The Jared Goff Criticism is Unwarranted
The 2016 number-one overall draft pick was the topic of much scrutiny, as is common with such a prominent moment in the NFL calendar. This past year was made all the more scrutinized as the Los Angeles Rams traded a lot of their picks, both current and future, for the right to choose first.
Unfortunately for fans, former coach Jeff Fisher chose to keep Goff on the bench and did not start their top selection until week 11. Thrusted into competition, his rookie struggles showed themselves immediately.
However, when looking at Goff’s first starts, it is important not to rush to conclusions. Much criticism has been directed at him and the Rams organization even before he saw the field. Jared Goff’s numbers must be put in their proper context to truly make a prediction of his NFL impact in the upcoming years.
Jared Goff has competed 99 of 185 passes in six games for a rate of 53.5 percent and a total of 969 yards. He has thrown five touchdowns and seven interceptions, with a long of 66 yards and a 9.8 yards per catch average. Overall, he has averaged a 61.7 rating with a high of 100.3 against the New Orleans Saints and a low of 35.1 against the San Francisco 49ers.
These numbers do not scream “franchise quarterback,” but there are several intangible factors that have allowed the unimpressive figures. Before those factors are outlined, one can take a look at several other recent franchise quarterbacks and their first years in the league.
Easily the best comparison is former first-overall pick and two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning, who began his career with the New York Giants in 2004. He played in a total of seven games his rookie season, the exact same number in which Goff will complete. During this course, he threw at a completion rate of 48.2 percent and a total statline of 1,043 yards, six touchdowns, nine interceptions with a total passer rating of 55.4. His final record was 1-6.
Another number-one overall pick and two-time Super Bowl champion, Peyton Manning, saw similar struggles in his rookie year, though he started every game. He completed passes at a 56.7 percent rate and was at a -2 differential for his touchdowns to interceptions. Despite recording an overall rating of 71.2, his final record was 3-13.
Some of the best number-one overall picks had rough starts in terms of statistics. As is most common, the worst team in the NFL earns the first-overall pick. These teams are bad for several reasons, and a rookie will rarely be able to fix all of these problems in only one year. This is especially so in Goff’s case, as the Rams have more than one aspect of their organization that needs rebuilding to reestablish a winning culture.
Jared Goff not only had to take the field midway through the season, but he was forced into action with an offense that is ranked last in the league. These rankings were done before he took one snap, and they ran much deeper than the quarterback position.
Starting with his receiving corps, his teammates have done him no favors. According to Sporting Charts , the Rams have recorded the eighth-most dropped passes in the NFL with 21 drops on the year. Tavon Austin was number six on the list with seven key drops this year.
These drops alone would drag down Goff’s completion percentage, rating and yardage, but not only do his receivers drop balls, they often tip them, as well. Several of these tips have been intercepted and thus drag Goff’s impact even more, both statistically and intangibly. With receivers that cannot catch accurate passes and allow defenders to grab deflections, Goff has had his image tarnished and his reputation dampened through little fault of his own.
In addition to his receivers, the offensive line has been the bane of the Rams 2016 season. The unit has been atrocious in both run blocking and pass protection, stifling the offense at every turn. The line whose poor performance is personified by verified bust, former number-two overall pick Greg Robinson has had both Goff and Case Keenum on the run every snap along with star running back Todd Gurley all but silenced in his sophomore year.
No quarterback could survive in this environment, much less one just learning the game at the professional level. Goff would not be expected put blame on his teammates, but their mediocrity is a factor that must be considered when evaluating this rookie’s debut.
Lastly is a factor that is not done affecting Goff: the coaching changes. Goff was drafted by Jeff Fisher, who finally started him not four games before he was fired. It can be well expected that offensive coordinator Rob Boras and, potentially, quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke will also be relieved of their duties in the off-season.
So much turnover will assuredly disrupt any flow that Goff has established in his short time as a starter. He will likely need to learn a new system (again) and require more time to familiarize himself with it to an effective level.
Hopefully, this new system will be catered to his strengths while the new coaches will be able to use their personnel to reboot this limp offense. The challenge to adapt will remain, and even if Goff can learn quickly, he will need to lead his entire team to efficiency.
This is all under the assumption that the new staff will be competent and effective, which in this league can be a very foolish hypothesis.
Jared Goff has had a very timid debut, but it is not entirely due to his lack of talent. Factors like inexperience, poor teammates and coaching changes have stacked the deck against the young quarterback and made his professional transition very difficult.
Based on previous examples, a number-one overall pick at the quarterback position cannot be properly evaluated on his first season, especially when he is not allowed to play the full 16 games.
This week, after the painful loss to the rival 49ers, Goff promised that he would lead this team to better results. Such a statement should be held with great respect. Though his on-field statistics have lacked, his leadership ability is ahead of the curve.
Whether the Rams are able to secure their proper fit for head coach and turn this club around is up for debate. However, one thing is clear. Their quarterback is mature and motivated to make this team better, and at such a young age and in such a dark time, those traits themselves are worth everything.