How We Got Here
A lot of heat has been placed on Rams quarterback Jared Goff for the struggles that the team has endured since the loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. Goff deserves some of the blame for 2019. His pocket awareness was hit-or-miss and he struggled to hold onto the football in key situations. Most of the other blame that gets placed on him, however, is simply wrong. A rash of injuries all over the team had the Rams searching for depth, especially along the line. In 2019, the Rams offensive line ranked 31st. In 2018, they ranked sixth.
Photo: Pro Football Focus
In 2018, the Rams were opening up huge holes for Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson, while also giving Goff a clean pocket. The problem was that in the 2019 off-season the Rams lost Rodger Saffold to the Tennessee Titans, and that’s when the wheels started to fall off.
First-Year Lineman Gets Hurt
After losing Saffold in free-agency, the Rams used that cap space on Dante Fowler Jr. instead of investing it back into the offensive line. That was by design. Les Snead drafted Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen in 2018 because he knew they would be probable 2019 starters. After a year, and a Super Bowl appearance, things seemed prime for Noteboom and Allen to take over.
Photo: LA Rams
That lasted only a few games, however, as both players went down with season-ending knee injuries. Both of those players were replaced with two rookies who had only been in the Rams system for about six months. The Rams like to bring their offensive line along slowly, but Bobby Evans and David Edwards were both forced to start mid-way through their rookie years.
Blythe and Havenstein Regress
Going into a contract year, Austin Blythe had all the incentive in the world to have his best year. As it turns out, he actually turned in his worst. Blythe finished 67th in Pro Football Focus’ guard rankings. That is backup caliber play. The same goes for Rob Havenstein. Big Rob finished his year ranked 75th, and sat on the bench behind Bobby Evans even though Havenstein was healthy.
Photo: Wally Skalij / LA Times
As the lineman continued to fall, McVay decided to be stubborn and stick with the plays he knows that the backups can run. Instead of creating new innovating plays, he used his most vanilla plays. Then, when the line started to get its feet wet in pass protection — the run game was still a mess — deep-threat receiver Brandin Cooks missed a few games with a head injury.
Why Did This Lead to Trouble?
With the Rams unable to move the ball through the ground or through deep passes with any success, it had to come through short passes. It started out well, with victories over Atlanta and Cincinnati. Even bigger was the fact that Goff looked comfortable, even with the patchwork offensive line and no deep threat. It was, however, simply a matter of WHO they were playing, not how WELL the Rams were playing. Atlanta and Cincinnati were pushovers last season. When the Rams started to get into the meat of their schedule, the injuries had already caught up too much. LA went on to lose to a Pittsburgh team led by Mason Rudolph… After that came losses to Dallas and eventually San Francisco that would end the year. After dealing with all of the injuries, the vanilla play-calling, and McVay’s stubbornness, Goff deserves a reset in 2020.
Reasons For Optimism
Here are some numbers to look over.
Player A: First 4 Years in NFL: 1.61 TD’s per game, 60.4 % completion, 7.2 YPA, 11.62 YPC, 88 quarterback rating. Zero playoff wins.
Player B: First 4 Years in NFL: 1.53 TD’s per game, 62% completion, 7.5 YPA, 12.2 YPC, 92 quarterback rating. Two playoff wins.
Player A is Matt Ryan, who people say is a Hall of Famer and has never had his contract questioned. As you guessed it, player B is Goff. Also, those numbers aren’t even taking into account the fact that Jared Goff had JEFF FISHER as his head coach during his rookie season. He has also lost his quarterbacks coach every year he’s been in the league — Chris Weinke, Greg Olson, Zac Taylor — up until this off-season. People need to give him a break before jumping to conclusions. He didn’t make back to back Pro Bowls and out-duel Patrick Mahomes in 2018 because he can’t play.
Comparisons to Marino
In Dan Marino‘s sixth season in the league, he threw 23 interceptions. Was that because he regressed? Not at all. It was mainly because he was on a 6-10 Miami Dolphins team that had massive turnover on the offensive side of the ball that year, including coaching. Two years later, when the team was built back up around him again, he threw just 11 picks and his team went 12-4. Goff is due for the same kind of rebound. At the four year mark in their careers, Goff’s stats are better or on par with both Ryan and Marino, in almost every category. He has the potential to be great, but he needs to play at the top of his game and the players around him and his coaching staff need to also be at their best. Easier said than done, I know.
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