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Rams expect No. 1 pick Jared Goff will defy Air Raid QBs' shaky NFL history

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  • Rams expect No. 1 pick Jared Goff will defy Air Raid QBs' shaky NFL history

    Rams expect No. 1 pick Jared Goff will defy Air Raid QBs' shaky NFL history
    April 30, 2016


    Despite the Air Raid approach used by Cal, Jared Goff was responsible for checking off at the line, changing protections and using his judgment in other ways some quarterbacks in similar systems don't. RON JENKINS , THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    By RYAN KARTJE / STAFF WRITER

    Over the course of a three-year career at Cal, in which he shattered school records with video-game stats, carried an offense otherwise devoid of talent through a football renaissance, and rocketed to the top of the NFL draft, Jared Goff took exactly one snap under center.

    It was a third-down pass, last season against Washington. It fell incomplete.

    Perhaps, in the grand scheme of what made Goff worthy of the draft’s No. 1 pick, this seems like an extraordinarily minor detail. Coaches rave about how he “checks all the boxes,” and in terms of natural tools, it’s hard to dispute their claims. His accuracy, especially on throws outside the hashmarks, looks effortless. With preternatural instincts, his calm navigation of the pocket is otherwise unheard of from prospects his age. His poise and intangibles, forged through two difficult losing seasons in Berkeley, seem to foreshadow a franchise quarterback-in-the-making.

    “He has a skill set that is special,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He sees things, has a quick release, understands the QB position and he gets rid of the football. When you look at his body at work, it’s impressive.”

    But about that one snap ...

    Spread concepts, such as those in Goff’s collegiate offense, are hardly a new trend in college football. Over the past five years, the number of snaps collegiate quarterbacks have taken under center has plummeted by more than 40 percent. And at Cal, where Coach Sonny Dykes has installed his version of the “Air Raid” offense, quarterbacks operate pretty much exclusively out of a no-huddle, up-tempo, four-wideout, shotgun look that relies heavily on the pass to spread out defenses.

    Pioneered by longtime Kentucky coach Hal Mumme and current Washington State coach Mike Leach, the Air Raid is known to produce high-scoring games and head-turning stats in order to disguise other inefficiencies, and that was certainly true at Cal during Goff’s tenure. Last season, Goff threw for 300-plus yards in 10 of Cal’s 13 games and three or more touchdowns in eight, in spite of a patchwork offensive line and serious lack of weapons.

    What the Air Raid isn’t known for is producing viable NFL quarterbacks.

    Among the reasons to question the Rams’ move to wager the future on Goff, this is perhaps the most alarming. Since 1999, when another Air Raid product, Kentucky’s Tim Couch, went No. 1 overall to the Browns, only two true Air Raid quarterbacks were selected in the first round, before this draft. Both – Johnny Manziel and Brandon Weeden – are now considered colossal busts.

    The rest of the Air Raid’s recent history in the NFL is, more or less, a graveyard of failed quarterbacks. Only Rams quarterback Nick Foles, who ran an Air Raid offense at Arizona, owns a career QB rating of better than 80. But when asked to play under center in St. Louis last season, even he devolved into arguably the NFL’s worst starting signal caller.

    The most encouraging recent example of an Air Raid transition to the NFL might actually be the guy who took Foles’ place, Case Keenum.

    But the reality with Air Raid quarterbacks has been bleak: None has lasted more than seven seasons in the NFL.

    Why this is the case is far less clear. Some argue that the progression-based system on which the Air Raid is predicated makes the quarterback’s job easier than usual in college, setting them up for a rude awakening in the NFL. Others suggest navigating the adjustments that come from snapping under center – with footwork, pre-snap reads, and the like – are drastic, sometimes insurmountable changes.

    Leach, however, rejects these premises. As one of the godfathers of the system, he takes issue with the NFL’s bemoaning of spread quarterbacks.

    “The entire idea is ridiculous and absurd,” Leach said. “The best opportunity to succeed, I think, No. 1, is to throw as many balls as possible and read as many defenses as possible.”

    Dykes, on the other hand, understands the concern from an NFL standpoint. But while other quarterbacks put up eye-popping stats because of the system, Dykes is certain that Goff’s skill set and measurables – like Couch – far surpass that of the usual Air Raid signal caller.

    Of the recent quarterbacks who went on to succeed in the Air Raid, only Couch, former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, and Jets quarterback Geno Smith were more touted as high school recruits. Rivals slotted Goff eighth among pro-style quarterbacks in 2013, in spite of his then-sinewy, 178-pound frame. The measurables, even then, were apparent.

    “I don’t know that many Air Raid guys in the past have fit that (NFL) mold as well as him,” Dykes said.

    More than typical Air Raid quarterbacks, Goff was trusted with making pre-snap reads, which, to Leach’s point, should prove valuable for his transition to the NFL. Depending on the defense’s alignment, Goff said he was firmly “in control,” with the responsibility to shift protections, audible to a run or alternate pass play and call individual hot routes for his receivers.

    It’s what happens after the snap, though, that has the Rams brass convinced Goff can successfully transition to a pro-style offense.

    Few were as poised in the face of a near-constant rush as Goff, who was under pressure on 124 dropbacks last season. On those snaps, he was sacked 27 times and was intercepted three times, while completing an impressive 46 percent of his passes. Meanwhile, the other quarterback selected atop the draft, Carson Wentz, completed only 28 percent of his passes under pressure.

    In the red zone, Goff might actually be the most successful quarterback the Air Raid has seen. Last season, he threw 28 touchdowns with zero interceptions and completed nearly 60 percent of his attempts inside the 20-yard-line. Of NFL quarterbacks who threw at least 70 passes inside the red zone in 2015, only Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and Philip Rivers proved that accurate.

    On a third-down play against Texas last September, both of these principles were put to the test.

    As soon as the ball was snapped from the Texas 7, the pocket collapsed and defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway nearly wrapped up Goff. But he evaded the tackle, rolled out to his left – his weak side – and delivered a laser past a defender and safely to his wideout at the edge of the end zone. It’s a scenario that played out again and again over Goff’s final season, often with the same jaw-dropping result.

    “There’s a natural instinct to anticipate, to get the ball out quickly, read coverages quickly, get to the second and third reads quickly,” Rams general manager Les Snead said. “There’s some DNA that just comes naturally. Whether you’re in an Air Raid offense or not, you notice that special quality in players.”

    Even with that unique ability, the questions about Goff’s adjustment to a pro-style offense, in light of recent history, are certainly founded. The Rams ran more plays under center than any team in the NFL last season, and there’s no indication they plan to change that. In 2013 and 2014, the Rams had the second-fewest combined dropbacks in the league.

    Goff is well aware of this unseemly history and the fate that awaits him in Los Angeles. Since declaring for the draft, he has practiced exclusively under center. He estimates it took him just “a few days to get used to it.”

    “It’s just muscle memory,” Goff said confidently.

    Maybe for Goff, with his instincts and his commanding pocket presence, it will be that simple. Maybe the Air Raid’s lack of success in producing quarterbacks is simply a product of the lesser quarterbacks often tasked with running the system.

    Either way, with so much at stake and just one snap of under-center experience, the Rams and their new franchise quarterback better hope that history isn’t doomed to repeat itself.


  • #2
    The rest of the Air Raid’s recent history in the NFL is, more or less, a graveyard of failed quarterbacks. Only Rams quarterback Nick Foles, who ran an Air Raid offense at Arizona, owns a career QB rating of better than 80. But when asked to play under center in St. Louis last season, even he devolved into arguably the NFL’s worst starting signal caller.

    The most encouraging recent example of an Air Raid transition to the NFL might actually be the guy who took Foles’ place, Case Keenum.
    But while other quarterbacks put up eye-popping stats because of the system, Dykes is certain that Goff’s skill set and measurables – like Couch – far surpass that of the usual Air Raid signal caller.
    It's a bit ominous to think Foles and Keenum are the best of what the Air Raid has produced in the NFL, and I'm not sure why Couch's skill set is being touted by Dykes, considering his very mediocre NFL career.

    That said, I'm extremely confident that Goff, with his poise, quick thinking, pocket presence, and skill set, will break the mold and become a very successful NFL QB.

    Comment


    • #3
      It's the same situation as spread WRs. Their production often masks their inabilities. They don't run NFL routes so they have to learn them - can they? They rarely run block anything close to what you'll see in the NFL. The short crossing route is a staple and they rarely have to worry about getting leveled by an ILB because the defense is in a dime package.

      If you haven't seen the guy do something, you just don't know how good he is at it. So many OTs get labeled as having poor footwork and they drop in the draft, if the QB never showed you his drop back footwork, you don't know if it's going to be good or bad.

      RGIII ran the spread offense and if you believe Shanahan, couldn't learn his NFL offense. When they went to the playoffs with him, they were operating the Baylor offense. RGIII partially lost his job because he simply couldn't learn or operate a standard NFL offense - you just don't know.

      Greg Robinson is the same reality. He operated out of a very non-NFL type offense and has struggled with the transition.

      Comment


      • #4
        Seems like a legitimate concern. Why do we think this QB will be different?

        Comment


        • #5
          Just because they come from the spread doesn't mean they won't work. Alex Smith almost certainly came from a spread offense. Every Oregon QB, Brees, Cam Newton, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlesburger if I recall correctly? It seems to me those teams adjusted to the style the QB was used to running. I'd say the author underestimated the numbers of successful spread QBs.

          edit: having said all that, it seems to me people love the potential of a spread QB because they've shown flashes of greatness and can see it on film. Their accuracy is often less accurate when put into a non-spread offense. Spreads generate wide open receivers and it's one of the reasons spread WRs fail in NFL traffic. Look at Austin - just can't get the separation that was so easily attained in the spread.
          Last edited by Dreadlock; -05-06-2016, 10:57 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by bltkmt View Post
            Seems like a legitimate concern. Why do we think this QB will be different?
            “There's a natural instinct to anticipate, to get the ball out quickly, read coverages quickly, get to the second and third reads quickly,” Rams general manager Les Snead said.“There’s some DNA that just comes naturally. Whether you'’re in an Air Raid offense or not,you notice that special quality in players.”
            Your question certainly has validity. That said, think about what made Joe Montana such a great qb. It definitely wasn't arm strength, it was his ability to process what was happening on the field in warp speed compared to most other qbs. He was a tick ahead of everything. A most maddening trait at the time for us Ram fans.

            Obviously the proof will be in the pudding, so until then (regular season) we'll just be speculating. It will be an interesting year for sure.



            Comment


            • #7
              I'd say the attributes are questionable. Is Goff really better than Bradford or Joey Harrington? I don't think it's possible to really know at this point. We won't know if Goff is great a year from now either. Lots of QBs fail year one and then succeed or do great year one and then fail (RG3). Look at how the Chargers let Brees walk - bizarre but would he be the player he became if not for Payton?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by MauiRam View Post
                Your question certainly has validity. That said, think about what made Joe Montana such a great qb. It definitely wasn't arm strength, it was his ability to process what was happening on the field in warp speed compared to most other qbs. He was a tick ahead of everything. A most maddening trait at the time for us Ram fans.

                Obviously the proof will be in the pudding, so until then (regular season) we'll just be speculating. It will be an interesting year for sure.
                Great points, We don't know if Goff will pan out, but his history of putting up huge numbers, making quick decisions, keeping his cool under extreme situations, and innate ability to avoid pressure (in the face of routine poor protection, and a poor supporting cast), make him a good bet to succeed in the NFL.

                I have every confidence his intangibles will make a difference, and I can't wait to see him change negative perceptions.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I am not at all concerned that Goff will be like Weedon or Manziel.

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                  • #10
                    My concern is whether Goff can adapt to taking snaps under center and running the offense from there. Different footwork altogether from what he's used to..
                    :helmet:

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by r8rh8rmike View Post

                      Great points, We don't know if Goff will pan out, but his history of putting up huge numbers, making quick decisions, keeping his cool under extreme situations, and innate ability to avoid pressure (in the face of routine poor protection, and a poor supporting cast), make him a good bet to succeed in the NFL.

                      I have every confidence his intangibles will make a difference, and I can't wait to see him change negative perceptions.
                      How concerned are you about Goff taking snaps under center though?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Think that Goff will be with the #1 team or whatever they are called on day 1 of the REAL training camp.
                        Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos 2/7/2016 CBS 6:30PM EST Santa Clara CA!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JPPT1974 View Post
                          Think that Goff will be with the #1 team or whatever they are called on day 1 of the REAL training camp.
                          If he's not, it will be very disappointing. I don't think too many are excited about Keenum possibly being the starter.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by R8rh8rmike View Post

                            Great points, We don't know if Goff will pan out, but his history of putting up huge numbers, making quick decisions, keeping his cool under extreme situations, and innate ability to avoid pressure (in the face of routine poor protection, and a poor supporting cast), make him a good bet to succeed in the NFL.

                            I have every confidence his intangibles will make a difference, and I can't wait to see him change negative perceptions.

                            Agreed, ditto to both observations. Also, Goff / Rams, higher and sooner aerial expectation than Wentz / Eagles.
                            Last edited by RealRam; -05-10-2016, 07:20 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              If The Rams plan to play Goff the way they did Foles/Keenum, he will struggle significantly,imo. I think the gaggle of rookie pass catchers and Groh's hire indicate that they intend to adapt to Goff as well,though. Groh has talked about his scheme being based on the Gase/Peyton offense implemented in Denver,so I think those who've wanted to see the Rams open up the pass game will get their wish. Hopefully Goff will get his play action down quickly enough to use Gurley to full advantage as well & protect us all from a Peyton-like spate of interceptions in his rookie year as he learns to read NFL defenses from under center,turn his back,& read it again at a glance. The Bear Raid had him doing more than a pure Air Raid but it's still going to be challenge for The Goffling.Read Greg Cosell on the subject.

                              If it works , The Rams will have a versatile offense that can beat you every which way. Not gonna happen over night, though.

                              Comment

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