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Rams’ No. 1 pick Jared Goff to make first start Sunday

Rams Coach Jeff Fisher announced that Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, would make his first start against the Dolphins on Sunday.

The Rams traded up 14 spots to select Jared Goff with the top pick in the NFL draft.

They gave him a $28-million contract and an $18.6-million signing bonus. Then they sat him on the bench for nine games as the offense bottomed out as the lowest-scoring unit in the league.

Finally, on Tuesday, Coach Jeff Fisher tabbed Goff as the starting quarterback, replacing Case Keenum.

“It’s time,” Fisher said. “It’s time to move on.”

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Goff, 22, will make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Fisher said it was not a short-term decision.

“I don’t want to say it’s a new era, a new start,” Fisher said, “but in a lot of ways it is.”

On day when singer Britney Spears attended practice, Goff took first-team snaps as the No. 1 quarterback for the first time. He said he was excited about the opportunity to start and had been ready for a while.

“I’m glad it’s finally come,” he said, “glad they’ve given me that vote of confidence and the nod.

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“I’m ready to go and prove them right.”

Goff has been the franchise’s future since the Rams brain trust chose the former California star over North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz in the April draft. But while Wentz (Philadelphia) and other rookie quarterbacks such as Dak Prescott (Dallas) flourished, Goff languished behind Keenum.

Keenum has passed for nine touchdowns, with 11 interceptions. His 76.7 passer rating ranks 30th in the NFL.

During the Rams’ loss to the Carolina Panthers at the Coliseum, fans booed the offense and chanted, “We want Goff!”

Fisher had been adamant that Keenum was not the problem for a team that had lost four games in a row and scored only two touchdowns in the last three games.

Even after Sunday’s 9-6 victory over the New York Jets — which featured no touchdowns by the Rams — Fisher said he was not considering a change at quarterback. On Monday, Fisher said Goff was No. 2.

But Tuesday, he informed Goff and Keenum of the move.

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“My heart was getting closer and closer over the last couple weeks,” Fisher said. “And I felt like this was the best time to turn the keys over to Jared.”

Keenum is scheduled to speak with reporters Wednesday.

Fisher is in the final year of a five-year contract that reportedly pays him about $7 million a year. He has a 31-41-1 record with the Rams.

The win over the Jets improved the Rams record to 4-5 and kept them in the playoff hunt.

Asked if the decision to go with Goff now was collaborative — if it involved owner Stan Kroenke and General Manager Les Snead — Fisher took responsibility.

“It was my decision,” he said. “I informed Stan, for obvious reasons. I told him this is the direction I wanted to go and we’re going that way.”

Rams players said they respected Keenum but would rally behind Goff, who could provide a spark to the offense.

“He’s a young boy, a hot tamale right now,” receiver Tavon Austin said. “We’ll see what he can do.”

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Said tight end Lance Kendricks: “Jared throws a good ball, he’s very poised in the huddle and he’s confident in the play-calling now. He’s had time to sit back and learn.”

Goff thanked Keenum for helping him since he arrived on the scene.

But it is his time now.

“It’s been a long time, it feels like, since I’ve gotten out there and played,” Goff said. “I’m excited to get back out there and play.”

Sunday will mark Goff’s first game action since the Rams’ final exhibition against the Minnesota Vikings. In four exhibitions, Goff completed 22 of 49 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions and three fumbles. He often looked overwhelmed.

But on occasion he also showed good footwork in the pocket and the ability to deliver passes into tight windows. 

He took first-team snaps during one bye-week practice but was otherwise limited to second-team reps.

Fisher said the offense would not be scaled down for Goff.

“We don’t have to reduce anything,” he said, “There are some things we’ll expand because of the arm talent.”

Goff sounded confident that he would deliver whatever is asked of him.

“If that’s a lot of touchdowns, a lot of yards, if that’s handing the ball off a lot — whatever it is, I want to win,” he said. “I want to be the quarterback for this team for a long time.”

That starts Sunday against a Dolphins team riding a four-game winning streak.

Goff said he would be prepared.

“Anxiety is over, I’m good now,” he said. “I’m confident and ready to go. Ready to play, ready to get back to playing football, back to doing what I love — my job — and hopefully start what will be a long career.”

gary.klein@latimes.com

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

 

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