somehow he wouldn’t be back. Spoiler alert: he wouldn’t be.
Not to belabor it but the contrast between Goff and Stafford is night and day by EVERY metric. Despite analysts like Warren Sharp who claim the Stafford trade was somehow a loss, it’s been nothing but a win. Now, the reason why Rams fans defend Goff and what’s been going on in Detroit is complicated. It’s not Goff’s fault he is currently playing in the NFL’s version of Siberia. He is set up to fail while the Lions reboot for the umpteenth time. He almost led a comeback in week one against the Niners, they had the Ravens and Vikings beat, if not for some bad luck and misfortune that has haunted the Lions for all eternity. Lions fans already want Goff shipped out to the middle of Lake Michigan and some Rams fans are gleeful that he’s now someone else’s source of frustration. Others, however, feel a sense of guilt because Goff wasn’t a BAD GUY he was just a limited QB.
Sean McVay has said that he wishes he had handled things differently and he’s right. Management also played a part in Goff’s damaged reputation and psyche. Trading up for him with two firsts and a second was the original sin. The Rams likely didn’t have to do that and while the Eagles did a similar thing with Carson Wentz they had a longer leash because he started off hot before injuries would follow him like a grim specter. The trade plus the massive contract place expectations on him whether that’s fair or not was the reality. McVay also tried his damndest to fit Goff into a box he just wasn’t going to fit in. It seems that by all accounts McVay was frustrated by Goff not continuing to be better despite all talent he had around him and yet it seemed like he never learned to better tailor the game to what Goff could do.
The reason some fans likely have, if not affection, but a soft spot for Goff is that he was the first quarterback to show any sign of talent since Marc Bulger. He was there when the team rose from being a poverty franchise to a team that is expected to contend for a Super Bowl. He wasn’t the sole reason but he really was a big piece of it. After all, he’s part of what lured McVay to LA in the first place because what better way for a would-be offensive genius than to salvage a number one pick. The team had just moved to LA and he was the first crack at a new franchise QB. Many fans were too young to remember the real dark days or only remember the tail end of them and Goff was the first sign things were turning around. Legally, he’s one of the statistically best quarterbacks in franchise history and only missed one start his entire time in LA. Even at his worst, he always fought back the week after, and while he wasn’t a demonstrable leader, he never took his job lightly. It sucks that everything soured the way it did but that’s what happens when expectations outgrow potential. He proved he could make plays or pull out a big win against a Tampa Bay or Seattle but the problem was everything in between.
Stafford is the prince that was promised while the two will always be compared until Goff is on his next team and or Stafford wins a title. It’s not fair but that’s what happens in trades especially the rare star player trades in the NFL. Goff isn’t likely to pull off a revenge game win over the Rams (it’s POSSIBLE) but regardless of the outcome, this is the first chance to cheer Goff for playing a part in SoFi being built and boo for all the frustration of seeing him get solved by a tanking Jets team. The Rams won this divorce, they are dating an American Gladiator and Goff is sleeping in a racing car bed. After this game, Goff is completely in the rearview mirror and everyone can finally move on.