Column: Jared Goff looks, sounds like a leader. Now he has to play like one
It’s on him.
He’s the quarterback. He’s the player with the $134-million contract.
Jared Goff nodded.
“That’s part of the job, man,” he said. “That’s part of the job.”
Less than a year removed from playing in the Super Bowl, the Rams are in danger of missing the postseason entirely.
The Minnesota Vikings are a game ahead of them for the final wild-card spot. Overtaking them could require the Rams to win their four remaining games, beginning Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
If Goff’s reputation was damaged by many of the previous 12 games, this final stretch offers a chance for redemption, an opportunity to justify the faith the organization placed in the former No. 1 overall pick by signing him to a nine-figure extension before the season.
With running back Todd Gurley yet to have a 100-yard game and their offensive line in shambles, the Rams desperately need Goff to perform like a franchise quarterback they are paying him to be.
While Goff still has to prove he can play the role, he has demonstrated he can at least act the part.
Rams coach Sean McVay plans to utilize the same offensive strategy on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
From the time he was drafted, Goff has always said the right things. What’s changed isn’t so much what he says, but how he says it. There’s a calmness about him that inspires confidence.
“When you’re drafted high like I was, it’s already kind of in your head you are that guy, you are the face of the franchise,” he said. “You have to carry yourself that way. Over the last four years, it’s been a maturation process and I feel like I’m getting to the point where I’m feeling really, really comfortable as that, and have been for a few years, at this point.”
Speaking at his team’s practice facility Wednesday, Goff acknowledged the obvious: He’s been inconsistent.
The NFL’s No. 8 passer last year, his rating of 84.1 this year ranks 25th in the league, right behind Mitch Trubisky of the Chicago Bears. Philip Rivers of the Chargers, whose down season has resulted in speculation that he could be benched, is two places ahead of Goff.
Goff has passed for only 13 touchdowns. He finished with 32 last season and 28 the season before that.
His numbers are down across the board. The exception: He’s already matched his 12 interceptions from last season.
“It’s just always about how you respond,” Goff said. “It’s never going to be perfect. It’s never going to be exactly how you like it. Sometimes, it’s going to be really, really good and you want to always try to be on that side of it as much as possible. But there’s times where it’s not going to go your way and that’s in football, in life, in everything, and it’s always going to be about how you respond. That’s how you’re truly judged.”
Goff enjoyed his best game of the season last week, albeit against the last-place Arizona Cardinals, who have the league’s worst pass defense. The 424-yard, two-touchdown performance ended a three-game stretch in which he didn’t pass for a single score.
The Rams’ next three games are against playoff-bound teams: at home against the Seahawks (10-2), on the road against the San Francisco 49ers (10-2) and Dallas Cowboys (6-6).
Some of Goff’s problems are byproducts of factors outside of his control. He’s had an average of 2.76 seconds to throw per pass attempt this year, compared with 2.95 in 2018 and 2.93 in 2017, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
But if the team around Goff isn’t operating as well as it has in the past, how much of it is his responsibility to make up for that?
“I would never say that it’s just on him,” coach Sean McVay said. “I think it’s always on the unit.”
Rams must find a way to contain scrambling Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson if they hope to win their key NFC West game Sunday.
Whatever is happening, Goff said he is the same.
“You try to stay within yourself,” he said. “There’s been obviously shuffling up front, but that’s no excuse, ever. We just have done a good job figuring it out in the last couple weeks, I think. We feel good. I don’t think there’s anything to look back on at this point. I think we’re moving forward and want to go beat Seattle.”
When the Rams played in Seattle in October, in Week 5, Goff moved them from their own seven-yard line to the Seahawks’ 26. Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt with 15 seconds remaining and the Rams lost 30-29.
Reflecting on that defeat, Goff held himself accountable.
“We were able to move the ball there, but left a little bit more meat on that than we wanted to,” he said. “I think we could have got maybe a few more yards there for Greg.”
Standing at the lectern in the Rams media room, Goff looked like a leader. He sounded like a leader.
Sunday, he will have to play like one.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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