Two weeks into the season, and already the NFL quarterback soap opera is taking shape. It’s “The Young and the Restless.”
Young quarterbacks are having success all over the league.
And Rams fans are restless.
No. 1 pick Jared Goff hasn’t taken a snap, and there’s no guarantee he will Sunday when the Rams play at Tampa Bay. That would be easier to digest if the Rams were hitting their stride offensively, but that isn’t the case. They’re the only NFL team that has yet to score a touchdown, getting three field goals in a 9-3 victory over Seattle last Sunday and going scoreless in a 28-0, season-opening road loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Rams Coach Jeff Fisher says he won’t be pressured into rushing Goff onto the field before he’s ready, but the chorus to get him out there is only going to get louder as young quarterbacks elsewhere keep racking up yards, touchdowns and victories.
Goff is the first of the past six quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall who didn’t start from the beginning of the season. That list of top picks is Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and — the quarterback the Rams will face Sunday — Jameis Winston.
The player most compared to Goff this season is No. 2 pick Carson Wentz of Philadelphia. He’s coming off impressive performances in wins over Cleveland and Chicago. Yes, those are two bad defenses, and Wentz figures to get much more of a test Sunday against Pittsburgh, but this guy has looked like a poised veteran so far — and a rib injury kept him out of most of the exhibition season.
The rapid rise of Wentz has even surprised Mike Mayock, the NFL Network scouting expert who was a huge and vocal proponent of his last spring.
“It’s coming to fruition more quickly than I thought,” Mayock said. “He’s passed every test there is, and nothing’s too big for him. I think a lot of people look at it as, ‘North Dakota State, how does that happen?’ I kind of look at it as, he was asked by North Dakota State to do more at the line of scrimmage than any quarterback I’d seen since [Stanford’s] Andrew Luck. So I don’t care what division he came out of, he was already used to handling stuff.”
Then there’s Dak Prescott, the rookie fourth-round pick in Dallas pressed into action because of a back injury to Tony Romo. Prescott has completed 62.7% of his passes, without an interception, and last Sunday directed the Cowboys to a 27-23 victory at Washington.
“As I said before, I feel like I belong here,” Prescott told reporters this week. “This isn’t a dream where I’m wowed every day. I feel like this is where I belong, so I’ve got to continue to get better.”
Denver is 2-0 with second-year Trevor Siemian at the helm. He was a seventh-round pick in 2015, and represents the first time a defending Super Bowl champion has handed the offensive keys to a player who had never thrown a pass in an NFL game.
Rookie Jacoby Brissett was promoted to starter in New England for Thursday’s game against Houston because of an injury to Jimmy Garoppolo, who was filling in for the suspended Tom Brady.
Two quarterback injuries in Cleveland have led to the Browns starting rookie Cody Kessler against Miami on Sunday. Both Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown have bum shoulders, so in steps Kessler, a third-round pick from USC.
Goff had his share of highs and lows this summer, with some skilled passes that flashed his potential along with some cover-your-eyes turnovers. He never unseated Case Keenum for the starting job, and was even deactivated for the Week 1 debacle at San Francisco.
Former NFL coach Jon Gruden, color analyst for “Monday Night Football,” said there’s no way to get Goff the practice snaps he needs without naming him the starter, especially with a collective bargaining agreement that puts significant limitations on how much teams can practice.
“I think he might be best served not playing at all this year,” Gruden told The Times on Thursday. “Right now you’re going into Week 3; how many reps is he getting? Week 1 he wasn’t even active. How’s he getting better if he’s not getting all the reps? I just can’t understand how you’re going to tell me in Week 5 he’s ready to go. Because he’s been sitting there?”
And with no Rams touchdowns so far…
“Then again,” Gruden said, “I don’t know if Case Keenum has guys running around wide open, either. I haven’t seen gaping holes for [Todd] Gurley to run through. They’ve got a young line, I don’t know who the blocking tight end is, I don’t even know if they’ve got a fullback on their team. But they’ve got a good defense.”
For the moment, the Rams are holding their ground on Goff, arguing the hurry-up offense can wait. At 21, Goff is two years younger than Wentz. (They point to how much another Rams quarterback, Sean Mannion, has improved with a year under his belt.) What’s more, Keenum had his best career game against the Buccaneers last season, completing 82.4% of his passes with two touchdowns and a 158.0 passer rating.
This much we know: Until the Los Angeles offense starts making some noise, the outside voices will only get louder.