In 2001, Drew Brees began his NFL career as a second-round draft pick from Purdue.
Jared Goff was beginning the first grade.
Brees has done pretty well in the 15-plus years since then. The New Orleans Saints icon won a Super Bowl and has passed for 64,180 yards and 454 touchdowns in 227 games.
Goff, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft by the Rams, has played in one NFL game.
He would like to throw his first touchdown pass Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where two quarterbacks at opposite ends of the career spectrum will meet for the first time.
“Drew’s definitely a guy I grew up a fan of,” Goff said, “a guy I like to take a lot of stuff from.”
Brees, 37, is the first of four top quarterbacks the 22-year-old Goff will match up against in the next month.
The Rams play next week at New England against the Patriots’ Tom Brady, at home against Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and at Seattle against the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson.
It’s a difficult four-game stretch for a Rams team that is 4-6 and in desperate need of an offensive spark.
Goff played without major error or a turnover last week against Miami. He completed 17 of 31 passes for 134 yards and appeared on his way to a victory until the defense collapsed in the final six minutes of a 14-10 defeat.
Goff’s evaluation of his performance?
“I thought it was OK,” he said. “There’s obviously stuff I want back, stuff you would like to do better.
“And then there’s stuff you that you notice on film that you did pretty good — there’s a little bit both ways.”
Rams Coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Rob Boras gave Goff only one opportunity to throw the ball long against the Dolphins. Those attempts probably will increase Sunday.
The Saints (4-6) rank fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 28.5 points a game. The Rams are averaging a league-worst 14.9.
To keep pace, and perhaps open the running game for Todd Gurley, the Rams are expected to lean more heavily on Goff, who played his first game in intermittent rain at the Coliseum.
Boras cited as growing experiences the weather challenge, the Rams being pinned inside their five-yard line and Goff’s opportunity to run four- and two-minute drills and throw a Hail Mary at the end of the game.
“About every situation that’s going to come up over the course of a season, happened to come up in one game for him,” Boras said. “I thought his demeanor, and the way he handled everything mentally was fantastic.”
Weather won’t be an issue in a domed stadium, but Goff will face another challenge against the Saints. The Superdome ranks among the NFL’s loudest stadiums.
“When we were backed up on our own one-yard line [at the Coliseum], we could hear the snap count,” Boras said. “At the Superdome, we’re not going to be able to hear it.
“It’s controlled weather-wise, but we’re dealing with a whole other factor with their fans down there, and the noise level. So, it’s going to be a little different.”
The Rams expect the 6-foot, 205-pound Brees to do most of the efficient and sometimes spectacular things he has done throughout a career that included five seasons in San Diego.
“He’s shorter so you expect to bat a lot of balls down,” Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. “But he knows that as well, so he gives you pump fakes.
“He does a lot of things to really frustrate you as a pass rusher. He doesn’t really drop back really far, so you won’t get that outside rush pressure on him. And then he has solid guys in the front so he just hides behind them,” and finds receivers.
Brees has completed 70% of his passes this season, 26 for touchdowns, with eight interceptions.
Rookie Michael Thomas, who played at Woodland Hills Taft High and Ohio State, has a team-best 56 receptions for a receiver group that includes Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead. Cooks has six touchdown catches, Thomas five.
Brees, though, has connected with nine players for touchdowns.
“I think guys just feel like, man, you never know who’s game it’s going to be,” Brees said of his receivers. “But they all know that each of them is as big a part of our success as the next guy.”
The Saints’ fast-paced offense is generating 422 total yards and 316.8 passing yards per game, which ranks third and first, respectively in the NFL.
The pace will test a Rams defense ranked sixth in the league.
“If you’re not ready to go they’ll eat you up,” middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “So it’s definitely going to be a challenge for me to get the call in and out to our guys and make sure everybody’s lined up and ready to go.”
Goff will be focused on his own responsibilities, but the game also is a chance to see Brees at work.
“Definitely looking forward to seeing him play,” Goff said.