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Rams burning question: Can Sean McVay make Jared Goff a poor man's Kirk Cousins?

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  • Rams burning question: Can Sean McVay make Jared Goff a poor man's Kirk Cousins?

    Cousins is pretty rich, so that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world

    Rookie seasons are rarely memorable for NFL quarterbacks, but Jared Goff's first shot as an NFL signal caller was entirely forgettable. He rode pine until late November, with Rams coach Jeff Fisher stubbornly sticking by Case Keenum. When he finally got the starting job, Goff went 0-7, was a little lucky to complete 50 percent of his passes and threw just five touchdown passes, three of which came in one game against the Saints.

    Fisher was fired midseason and the Rams cleaned house after 2016 ended, all while watching the Titans select a talented wideout with the top-five pick that the Rams handed them as part of last year's Goff deal. The Rams' next hire was a critical one and they went uber young with it, bringing 30-year-old Sean McVay over from Washington.

    (The Rams are back at training camp! Don't MISS anything as they prepare to try and make the playoffs -- take five seconds to Sign up for our Free Rams newsletter now!)

    Make no mistake, McVay's hire is about turning Goff into a legitimate quarterback. McVay's tutelage in Washington turned Kirk Cousins into the ultimate conundrum: a quarterback who plays well enough you have to pay him but not well enough to commit past massive single-year franchise tag deals.

    A lot of what you see with Goff and the Rams from 2016 is a case of Los Angeles putting major reigns on their rookie quarterback and limiting what he can do with a particular play. There are four guys running routes here but only one of them is really in play here. Goff is throwing to Tyler Higbee. via NFL GamePass
    It's not surprising for an offense to put a cap on a rookie early on and for coaches to limit the amount of things a player has to worry about, but Goff was so obviously locked into a single target that he was sometimes throwing before he finished his drop. via NFL GamePass
    Again, there are four routes being run but three of them might as well be decoys. This throw, by the way, resulted in a 19-yard completion and even set up a 24-yard Todd Gurley touchdown run. But let's not get too caught up in results. Everything about the gameplan in Goff's first start -- Week 11 against the Dolphins -- was rudimentary to the nth degree.

    The creativity level was about what you would expect out of the worst offense in the league. The Rams averaged a measly 14 points per game and trailed even the 31st-ranked Jets by a healthy margin in DVOA. On a critical 3rd-and-4 play call against Miami, with the Rams leading 7-0 and 2:32 left in the second quarter, here's what Goff saw at the top of his shotgun drop. via NFL GamePass
    It looks like rush hour between the hash marks. Ndamukong Suh ripping through the offensive line didn't help matters and it resulted in a sack. Pressure was a problem for Goff, who finished the season with a 50.8 accuracy percentage on plays where he was pressured according to Pro Football Focus. Only Blaine Gabbert was lower.

    And that might not change. There are still issues with the Rams offensive line, although the addition of veteran Andrew Whitworth should be a huge help in pass protection. Goff needs to do better jumping the gun and leaving the pocket. He also appears a lot of times to be throwing primarily with his torso, not getting his entire body behind throws and almost aiming more than throwing. The result was some seriously scattershot accuracy; Goff completed just 54.6 percent of his passes. The McVay effect

    The good news for him is that McVay specializes in cranking up the completions. In Kirk Cousins two seasons as a full-time starter, both with McVay as his offensive coordinator, he completed a whopping 68.3 percent of his passes, including a league-leading 69.8 percent in 2015.

    Ignore any criticism you/anyone else might have of Cousins: If the Rams were guaranteed that Goff could produce stat lines like Cousins has over the past two years they would sign off on it in a heartbeat. After a rough rookie year his ceiling doesn't look guaranteed.

    Fortunately there are a few different ways for McVay can improve the situation. It starts with Goff's head -- he and McVay have to be seeing and thinking the same things as it relates to playcalling and defensive coverages they're seeing. Transitioning to the NFL is hard. Transitioning out of Sonny Dykes' "Bear Raid" system and into a pro-style scheme was never going to equate to early success. McVay believes Goff's taken a pretty big leap "above the neck."

    "I thought he handled the above the neck information, getting in and out of the huddle, did a nice job commanding that. And with the drop back game, he did a good job," McVay said this offseason during an appearance on the "Rich Eisen Show." "He's got a good feel, it's just figuring out a way to be consistent, kind of really becoming an extension of the coaching staff. And when you do that, you feel really good. We have different things we want to emphasize offensively, but certainly we're going to put a premium on what our guys get good at."

    If we're buying what McVay is selling, there's good reason to think Goff will be significantly more prepared from a mental standpoint this year than he was last season. It's a low bar.

    Washington ran 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR ) 73 percent of the time in 2016, sixth most in the NFL. The Rams ran it 65 percent of the time. But Washington was substantially more successful than Los Angeles, generating 6.5 yards out of the formation to L.A.'s measly 4.3.

    It's possible a simple upgrade in playcaller could make an immediate impact. Here's a play from the Redskins' Week 1 game against the Steelers with three wideouts and Jordan Reed lined up on the right side of the line. On 2nd-and-5 from the Washington 44, Cousins takes the snap out of shotgun and drops back. At the top of his drop, he has an easy option to hit Reed underneath as he runs an out route but instead chooses to push the ball downfield to Pierre Garcon. via NFL GamePass
    The throw actually wasn't great, but the timing and a nice adjustment from Garcon led to a gain of 19 yards. The same thing is unfolding at the top of the screen. It's not a complex playcall, but with the Steelers in zone it did a nice job of giving Cousins multiple options.

    On the other end of the spectrum is this play in Goff's start against the Saints (his three-touchdown game). The Rams lined up in 11 personnel and sent four guys out to catch passes. It's not entirely clear if Todd Gurley was staying in to block, running a delayed route to the right or trying to spear his lineman in the back. Whatever, it's irrelevant -- what matters here is that the Rams, on this 2nd-and-2 from around midfield (fairly similar situation to what the Redskins had) decided to send four receivers on deeper routes. via NFL GamePass
    Kenny Britt (top of the photo) would run a comeback route and get some separation, but by the time Goff made his throw he was facing heat from the Saints pass rush.

    The key difference here is that McVay used his playbook to put Cousins in a position to make a decision. He doesn't have to be a hero, he just needs to be smart. And say what you want about Cousins, but he has developed into a smart triggerman for the Redskins offense.

    He's a point guard of sorts -- it's not his job to shoot 30 shots. He just needs to make the right passes at the right time and let the scorers do their thing. Which is kind of the crux of the Cousins conundrum and why we're constantly battling about how much he should be paid. No, he is not the best quarterback in the world. He doesn't even always execute the decisions he makes real well. Even on some of the big pass plays there are ducks out there. But he knows what he's doing and the system he's running, with the weapons he has helps to elevate his skill set. It has worked pretty well the last two years. Goff's passing-game options

    The actual personnel involved here is going to be an issue, of course. They don't have DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder to flood the field with. But give Les Snead credit for the way the Rams approached this draft -- there was a clear intent to get some weapons for McVay to plug in around Goff.

    And it's not hard to imagine that some of them will work in a similar fashion. Cooper Kupp reminds me a little bit of Crowder. (You thought I was going to say Wes Welker, didn't you?) Josh Reynolds is a big play waiting to happen. Combine him and Robert Woods and the Rams have a little bit of size to complement Kupp and Tavon Austin. No one is saying these guys will be even close to what Cousins dealt with this coming season, but there is some growth potential. The Rams also invested two early picks in tight ends the last two years in Gerald Everett (second round, 2017) and Tyler Higbee (fourth round, 2016).

    The loss of Kenny Britt in free agency is going to sting big time, though. Britt was the first Rams pass catcher to top 1,000 receiving yards since Torry Holt in 2007. Again, a very low bar.

    Schematically, it should be fairly easy for McVay to help Goff as well.

    According to Cian Fahey of Pre Snap Reads, the Redskins gained 7.36 yards per screen pass attempt in 2017, 10th best in the league. Sean McVay certainly didn't lean on the screen game (Cousins ranked last in the league in screen percentages) but it's not hard to envision a scenario where Gurley, Tavon Austin and Cooper Kupp are all featured in the screen game throughout the season. The personnel is there for it and the screen game allows for an easy offensive manufacturing.

    The Rams are making a concerted effort to get Gurley more involved in the passing game this year which presents even more of an opportunity to create high-percentage throws for Goff.

    Changing coaching staffs and offensive systems isn't easy for a young quarterback, but all told the switch should be a net positive for Goff. And while no one thinks he is going to make a leap and become some elite player in his second season, there is ample evidence that Goff could actually give the Rams some return on their investment this year.

  • #2
    I reject the premise.

    There is no reason, from a talent standpoint, that Jared Goff should be a "poor man's" anything, and certainly not a "poor man's Kirk Cousins."

    Goff is a 22 year old QB who has played 7 games in the NFL. I'm not ready to set his ceiling.


    • #3
      I agree the "poor man's" reference is not appropriate, it's not like Goff is a UDFA from a small school with no credentials.

      As far as the point he's making about Goff failure last year and how it can change this year is appropriate. Last year I was at five practices and never saw a pass go more then 15 yards in the air, no kidding. This year I've been to three including yesterdays joint practice with the Chargers. I have to say it's night and day. It really is. I've seen Gurley lined up as a wide receiver several times and yesterday he was targeted deep down the field. The TE's are running routes vertical up the seam in fact yesterdays Goff hit Higbee for what would have been a TD (11 on 11) and came back to him later with a laser but Higbee dropped it but the Rams are actually pushing the ball downfield a lot.The Rams using motion (scary I know) what a concept. There is a video of Kupp on the Ram site, running what looks to be a wheel route from the slot using the outside receivers pick Tru who was covering him and getting a step as Goff throws a dime hitting him over the shoulder for a TD.

      I don't know how much improvement we will see on the offense but at least they will run plays and a scheme that will let Goff and the receivers at minimum have a chance to compete.


      • #4
        I agree, the "poor man's Kirk Cousins" comment is just silly at this point. 7 games with a horrible supporting cast and completely inept coaching staff does not define Goff's potential.


        • #5
          We mortgaged 2 drafts for this kid. He better not be a poor man's anything!
          The more things change, the more they stay the same.


          • #6
            Fisher’s mantra on offense was: Run the football. When 3rd and long inevitably came around - then try a safe pass, play scared - no turnovers; better to go 3 and out rather than turn the ball over. Give it back to the D and the D will keep it close - they'll never get tired - not to worry.

            In addition to that clever scheme, Jared had an O-line that was below even barely competent, along with receivers who had a proclivity for dropping the football at the worst possible times. Never mind “poor mans” – I’d say poor Jared for being injected into those circumstances. I believe Jared will make some very positive strides this year. McVay wants to be aggressive on O, and I believe we will be. Whitworth and Sullivan should really pay immediate dividends for our O.

            I'm really looking forward to seeing the Colts come to town. Jared's first win is certainly within reach ..


            • #7
              Better O'line, new coaching and a more creative scheme, youthful hungry targets.............if Goff can make a progression and read quickly enough, there is absolutely no reason the offense doesn't take a step forward.......possible a decently large step. It's on Goff now though.
              Semper Fi!


              Related Topics


              • RockinRam
                Jared Goff says Rams can run Redskins' deep passing offense under Sean McVay
                by RockinRam
                Eric Edholm
                Shutdown CornerJan 21, 2017, 12:55 PM

                Jared Goff has had time to rest up from a trying first season, let his body heal, spend a little time in Mexico with his friends … but now he’s ready to go back to work. He has a new head coach, a new offensive system and new perspective heading into his first full offseason of work in the NFL.

                The Los Angeles Rams quarterback spent much of last season waiting his turn (for much of it as the team’s third quarterback) before starting the final seven games of the season and still seeking his first victory in the league. He’ll be doing it under his third head coach following the firing of Jeff Fisher, and with interim coach John Fassel being replaced by 30-year-old, first-time head coach Sean McVay.

                Goff is now back in Los Angeles (more on that below), and he’s excited to get working with McVay on a new direction offensively.

                “He’s ready, ready to get this thing turned around, as am I,” Goff told Shutdown Corner Friday night. “We’ve talked now a few times since he’s been hired, and it’s a great start.”

                Goff met with McVay before and after the new coach was hired, and he was the only coach Goff met with during the Rams’ interview process — which might say a lot about how impressive McVay with the team’s brass.

                “I thought after that first meeting, if he gets the job I am completely on board,” Goff said. “I was very, very pleased. Now the hard work begins.”

                Goff believes the Rams’ offense can have the same type of feel as the system McVay ran with the Washington Redskins.

                “I think we’re going to do a lot of what they did last year: a lot of downfield passing stuff,” Goff said of the Redskins’ offense, which ranked second in the NFL in yards per pass play and passing yards per game. “I think that’s obviously transferable here.”

                Goff had no idea at the time, but starting early last season he would be watching tape of opposing defenses, and he said it seemed that every other week he was getting a look at what the Redskins and quarterback Kirk Cousins did offensively.

                “I kept saying, either to myself or to the other quarterbacks in the room, ‘Hey, man, I really like this. I like what they do.’ I had no idea [McVay] would be bringing that here at the time,” Goff said. “Great concepts, lots of variety, great execution. It’s all there.

                “Now I get to run that. You could see Kirk making tough throws, but they were scheming stuff up to get guys open. That’s one thing I noticed, a lot of guys running free, which is obviously appealing to me.”

                As far as McVay’s age, Goff says he is not worried at all. The Rams were the youngest team in the NFL last season and likely will be one of the youngest again this season.

                “If there’s a team it’s not going to be a problem with, it’s us,” he said. “But I don’t think it would be a problem regardless,...
                -01-23-2017, 08:42 AM
              • Nick
                Why the Rams won’t let Jared Goff walk
                by Nick
                Why the Rams won’t let Jared Goff walk
                By Vincent Bonsignore
                30m ago

                Only two NFL quarterbacks started at least 15 games in each of the past two seasons and finished with a passer rating over 100 while leading their teams to consecutive division championships.

                One, Drew Brees, is a future Hall of Famer.

                The other, 24-year-old Jared Goff, has presided over the winningest team in the NFL the past two years, its highest-scoring offense, and is coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

                At some point over the next decade or so, Brees rightfully will be fitted for a gold jacket signifying his stature as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to set foot on an NFL field.

                As for Goff, well, if you believe the astoundingly lazy observations emanating from the furthest reaches of the NFL stratosphere, he’s little more than a product of the system he plays in and no sure bet to be re-signed to a lucrative long-term extension befitting his place among the best quarterbacks in the game.

                From those same corners of the NFL there is speculation that Sean McVay and the Rams are actually considering letting Goff walk at the end of his contract in order to pluck from thin air a younger, less expensive replacement for whom McVay will conjure up all his mystical and magical powers in order to seamlessly insert him into the lineup without the Rams missing a beat.

                Because, you know, system quarterback.

                The level of absurdity is almost too phenomenal to take seriously.

                But it’s also seeped too deeply into public consciousness to let go without comment.

                First things first, the Rams are not actually pondering a plan in which they decline to re-sign Goff when his rookie contract expires after the 2020 season. On the contrary, they are planning and preparing their landscape for a world in which Goff is making franchise-caliber money and surrounded by a supporting cast strong enough to ensure playoff contention for the foreseeable future.

                Yes, it will be a salary-cap challenge fitting a franchise quarterback contract into the payroll of a championship-caliber roster. But one for which the Rams are already formulating a game plan.

                It will require shrewd drafting, especially in the mid-to-late rounds, to continually come up with young, reasonably-priced developmental players that they can eventually rely on to produce. It will entail well-researched and disciplined thinking, knowing when to let veteran free agents walk in order to recoup compensation picks, who to reel in from the free-agent market and when to peddle off draft picks in order acquire instant-impact veteran help.

                But given how eight of the last 12 Super Bowl participants did so while their quarterbacks were being paid top-quarterback money, there is ample precedent for constructing championship-caliber rosters around highly paid quarterbacks....
                -05-24-2019, 03:01 PM
              • Nick
                How good, or bad, will Jared Goff be in Year 2? It's anybody's guess
                by Nick
                How good, or bad, will Jared Goff be in Year 2? It's anybody's guess
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                Alden Gonzalez
                ESPN Staff Writer

                THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano witnessed the proverbial "Year 2 Leap" firsthand with Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The game started to slow down; third-down blitz packages and safety rotations became easier to pick up.

                By the end of it, Luck had cut his interceptions in half over the course of his second NFL season, his quarterback rating jumping from 76.5 to 87.0 from 2012 to 2013.

                And that brings us to Jared Goff, a downright mystery in the build-up to the 2017 regular season.

                Goff should be better as a second-year player, but by how much?

                The Los Angeles Rams knew he needed work when they made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, but they probably didn't anticipate him needing that much. Goff wasn't named the starter until Week 11, then lost all seven of his starts and finished with a Total QBR of 22.2, the lowest among quarterbacks who played in at least five games.

                But that was under dire circumstances. His offensive line was bad, his running game nonexistent, his receivers inferior and his coaching staff generally lacking in experience with his position. Now Goff is in a system that has proven to get the most out of quarterbacks, while operating behind an improved offensive line and throwing to a deeper, more talented group of receivers. And it's hard to really know what to expect.

                Asked in what ways he believes he is better since the end of his rookie season, Goff said: "I think just understanding the intent of stuff that we do and understanding what the defense is trying to do and what the intent of their calls are, and different ways to attack it. With that, the game just begins to slow down a little bit. I think that's what you ultimately feel. I felt it from Year 1 to Year 2. At every level you're at, you get that slowdown effect a little bit from those two years. And I think it continues to slow down as time goes on."

                The Rams have done their best not to put too much pressure on Goff, at least publicly. First-year head coach Sean McVay, who worked wonders with Kirk Cousins in Washington, has talked mostly about the need for Goff to limit turnovers and distribute the ball in an effort to open holes for his star running back, Todd Gurley, who didn't see many holes last season.

                The expectations remain basic.

                "We expect him to make good decisions, throw with accuracy and rhythm," McVay said. "If he does that, then I think he'll give himself a chance to play good football for us."

                Goff is at a point in his career where he will frequently flash his potential and also make critical mistakes, reminding you that he is still only 22 years old. He threw six interceptions during a three-day...
                -09-07-2017, 01:31 PM
              • Nick
                Jared Goff shows he's growing into role of Rams quarterback
                by Nick
                Jared Goff shows he's growing into role of Rams quarterback
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                Alden Gonzalez
                ESPN Staff Writer

                THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Jared Goff stepped up in the pocket and fired a bullet, roughly 30 yards down the field, right into the hands of Robert Woods on a post route. Earlier, he hit Nelson Spruce for a long touchdown. And leading up to that impressive throw to Woods, he made crisp, accurate passes to Tyler Higbee and Cooper Kupp as part of a two-minute drill.

                It's only organized team activities, which means players are not in pads and live contact is not permitted, but Goff looked good on Monday.

                Rams rookie coach Sean McVay is nonetheless reserving judgement.

                "Until you’re actually live as a quarterback, that’s when you truly get challenged," McVay said. "You’re having to move with the rush, avoid guys that can really tackle you. That’s always the best evaluator. I think he has done a nice job improving every single day, and that’s what’s going to give us a chance.”

                Goff, with a 22.2 Total QBR in his brief NFL career, began his offseason by receiving instruction from noted quarterback guru Tom House. And ever since the official offseason program began, the 22-year-old has immersed himself in McVay's offense, spending almost every possible waking minute at the Rams' facility. McVay said he has been "very pleased" with what Goff has done "above the neck."

                His teammates have noticed more confidence, more conviction.

                "You can tell, especially just starting with the command of the offense, him being able to take that and control the huddle and get guys lined up, and keep that poise when things aren’t going well and when things are going well," said Higbee, Goff's roommate throughout training camp last year. "He looks good."

                "More confident, more relaxed, more poised in the pocket" is how second-year receiver Mike Thomas compared this year's Goff to last year's Goff. "Letting the game come to him and taking his time, being patient on the field."

                Goff is benefiting from having an entire NFL season under his belt and knowing from the start that he will be the starting quarterback -- but he must perform in order to keep his job.

                McVay wasn't around when the Rams moved up 14 spots to draft Goff No. 1 overall last spring, and thus has no real loyalty to Goff, who struggled mightily over the course of seven rookie starts, all of them losses. If Goff doesn't show signs that he is making significant strides toward at least becoming a reliable starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, McVay probably won't have a hard time turning to his backup, Sean Mannion, a third-round pick in 2015 who hasn't seen much playing time yet.

                McVay often has said he and his staff will "constantly evaluate guys."

                -06-06-2017, 09:16 AM
              • r8rh8rmike
                Jared Goff expects Sean McVay 'to bring out the best in me'
                by r8rh8rmike
                Jared Goff expects Sean McVay 'to bring out the best in me'

                Alden Gonzalez ESPN Staff Writer​​​​​​​

                THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Sean McVay arrived in Los Angeles on Jan. 4. The Los Angeles Rams' interviewing party took him to dinner that night in Santa Monica, then interviewed him at their facility the following morning. When they finished, McVay was asked to stick around.

                Jared Goff, the 2016 No. 1 overall pick who rests the franchise's future on his shoulders, was set to arrive later that afternoon to chat with his prospective new coach. So McVay and Goff sat in the Rams' offensive meeting room for two hours -- alone -- going over film and talking about how they might make it all work.

                Goff left hoping McVay would be the guy.

                "It was very positive," Goff said Friday, moments after McVay was formally introduced as the Rams' new head coach. "I felt like he was a guy I could play for -- and hopefully play for for a long time."

                McVay signed a five-year contract to be the Rams' new head coach on Thursday. At 30, he is the youngest head coach in the Super Bowl era. And at 22, Goff was the NFL's youngest quarterback last season.

                "Right off the bat," Goff said, "you could tell that his knowledge is extremely high. Far higher than a lot of guys."

                The Rams sent a passel of draft picks to the Tennessee Titans last year for the right to move up 14 spots in the draft and select Goff out of Cal. But Goff, who never took a snap from under center or called a play from the huddle while running an air-raid offense in college, struggled mightily throughout the preseason and didn't become the starter until the 10th game of the regular season.

                When he did, he played poorly. From Weeks 11 to 17, Goff had the fewest yards per attempt (5.31), the second-lowest Total QBR (22.1) and the fourth-lowest completion percentage (54.6) in the league. The Rams, ultimately burdened by the NFL's worst offense for a second straight year, lost all seven of those games, then went about searching for a coach who could get the most out of Goff.

                Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, who led the coaching search, reiterated that the Rams were focused on finding the best leader and weren't specifically targeting someone for Goff. But Demoff also said, "You were always worried about making sure that Jared had continuity."

                He brought up the coach-quarterback relationship between Sean Payton and Drew Brees and that of Jon Gruden and Rich Gannon and how beneficial those became.

                "Getting that right pair with the quarterback was imperative," Demoff said.

                Goff believes he saw that in one two-hour meeting. "There was a lot of things we talked about in terms of philosophy, how the quarterback position needs to be played -- a lot of it aligned, and that was very good to hear,"...
                -01-14-2017, 12:03 PM