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Sean McVay hasn’t made a quarterback decision for playoffs

Injured Rams quarterback Jared Goff stands next to quarterback John Wolford before a game.
Injured Rams quarterback Jared Goff, left, stands next to quarterback John Wolford before the game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Who will start at quarterback for the Rams in Saturday’s NFC wild-card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks remains unclear.

The only certainty is that coach Sean McVay will not say if it will be Jared Goff, who continues to recover from thumb surgery, or if he will once again turn to John Wolford.

“I’m not going to make an announcement on who’s starting and who’s not,” McVay said Tuesday during a videoconference with reporters. “So, I’m not going to answer that question this week.”

McVay’s strategy is part gamesmanship but it also is rooted in reality.

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Goff sat out Sunday’s season finale against the Arizona Cardinals after undergoing surgery for a broken right thumb suffered during a Dec. 27 loss to the Seahawks. Wolford started in his place and helped lead the Rams to an 18-7 victory that put them in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under McVay.

Last week, McVay said that Goff opted to have surgery with the thought that he would be ready for a playoff game. But McVay hedged Tuesday.

Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has coached the Rams’ defense into the No. 1 unit in the NFL, and teams seeking new head coaches have taken notice.

“I probably should have said there’s a possibility that he’ll be ready to go as soon as the playoffs,” McVay said. “Now whether that’s for sure or not, that’s probably a more accurate way that I could have answered that question.”

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Goff has “thrown a couple balls,” and would have taken snaps if the Rams had conducted a walkthrough Tuesday, McVay said. But the Rams held only virtual meetings. They are scheduled to practice Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for their third game this season against the NFC West champion Seahawks.

Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, led the Rams to the playoffs in the 2017 season and to the Super Bowl in 2018. This season, he passed for 20 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions in 15 starts.

The Rams signed Wolford before last season after he played eight games in the defunct Alliance of American Football. Against the Cardinals — in his first NFL regular-season game —Wolford completed 22 of 38 passes for 231 yards, with an interception. He also rushed for a team-best 56 yards.

“Jared is our starting quarterback — the reality is that he had a thumb surgery,” McVay said. “We’re monitoring that every single day and that’s something we’re taking a day at a time, but the anticipation is both those guys are getting themselves ready to go.”

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A determination about who will start will not be made until McVay evaluates Goff during workouts.

“The first thing is let’s see how his thumb is, let’s see what that thing feels like,” McVay said. “The good thing is that you know you’ve got a guy that’s won a lot of games, taken us to a Super Bowl and done a lot of great things over his career in Jared.

“And then with John having had his first experience in an NFL game, I did like a lot of the things that he did the other day. That gives you some flexibility with how you handle this week.”

McVay said the Rams wouldn’t put Goff “in harm’s way” if there was risk of long-term injury. He said surgery was performed to provide stability to Goff’s thumb. During practices, Goff will test functionality, flexibility and mobility, McVay said.

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“You just want to be able to see and evaluate, all right, when he’s getting out there in a practice setting, what does that look like,” McVay said. “Get his feedback on how it feels because playing the position and then being able to just kind of play catch and long toss is a little bit different.”

Is there a scenario in which McVay would play both Goff and Wolford?

“I wouldn’t rule out anything at this point,” McVay said.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said there would be no difference in his team’s preparation regardless of knowing who would start for the Rams. Carroll said he did not see a difference in the Rams’ offense with Wolford.

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“It looks like the same offense to me,” he said. “With just playing, they’ve run all of the same plays. He did a nice job of keeping the ball on some reads and all that, so I don’t think it was much different.”

After the victory over the Cardinals, Wolford was asked if he would be disappointed to be back on the sideline as Goff’s backup.

Troy Hill’s interception return for a touchdown became a critical moment for the Rams, spurring them to a playoff-clinching win over the Arizona Cardinals.

“No. I’m here to do a job,” he said. “I have no idea where he’s at. I’m just trying to enjoy this win and then I’ll put my head down and work on Seattle.”

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So, Wolford will be ready if it comes down to a game-time decision.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1:40 p.m. Asked if there was a timetable to decide who will start, McVay gave a clipped answer.

“Yeah,” he said. “Saturday at 1:39.”

Etc.

Receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive lineman Michael Brockers, who sat out against the Cardinals because they were on the reserve/COVID-19 list, are expected to be available against the Seahawks, “as long as they continue to stay on the progression that they’re on right now,” McVay said. Kupp is expected to return Wednesday and Brockers later in the week, McVay said. ... Left tackle Joe Noteboom (neck) and right guard David Edwards (ankle) would have been out or limited if the Rams had practiced Tuesday, McVay said. Veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who has been out since suffering a knee injury during a Nov. 15 victory over the Seahawks, practiced last week and could be available Saturday. “He knows his body really well and if he is ready to go, then we’ll be excited to have him back out there with us,” McVay said.


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