LA Rams QB Jared Goff has something to prove in 2020

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

LA Rams QB Goff playing with a chip on his shoulder this year

Despite the LA Rams offense overcoming tremendous challenges in 2019 to remain one of the best at moving the ball and scoring in 2019, the experience never seemed to find its mark upon the player most impacted – starting quarterback Jared Goff.  After all, one of the knocks against Goff was that he relied upon a solid running game to sustain his numbers.  That running game never showed up in 2019, and yet he passed well enough to carry the team to a 9-7 record.

That was behind the 31st ranked offensive line per Pro Football Focus, and the 26th ranked rushing offense per yards gained on the ground.  So damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t?

Wasn’t this the same quarterback he threw to not one, but two outstanding wide receivers by the names of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods?  Both players had 1,000 plus receiving yards.  Wasn’t this the same quarterback who suddenly found seldom targetted Tyler Higbee for over 500 yards in the month of December 2019? Despite no running game and no blocking, he found his targets. Shouldn’t that be an accomplishment to springboard from into higher heights in 2020?

Optical illusion

The perception never focused on his passing leadership. Instead, attention turned to his own decline. A bend-but-not-break performance in 2019 where he suddenly pushed too hard, threw the ball into too many defenders hands, threw for fewer touchdowns than the previous season, despite far more attempts.  In short, eyes that wanted to find flaws in his game found them.  And yet, the team finished 9-7.

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Of course, the credit for the turnaround did occur. It just found its way past Goff to head coach Sean McVay. The season that may have been disastrous – but still ended up relatively respectful despite not ending in the playoffs -did not improve the reputation of Goff. Instead, it simply reinforced that narrative that he is a system dependant quarterback. In fact, if a poll were to be taken today, how would NFL fans rank the quarterbacks of the NFC West?

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So much experience in such a young quarterback

While his head coach Sean McVay learned a harsh reality in 2019 about NFL success means more than just offense, Goff no longer had his coach’s entire focus. Suddenly, field goals that found the uprights in 2018 were wide in 2019.  Suddenly the offense which grabbed huge leads in 2018 found itself in dead heats in 2019.  Suddenly, fans no longer witnessed the LA Rams outclassing their opponents, and the way it was explained was that Goff may have lost some magic.

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Rather, what happened was a young quarterback fell short of unrealistic expectations. The offensive plan which worked so well with a solid veteran offensive line simply failed to adapt to younger blockers, less time to make the pass downfield, and a running game that was as much miss as hit on any given Sunday.  That’s why the LA Rams brought in new offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. The Rams have finally discovered that the key to future success is no longer expecting Jared Goff to run the Rams offense. Rather, the Rams must design and execute Jared Goff’s offense.

A chip on his shoulder

While the NFL hot topics remain focused upon Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott‘s new contract, San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo‘s chances of returning to the Super Bowl, or Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray‘s limitless potential this season, I like the potential of Jared Goff this year. He’s 25 years old, has already played in the NFL Super Bowl, continues to have great performances, and is the most overlooked NFL talent out there.

I’m okay seeing 2020 as Jared Goff’s breakout season and being one of only a handful in that corner. He’s already proven he can win in the NFL. He proved that he can find ways to win without a dominating offensive line.  He even proved that he can carry the load on offense. Now, he’ll prove just how good he can be running an offense designed to succeed around him. He has earned that chip on his shoulder, that stubbornness to prove just how good he is to a league fanbase filled with doubters.

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Call it a hunch.  Call it contrarian thinking. But when a quarterback can pull out a 9-7 season with the odds stacked against him in 2019, what is he capable of when the odds even out?  We’ll find out in 2020.  I expect it will be a good season.