Jared Goff following the Tom Brady playbook: ‘He seems to be on to something’
There is not a catchy name for his plan or a book explaining his disciplined regimen. He does not have a name-branded performance and recovery center for pro athletes and weekend warriors.
At 43, Brady is entering his 21st NFL season, his first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after winning six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots. That included a 13-3 victory over the Rams and Goff two years ago.
Goff, 25, hired a trainer during the offseason. He also adopted a new diet plan and has a chef preparing meals tailored to his body chemistry as he readies for what qualifies as a comeback season.
“People joke about Brady all the time about how he’s so serious about it,” Goff said, “but he seems to be on to something.”
Goff will need to be at his best if he and the Rams are to rebound from a disappointing 2019 season that left them out of the playoffs for the first time under coach Sean McVay. After receiving a $134-million extension, Goff had his worst season since McVay was hired in 2017. The Rams finished 9-7.
“Any time that you’re in the position that he’s in, you’re measured by wins and losses,” McVay said. “And, obviously, as a team we want to win more games — the quarterback ends up getting credit for that.”
Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, flourished his first two seasons under McVay, leading the Rams to the Super Bowl and earning two Pro Bowl selections. But last season he regressed statistically in nearly every major statistical category. His 22 touchdown passes were the fewest since he became the starter. His 16 interceptions were a career high.
The San Francisco 49ers displaced the Rams atop the NFC West and the Seattle Seahawks also went to the playoffs.
“One of the things that we all are doing, and not just Jared, is trying to bounce back from, let’s call it: a season where we didn’t get to the tournament,” general manager Les Snead said.
Goff does not disagree that 2020 qualifies as a potential bounce-back season.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “At the same time, I think there’s a lot of things I did do well that I want to build on.
“Of course you always want to get better from the year before — and statistically speaking it wasn’t my best year. And I do want to play better. I do want to be more efficient. I do want to get the ball to receivers a little bit better, and I expect to and expect to stay on an upward trajectory.”
As he has done since the end of his rookie season, Goff worked during the offseason with quarterback trainers at 3DQB in Orange County. He also worked out more in the gym, and had blood work done to identify what foods were best for him individually to maximize performance.
“It’s nothing super scientific or over the top, it’s just basic stuff as far as what my body reacts to well and what it doesn’t react to well,” he said.
The regimen helped prepare him for training camp and the season.
“My body feels probably the best it’s felt in a long time,” he said. “Feel healthy, feel fast, feel efficient and just have more energy.”
Teammates have noticed.
“Probably in the best shape of his life right now,” tight end Tyler Higbee said. “Seeing him just moving around, throwing the rock around, his mobility is better. ... His leadership skills have even taken another step.”
Said offensive lineman Rob Havenstein: “You can see that there’s a different gear with the way he’s preparing, the way he’s thinking about things. I mean, shoot, he’s even got his own diet going on.”
To help Goff — and the Rams — McVay hired Kevin O’Connell as offensive coordinator and de facto quarterbacks coach.
McVay remains the play-caller, but O’Connell has a role similar to the one Matt LaFleur filled in 2017. During that season, LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson helped tutor Goff. In 2018, Zac Taylor served as quarterbacks coach.
Last season, McVay did not have a titled quarterbacks coach on staff. Shane Waldron was pass-game coordinator and Zac Robinson was the assistant quarterbacks coach.
O’Connell, 35, first saw Goff throw passes at a football camp for elite high school quarterbacks.
“It’s always on the quarterback with every team, whether it’s a guy on his rookie deal or whether it’s a guy in his 20th year in the league. It’s always on the quarterback.”
— Jared Goff, Rams quarterback
The young Goff stood out.
“Watching guys that are pure natural throwers of the football and everything from how the ball leaves their hand, to lower body mechanics to the natural movement skills and the fluidity ... you see it and you know that the hard part of the position for others comes easy to those guys,” O’Connell said.
Goff has welcomed the chance to work with O’Connell, who played quarterback at San Diego State, was drafted by the Patriots and had stints with several NFL teams before starting a coaching career with the Cleveland Browns in 2015.
“We know a lot of the same people and I always wanted to work with him,” Goff said. “He coaches me hard but also understands the intricacies of what comes with it.”
Goff is preparing for his first season without Todd Gurley in the backfield. The 2017 NFL offensive player of the year had been the centerpiece of an offense that utilized the run and play-action fakes to set up Goff’s passes.
The Rams released Gurley in March. That now makes Goff the undisputed focal point of the offense.
Hall of Fame quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Dan Fouts told The Times in April that Gurley’s departure could put more pressure on Goff, and that he would need to prove he was worth the heavy investment.
Goff said his approach and responsibility remain the same.
“It was that way before I got paid,” Goff said. “It was never not on the quarterback. It’s always on the quarterback with every team, whether it’s a guy on his rookie deal or whether it’s a guy in his 20th year in the league. It’s always on the quarterback.
“What comes with that [contract] is a little bit more ownership and a little bit more feeling that responsibility of it, but at the same time you don’t put any more pressure on yourself as it being all on you. ... So I haven’t treated anything differently since my new deal. I think it’s just a part of something I earned those first three, four years and something I hope to earn again throughout my career.”
Goff aims to one day look back at 2019 as “something that was an outlier year” in a long career of success.
The rebound begins Sept. 13 when the Rams open the season against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium.
“I’m excited,” Goff said. “It’s really another year of what’s supposed to be the prime of your career and I’m trying to take full advantage of it.”
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