The Los Angeles Rams heading into the 2016 season placed much hope that Jared Goff could become the team's next franchise quarterback after selecting him with the first overall pick in this year's draft.
However, things did not quite pan out in that fashion that the Rams had initially hoped as Goff demonstrated from the get-go that he wasn't ready to handle the responsibilities that come with being a starting quarterback in the NFL. He struggled tremendously in the preseason as he completed 22 of 49 passes for 232 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions, two fumbles, and was sacked four times.
This led the Rams to make the decision to name Case Keenum the starter prior to the regular season, and place Goff third on the depth chart behind Sean Mannion. The 22-year-old eventually got his chance to make his first NFL start in Week 11 against the Miami Dolphins after the team had lost four out of their last five games putting them out of the playoff picture.
Los Angeles continued to struggle with the former Cal product as the starter dropping all of his first seven starts. Goff experienced much difficulty through this stretch for various reasons beyond his own inexperience and mental mistakes as his receivers made a high amount of drops while he constantly faced pressure on his dropbacks in the pocket due to porous pass protection from the offensive line.
All of this amounted to him accumulating just 1,089 passing yards on a 54.6 completion percentage with five touchdown passes and seven interceptions, and holding a 22.2 quarterback rating. This includes recording at least one interception on four occasions while passing for fewer than 200 yards five times.
In fact, Goff ranked last in the league in yards per completion (5.31), second-worst total quarterback rating, and the fourth-lowest completion percentage. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished with the second-to-last overall grade (39.7) along with placing in the same spot in passing situations (38.9) among qualified players at his position.
Despite all that, Goff believes there is plenty of positives to take away from his rookie campaign moving forward.
“I think there’s a lot of things. I think you can learn a lot about yourself, a lot about your teammates, a lot about how not to do things and that sometimes can be the best stuff," Goff said. "You can learn from the bad things. In life and in football and everything you do it’s not always going to be up, up, up, up, up all positive. There’s going to be down years, down games, down times in your life and the way you get better from them is you learn from them."
Although there was much expectation that Goff could make an immediate impact, he has had many personal developmental obstacles to first overcome. He entered the NFL as a quarterback coming from the spread offense at Cal that primarily ran out of the Shotgun formation that is predicated on plays that often times did not require reading the defense beyond the first or second passing options.
These intricacies have made the transition that much more difficult for Goff given that he has had to get accustomed to running plays under center and conduct pre-snap diagnoses of defensive coverages that in many cases should lead to changing the play called. All of this created a much larger learning curve for him in his first campaign, and it's something that he hopes doesn't sway fans to prematurely judge him as a quarterback.
“I’d hope not. It’s only been seven games and I know it’s my rookie year," Goff said. "I came in midway through the season, but I’m not trying to make any excuses. I’ve got to be better and everyone’s got to be better, but I think I’ve got a lot of football ahead of me and I expect to continue to improve and expect the guys in there to rally around me and get things done around here."
That said, there is a clear realization that he needs to see some vast personal improvement across the board heading into his second season in the NFL.
“There’s a million things. I don’t know if I can pinpoint it, but I feel like I’ve made great strides all the way from April until now," Goff said. "Just understanding everything and seeing everything and letting it slow down a little bit and being able to not think so much and just react and play. In these last few games that became more and more apparent as it did when I first started playing against Miami into the coming weeks. I think it’s kind of a natural progression for guys. It’s only seven games, but it’s enough to know what I did well and what I didn’t do well and what I need to work on.”
One of these major changes will come from above with the Rams headed toward hiring a new head coach with Jeff Fisher out of the mix after nearly five years on the job. The organization has already voiced much hope to go in a new direction with the next coach likely being an offensive-minded selection.
With that in mind, Goff has expressed much excitement about what could lie ahead with a new head coach in place.
“As soon as the new coach is hired we will be diving into the new playbook and giving it everything I’ve got and learn as quickly as I can, picking it up and getting ready for OTAs," Goff said. " I’m very excited. I think everyone there is very excited. We know this year didn’t go the way we liked it to and we know that there are greener pastures ahead especially with what should be coming in the future. We’re excited.”
All in all, Goff believes that things could finally be progressing toward bright days for the Rams with much change on the horizon.
“We have a change coming that is going to be positive and is going to bring a lot of positive energy and something we’re all excited for and something we’re excited to get going with, Goff said. "We want to put this behind us as quickly as possible and want people to understand that this is not what we’re about and the standard will be set higher.”