No one had a more brutal Super Bowl hangover in 2019 than Jared Goff. Fans’ already shaky confidence in him already echoed the workers of Callahan Auto when it was learned the fate of the company rested with Tommy and then it devolved into angry despair. It’s understandable as his play tapered off throughout the season.
It wasn’t all his fault but when he signed his record-breaking (for at least another few months) deal every mistake gets magnified 10 fold. By seasons’ end fans left Goff for dead and even as recently as a week ago were wondering why they don’t just sign Cam Newton (spoiler alert they’re cap poor). The Rams also can’t just trade or release him because if fans think that the dead money they’re eating from cutting Todd Gurley and trading Brandin Cooks is a lot, the dead money for jettisoning Goff is the equivalent of Ron Swanson literally eating ALL the bacon and eggs in the diner.
As hard as it might be to believe, there are actual concrete moves the Rams made to ensure that Goff bounces back in 2020.
Sean McVay Hired An OC
One of the things that plagued the Rams last season was Sean McVay spread himself too thin. Zac Taylor left to begin the 10,000th attempt to rebuild the Bengals so there was no longer a quarterbacks coach leaving McVay, and to a lesser extent, Aaron Kromer, to run the offense.
McVay was basically the only voice on the offense and while he didn’t have an OC in 2018 either this time it caught up to him. He struggled in making adjustments and tried to run his famed 11 personnel when it would’ve been better to do something different like say run a 12 personnel. He was essentially Dolores Abernathy without other hosts to load his consciousness into.
Now, they have Kevin O’Connell to serve as the OC and the QB coach so there’s another voice in the room. This means that Goff now has someone that can actually coach him up full time. He should clean up his mistakes and the play-calling will be more balanced (more on that in a bit).
Furthermore, the Rams passing game should open up a bit. Brandin Cooks was out for most of the year and that caused Josh Reynolds to have to step into that role without another viable option at receiver behind him. They drafted Van Jefferson in round two and while he won’t occupy the Cooks role, he will be another possession receiver while Reynolds is the full-time slot.
The tight end packages should be more prevalent. Tyler Higbee had a big year in 2019 and the 12 personnel was a package that worked when used. Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, and rookie Brycen Hopkins should all get time in the offense as McVay was known for using multiple tight end packages while in Washington. It isn’t clear what the Rams offense will look like at this point but Goff has more options than ever and now defenses can’t just pick off Gurley and force Goff to beat them.
The Offense Is No Longer Dependant On Todd Gurley
What made the Rams so devastating in 2018 was how scary Gurley was. The offense was 2nd in the league in points (527), Goff had 4,688 yards passing with 32 TDs and 12 picks.
In 2019 the offense dropped off considerably by ranking 11th in points scored and Goff had 4,499 yards with 22 TDs and 17 picks. Why? One of the main reasons was that the rushing attack also experienced a massive drop.
In 2018 the Rams had a total of 2,231 rushing yards with 23 total TDs and in 2019 they had just 1,499 yards and 20 total TDs. Aside from the line (more on that later), the reason for this drop off was the decline of Todd Gurley. His knees started to go towards the end of the 2018 season and while he had one last big playoff game against Dallas, after that he no longer worked as the fulcrum of the offense. It’s tragic given both the affection the team and fans had for him and the investment the team made in him.
In 2019, Gurley was no longer feared by defenses and that caused the rest of the offense to suffer. So in 2020, the Rams decided to go with a different tact. They already have Darrell Henderson in place and with their 52nd pick, they selected Cam Akers. This received ire from fans across the internet because they had (and still have) bigger needs.
The idea behind this is for the offense to no longer have to live and die by one running back and like the Niners, they want to have multiple rushing options because it gives the passing game more options as well. Akers is adept at catching passes out of the backfield and is also a great runner. He and Henderson splitting the carries take away the predictability that submarined the offense in 2019.
The Protection Will Improve
The Rams bet on their young interior offensive line being able to step in and replace center John Sullivan and guard Rodger Saffold respectively. That didn’t happen and not only did it not happen but newly extended Rob Havenstein struggled mightly. The injury bug also took down Brian Allen (who later had a bout with Coronavirus), Austin Blythe, and Joe Noteboom. This forced the Rams to trade a 5th round pick to acquire Austin Corbett at the deadline. The bright spot was the emergence of rookie tackle Bobby Evans. Evans filled in late in the year and the line stabilized at that point. So why the optimism after all that chaos?
Andrew Whitworth is coming back for three more years and while he’s almost 40 he’s still playing at a decent enough level and provides a much-needed veteran presence. Also, Havenstein should improve his level of play and Evans could play guard if Noteboom or Blythe isn’t up to the task. Corbett might also be better with a full training camp (or whatever amounts to a training camp this summer) and he could be a potential starter.
The Rams also drafted Tremayne Anchrum and while he’s a 7th round pick he is someone who could play any spot on the line if the injury bug once again infects the Rams. Goff is not the most mobile of quarterbacks so giving him improved protection can allow him to settle down and make the kinds of throws he made in 2018.
Yes, Jared Goff needs to improve his mechanics, his reads at the line, his improv skills when the play is broken up and he needs to not fumble as often as he did in 2019. That said the Rams have assembled an offensive unit that gives him every opportunity to succeed and now that McVay won’t be spread too thin, Goff can improve on his aforementioned weaknesses a lot easier.
The beginning of the Rams schedule is brutal with an opening day game against a brutal Cowboys front seven. Goff will be tested early and often which should work to his benefit. The Rams as a team have the benefit of being a bit under the radar this year (Vegas has them at 8.5 wins) so Goff won’t have the pressure he did a year ago. It’s all there for a Goff come back and if it happens, maybe pieces like this won’t have to be written once a year because fans can finally accept that he’s good.
What do you think? Will Jared Goff bounce back?