Tweak now or forever hold your peace.
If the Rams are going to try Jared Goff this season, they need to do it now.
They made the bold move last spring to trade all the way up to the No. 1 spot to draft him, and if they’re going to try him at all this season, there’s no time like the present. They’ve lost three in a row, need to do something to stop their slide, and have a week off in the wake of Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the New York Giants.
Clearly, the Rams are resistant to change. Coach Jeff Fisher stepped to the lectern after the defeat and, before being asked a question, made it clear that Case Keenum is staying put as the starting quarterback.
“The quarterback is not the reason, by the way, that we lost three games,” he said. “I’m staying with Case.”
We get it. Keenum has shown his grit this season, no question. He’s certainly good enough to win games, and the deck was stacked against him Sunday. He didn’t get solid protection from his line. Todd Gurley ran for just 57 yards. The receivers let some passes ricochet off their hands and often looked like they were studying a different playbook with the way they missed adjustments and abruptly broke off routes. Keenum shouldn’t shoulder the blame for that.
But something is going very wrong. The Giants were last in the league with six sacks before facing the Rams; they had three Sunday. They had just two interceptions in the first six games, then picked off Keenum four times.
Keenum is not a quarterback who’s going to win games with his pure arm and pinpoint passing. He’s a tough grinder who’s going to muscle out the hard yards with his arm and legs, and every so often hit on a deep ball. He’s not going to drop back and make those perfectly placed passes through a mail slot.
Will Goff be that kind of quarterback? We don’t yet know. His results in exhibition games were mixed. He made some nice throws and had some ugly turnovers. If he’s not the starter, he’s not going to be getting a lot of reps in practice.
“We’re going to get a lot of young players, including Jared, extra reps when we return,” Fisher said.
Regardless, it is not a good situation when Keenum is throwing the ball 53 times, almost twice as many attempts as his average in wins this season (28.6).
The Rams are not built to throw the ball that much, and their offensive line is overwhelmed. Left tackle Greg Robinson was flagged for holding three times (twice declined) and a false start.
“Second to the quarterback position on offense, the left tackle position is probably the hardest to play,” Fisher said. “When you’re trying to get people out on routes, and trying to get the ball here and there, oftentimes he’s going to be left on his own. Again, Greg is a talented player. But we didn’t bring Greg into our organization thinking we were going to throw 50 times.”
But here’s the predicament: The Rams need some kind of spark. Maybe that comes from creating a passing game that scares defenses into playing them more honest, instead of loading up to stop the run. It’s worth trying to stretch the field with Goff, even if Keenum has done a solid job so far and earned his keep.
After all, the Rams leapfrogged 14 teams and traded away a significant portion of their future to get Goff. They made a bold move. It might be time for another leap of faith, if only to shock the system and get on another path.
Playing a rookie quarterback isn’t an exotic concept. We’re seeing it all over the league, with Dak Prescott in Dallas, Carson Wentz in Philadelphia, Jacoby Brissett in New England, and Cody Kessler in Cleveland. Yes, most of those situations are the result of injuries, but those players weren’t taken No. 1 overall, either. Before Goff, the last five quarterbacks taken first started their rookie openers.
“Jared is going to play when we feel Jared is ready,” Fisher said. “Had we won this game, you wouldn’t be asking about Jared.”
The Rams didn’t win, though, and now they’re in a difficult spot. They’re not going to lay the blame at the cleats of Keenum, nor should they. But what’s happening now isn’t working, and it might be time for a change when they have the luxury of a little bit of preparation time.
At 3-4, the Rams are like a quarterback surrounded by a collapsing pocket. Time is fleeting. The bye week will come and go. The window is closing.