Quarterback Jared Goff has progressed past the rudimentary stages of learning and is ready for the next step in his offensive development. That’s why he
It’s not because head coach Jeff Fisher feels the need for a spark. And it’s not because general manager Les Snead is feeling pressure to get the No. 1 overall pick onto the field. The source said the timing is a matter of Goff having illustrated to the staff that he’s ready to graduate inside a fairly patient plan. That’s what has kept Goff off the field up to this point – his absorption of the scheme and ability to make quick assessments and correct decisions during his reps.
In the end, it was never really veteran Case Keenum who stood in the way. Instead, it was always Goff who controlled the winds of change with his progress. And until about two weeks ago, that advancement was steady but incremental.
The Rams staff has known this day was advancing quickly since watching Goff take reps with the first-team offense during the Week 8 bye, the source said. Goff had a chance to illustrate that he was processing information more rapidly and accurately, translating classroom work onto the field without having to ask questions. Once the staff saw his processing pick up with regularity, the decision to elevate him to the starting spot became a matter of picking the right time.
This week against the Miami Dolphins was most suitable because it gives Goff an opportunity to open at home, a window that wouldn’t be available again until Dec. 11. And with no guarantee of postseason games, waiting that long might not leave enough time in the regular season (only four games) for Goff to make adjustments or rebound from any struggles.
The final seven games represent a mini-season of sorts, with plenty of time to absorb an array of scenarios. This week also gives Goff an opportunity to break the seal on his regular season one week before a four-game slate that will challenge the offense considerably. After the Dolphins, the Rams (4-5) face the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots in back-to-back road games that will require a scoring clip far higher than the 15.4 points Los Angeles has been averaging. Then comes another potential shootout with the Atlanta Falcons, before a Dec. 15 (Thursday night) game on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, who are suddenly looking like an NFC elite again.
Nobody on the Rams staff is kidding themselves about that stretch. It will be a trial by fire for Goff and the players around him who are tasked with finding quick continuity under trying circumstances. It’s also coming at a time when the fan base has grown restless – displayed most obviously when the home crowd was chanting for a Goff insertion during the 13-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 6.
But fans shouldn’t expect the offense to suddenly catch lightning in a bottle. The scheme isn’t suddenly changing, nor are the skill position players surrounding the quarterback likely to flip a switch and play at an All-Pro level. That’s not what this change is about. Plain and simple, it’s about Goff’s next step in his education – getting a glimpse at where he’s headed and what work needs to be done over the next seven weeks and into the offseason. It’s also about figuring out what parts of the scheme suit him best, where tweaks can be made and what personnel needs are most pressing as it pertains to building around Goff.
Until all of that information can be culled, the most positive aspect of this move is this: The Rams are finally getting some traction in fully integrating Goff into a pro-style system. From his first few months after the draft, the staff knew their biggest hurdle: implementing its pro-style scheme and pushing Goff beyond the fairly simple no-huddle spread offense he ran for three seasons in college. The Rams are finally starting to feel comfortable in that effort.
It doesn’t mean Goff will be a revelation. It doesn’t even mean he’ll be good during this seven-game stretch. It means that he becomes only the second rookie quarterback this season who is being elevated at the choosing of his staff. While a lot has been made about five other rookie quarterbacks already having started this season, the reality is only one of them – the Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz – got his first start strictly out of a staff assessment that he was the best quarterback to start. All the others (even the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott) got opportunities that were advanced because of injuries.
Goff didn’t get that. Instead, he had another luxury: A coaching staff and front office that refused to put him onto the field before they felt it was the proper step. Whether they were right in their assessment remains to be seen. But there’s no denying the Rams took their time with this move.
Now it’s on Goff to show two things: That the Rams took all the right steps leading to this moment, and that he’s ready to return the patience with his biggest stride yet.
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