Remember Jared Goff? Remember the frazzled Rams quarterback who’d been looking like a bust after he was selected as No. 1 overall choice of the 2016 draft?
Remember that guy?
He no longer exists.
Goff’s transformation from an overwhelmed, long-term project into a polished field general has been key in the historic turnaround of the Rams’ once-listless offense. His pass-completion rate of 62 percent is a vast improvement over the 54.6 percent he finished with as a rookie. He’s thrown for 22 touchdowns – a year after he threw for five – with only six interceptions.
“It’s a big difference,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday of the 2017 version of Goff. “He’s playing to his potential. We can see him game-in-and-game-out, making great throws and commanding the offense. He’s creative with the plays that he makes and he’s utilizing his players really well.
“He was more in a survival mode last year, and he’s not that way at all.”
Goff’s stunning turnaround can be traced to a transaction the Rams made on Jan. 13, the day the team announced former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay as its new head coach. McVay was 30, younger than some of his players, and the surprise hiring suggested desperation.
McVay has proven to be a shrewd choice. Instead of bemoaning the growing pains spread-offense college quarterbacks face in the NFL, McVay had the novel notion of accepting spread products like Goff as the wave of the future.
McVay stresses pace between plays, getting to the line of scrimmage in time for the first-year coach to communicate audibles to Goff before the headset is turned off 15 seconds prior to the snap. Goff takes it from there.
Watching Goff during a recent game against the Saints, broadcast analyst Tony Romo noted “he’s doing more at the line of scrimmage than anybody I’ve seen in his second year in a long time – probably since Peyton Manning.”
With first place in the NFC West (and a likely playoff berth) at stake Sunday, the Seahawks hopes of beating Los Angeles hinge on a putting together a more assertive pass rush than was applied on Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles last week. Absent any pressure – no sacks, one hit – the defense allowed the Jaguars quarterback to relax in the pocket. He ended up completing 18-of-26 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve had a lot of hits on quarterbacks this season – check out our numbers,” said Carroll. “We’re hitting the quarterback, but we need to convert those into sacks. We’re getting to the quarterback.
“Last week it didn’t happen, as you could tell.”
The Seahawks got a sneak preview of the new, improved Goff on Oct. 8, when he threw for 288 yards in a 16-10 Seattle victory. Two interceptions without a touchdown produced a poor passer rating of 48.9, but the difference that day was the Hawks ability contain star running back Todd Gurley, held to 43 yards on 14 carries.
“When we played him,” Carroll said of Goff, “he’d already started well. He was playing good football and he’s continued to show that consistency. He’s really grown.”
Goff’s afternoon on Sunday figures to be less of a headache than his first visit to CentguryLink Field. A year ago this week, Goff took a fourth-quarter hit from cornerback Richard Sherman and spent the rest of the game on the sideline, victim of a possible concussion.
Much has changed over 12 months. Interim Los Angeles head coach Jim Fassel, in his first game as successor to the fired Jeff Fisher, had little to work with as the Rams were stumbling to a 4-12 finish. With McVay now calling the shots for his confident quarterback, the offense has evolved into a balanced force, averaging 114.7 yards per game on the ground and 252.9 yards in the air.
“They’ve really turned it around and are enjoying a fantastic season,” said Carroll. “We have a lot of respect for what they’re doing in all phases. We have to do everything right to have a chance, and that’s what we’re preparing to do.”
A pass rush that takes Jared Goff out of his comfort zone ranks as a top priority, but be surprised if he resembles the rookie who got his clock cleaned in Seattle a year ago.
That guy no longer exists.