“When he hears me going, ‘Hey! We’re going no-huddle, here we go!’” Goff says, “He’ll…”
Goff stops talking and makes a noise that sounds equal parts sigh and angry grunt.
“He’s slow, he’s a center, he’s not supposed to be fast,” Goff says, chuckling. “But there are probably a handful of plays when he does have to get out and run and those are always fun to watch.”
Goff, 23, and the 32-year-old Sullivan are the starting points for one of the NFL’s highest-scoring and most entertaining offenses. The Rams, under first-year coach Sean McVay, are averaging 30.1 points a game, tying them with the Philadelphia Eagles for first in the NFL.
Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, and Sullivan, a nine-year pro who was signed in April as a free agent, quickly developed a rapport and chemistry. “We get along really well,” Sullivan says.
The Rams signed the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Sullivan to help protect Goff, who was sacked 26 times in seven games as a rookie.
Sullivan played at Notre Dame and developed into one of the NFL’s most reliable players at his position during seven seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. During the 2015 preseason, he suffered a back injury that required two surgeries and sidelined him for the regular season. In 2016 he signed with Washington and played for McVay, who was the Redskins’ offensive coordinator.
McVay, hired by the Rams in January, pursued Sullivan knowing he could assist in developing a young quarterback.
“He does such a great job of commanding the communication, the calls,” McVay says.“He sees the game from a 22-man perspective.”
Sullivan, who sports a black beard that features flecks of gray, was one of several offseason additions the Rams made to upgrade their offensive line. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, 35, was brought in to protect Goff’s blindside, and he has played well for a unit that has given up only 20 sacks, tied for seventh fewest in the league.
But it’s Sullivan, coaches and teammates say, who has become a coordinator on the field. Before each snap, Sullivan analyzes defenses and communicates to teammates.
“The sport is a lot easier if you know what you are looking at right in front of you, rather than just having to be reactive to what’s going on,” Sullivan says.
Sullivan makes “everybody’s life so much easier, just understanding the game,” running back Todd Gurley says, noting that Sullivan is equally helpful in the film room. “He’s been so well prepared, getting us prepared.”
No player has benefited from Sullivan’s presence more than Goff, who has passed for 20 touchdowns with six interceptions.
“It takes a lot off my shoulders for sure,” Goff says, “with his ability to understand defenses and make a lot of calls up front.”
Sullivan and Goff understand that the quarterback has the final say at the line of scrimmage, but there rarely is a power struggle.
“If I see something, and overrule, I can,” Goff says, adding, “99% of the time he’s right.”
Sullivan has been happy to see Goff mature and improve “in terms of what he is able to see, his reads and everything” in the eight months they have been teammates.
Goff faces a big test Sunday against an Eagles defense that ranks third in the NFL. He’ll lean on Sullivan to help guide him through the challenge.
“He’s been tremendous this year and a great help for myself,” Goff says. “And a big reason why our offense has been so successful.”
The Rams were off Tuesday. They were scheduled to return to practice Wednesday at their Thousand Oaks training facility, but because of poor air quality caused by fires in Ventura County, they will hold only a walk-through. The practice schedule for the rest of the week is to be determined. … The Rams cut defensive back Marcus Sayles from the practice squad. Sayles, who played in college at West Georgia, signed a few weeks ago after Kayvon Webster suffered a concussion and Nickell Robey-Coleman suffered a thigh injury.
Staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.