Rams’ Jared Goff looks to earn new paycheck starting Sunday
The words from fans and other well-wishers were spoken unfailingly with kindness to Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
“Congrats on the season.”
Goff would politely smile.
“Congrats on the season.”
He always said thanks.
“Congrats on the season.”
Goff appreciated the sentiment, but the consolatory offering in the days, weeks and months after the Super Bowl irked him. Another Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl appearance provided no solace for playing below standard and losing to the New England Patriots on the sport’s grandest stage.
“The competitor in you is like, ‘No. Screw the season,’” Goff said. “We wanted to win that game.”
The Rams open the season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. It is the first opportunity to start another Super Bowl run.
Goff, 24, goes into it with big expectations — and a significantly larger bank account.
He signed a four-year, $134-million extension that includes a record $110 million in guarantees. After agreeing to terms on the deal, Goff said it would increase his “urgency” but not affect his process.
The Los Angeles Rams enter the 2019 season with a trio of new assistant coaches that Sean McVay hopes will challenge him and the players to reach new heights.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the recipient of a six-year, $135-million extension before last season, said a player’s natural inclination is to prove that he is deserving of the big check.
“Thank you ain’t enough,” Donald said. “You’ve got to go out and show it on the field.”
Last season, Goff passed for 32 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions, while leading the Rams to a second consecutive NFC West title. He also showed postseason growth.
In 2017, Goff appeared nervous and overwhelmed in a first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Last season, he led the Rams to a divisional-round playoff victory over the Dallas Cowboys, and then an overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game.
Lost in the controversy over a non-call of obvious pass interference involving Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was Goff’s performance at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome down the stretch.
He directed a late field goal drive to tie the score 23-23 at the end of regulation, and then commanded an overtime drive that culminated with Greg Zuerlein’s game-winning, 57-yard field goal.
Goff then struggled in the 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. He completed 19 of 38 passes for only 229 yards, and he was sacked four times in the Rams’ worst offensive performance under McVay. Goff was late throwing a potential touchdown pass to receiver Brandin Cooks in the end zone. A late fourth-quarter pass was intercepted by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, all but clinching the victory for the Patriots.
Rams receiver Robert Woods said he and Goff spent the offseason working through situations that stifled the offense during regular-season defeats by the Saints, Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles and in the Super Bowl against the Patriots.
“Just certain balls and certain looks,” Woods said.
Goff also has gotten physically stronger, McVay said, enabling him to make more plays from a crowded pocket.
“And he’s another year experienced,” McVay said. “He’s able to use those previous reps that he’s gotten and make it a memory bank.
“It’s like a Rolodex that you’re able to just draw from.”
Throughout his college career at California and during his three seasons with the Rams, Goff has statistically improved every season. He acknowledged the trend, but said there were “a million things” he could improve, especially accuracy.
“Elite quarterbacks put the ball where only the receiver can get it,” he said. “I’ve been good at that, but I know there are throws that I can get better on ... as well as taking less sacks.”
Goff was sacked 33 times last season. Now he will be operating behind a remade offensive line that includes center Brian Allen and left guard Joe Noteboom, both second-year pros.
The NFL is looking into alternative pain treatments for players, but the league hasn’t decided if cannabis use will be part of its drug policy.
Goff also appears more outwardly comfortable in a team leadership role. In the locker room, he good-naturedly jaws with defensive linemen, and he also has huddled with offensive linemen to take responsibility for lulls in practice.
“He does a great job taking the blame for it, but it’s never one man,” right tackle Rob Havenstein said.
The Rams have not played the Panthers since 2016, when Goff was a rookie still on the bench behind Case Keenum. Two weeks after the Panthers defeated the Rams 13-10 at the Coliseum, Goff made his first start.
He is 24-7 as a starter the last two seasons.
Panthers coach and fellow Cal alum Ron Rivera said that Goff has demonstrated growth every year. Not that he saw any evidence of that during preseason games: To ensure that Goff and other starters would be physically sound for the opener, McVay held them out for the second year in row.
“We’ll have to wait and see on Sunday,” Rivera said.
Goff also has adopted a wait-and-see approach, at least in regard to his next Super Bowl appearance.
“You never know when your chance is going to come,” he said. “But when it does, we’ll have a good idea of how to handle it.”
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