FORT WORTH -- Former Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton believes Dallas should select Cal junior quarterback Jared Goff with the fouth overall pick in April's NFL draft in Chicago.
Morton, a former Cal quarterback himself taken fifth overall by the Cowboys in the 1965 NFL draft, has seen a majority of Goff's career to evaluate him for the position.
"I've seen him play a lot," Morton said Monday at the Fort Worth Club at the 39th Annual Davey O'Brien Foundation Awards Dinner. "Probably every game. I don't think anybody's better than he is throwing the football. He's outstanding. And I know the Cowboys have the number four overall pick. He would be a perfect fit being under [Tony] Romo for a few years learning. He could be a franchise quarterback."
Though a top-tier draft selection himself, Morton sat for three seasons behind incumbent Don Meredith who led the expansion Cowboys to three playoff appearances, including two memorable showdowns with the Green Bay Packers in 1966 and 1967. It wasn't until Meredith's early retirement in the 1968 off-season that Morton finally got his chance to take the helm in Dallas. Until coach Tom Landry settled on Roger Staubach as starting quarterback in the 1971 season, Morton led the Cowboys to three straight postseason appearances and a berth in Super Bowl V, though they lost 16-13 in one of the most sloppy games in Super Bowl history.
Having Goff sit for a couple of seasons behind Romo would be a "prescription for success," according to Morton, if he is willing to be patient and sit behind the 36-year-old Pro Bowler, who might not have five more years left in him, despite what owner Jerry Jones may say.
"It's beneficial because these guys come in and they're thrown in, their franchises are going to play them," said Morton. "And, as you know, they get killed. They're just not ready for that transition. And a lot of them are coming out as juniors. They're not mature yet. And Jared needs to gain about 20 pounds, and he needs to be behind somebody and learn the game."
One example that Morton immediately highlights of a franchise being impatient with their talent under center is Washington with Robert Griffin III. Taken as the second overall pick by Washington in the 2012 NFL draft, Griffin borderline became the face of the league after an impressive rookie campaign going 258/393 for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns, five interceptions, and posting a 102.4 passer rating. Additionally, he gained 815 yards on 120 carries along with seven rushing touchdowns. Griffin led Washington an NFC East title, yet injuries over the next two seasons along with mental barriers within the game relegated him to third-stringer in 2015 and an uncertain future in 2016.
"So, it's got to be kind of the luck of where you're drafted. You've got to be with a team where you can kind of just be patient," Morton said.
With the NFL combine set to kickoff Feb. 23 from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, one of the questions surrounding Goff is his ability to adapt to the pro game despite hardly spending time under center in Cal's offense. We write here how Dallas would integrate a QB chosen at No. 4 into the system ... and Morton doesn't see adapting an issue and predicts Goff will learn.
"He's got such great footwork, such great feet. And in practices, they do a lot of work under the center. They just do a lot of work out of [shotgun], which pro football seems to do more and more.
"I don't know how often Dallas does it. They're certainly not going to throw the ball as much as Cal did. But Jared can adapt. But he's got a great arm. He can get rid of that ball as fast as anybody I've ever seen."
Goff led the Golden Bears to a 7-5 record in 2015, topping it off with a 55-36 victory over Air Force in the Armed Forces Game on Dec. 29, 2015 at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. Goff earned MVP honors as he threw for 467 yards and six touchdowns. Along with earning All-Pac-12 honors, he set the new conference record in single-season passing yards with 4,714.