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Sports

The Sports Report: Can Jared Goff lead the Rams to a Super Bowl title?

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Jared Goff
(Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

Howdy, my name is Houston Mitchell. The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the NL West over second-place Arizona is 22.

Rams

The Rams are preparing to defend their NFC title, with hopefully a better Super Bowl ending this time, but Bill Plaschke points out that there is one thing few can agree upon: Is Jared Goff a championship-caliber quarterback?

“The Rams have a quarterback controversy.

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“Nobody can seem to agree on whether Jared Goff is a championship quarterback.

“The smartest young mind in football loves him, Rams coach Sean McVay raving about him as if he were Tom Brady.

But the national pundits do not love him, in some cases even ranking him below Baker Mayfield.

The regular season loves him, as he has been voted to two Pro Bowls while improving in each of his three seasons, capped by last year’s top 10 finishes in passing yards and touchdown passes.

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The postseason does not love him, as his last two winters ended in stink bomb losses to the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

“I think the world of him,” McVay says. “I know I don’t want anybody else to be our quarterback.”

Yet according to the national narrative, he’s just a system quarterback, benefiting greatly from masterful play-calling.

“I see a quarterback who makes the reads, makes the throws, stands in the pocket … doing all these things to lead his team, to be a great quarterback, to be a Super Bowl contending quarterback,” receiver Robert Woods says.

Yet the narrative says it was really Todd Gurley’s team, and when Gurley crumbled at the end of last season, so did the Rams.

Back and forth the debate rages, the only certainty being the date and place of its conclusion.

This season. Right now. This is when we’ll find out exactly what resides under the No. 16 jersey and whether or not it can shoulder the Rams to a championship.

Gurley is hobbled. McVay is trusting. Teammates are buying. For the first time since the Rams emptied their pockets to move up a record 14 spots to pick the lanky blond dude with the top pick in the 2016 draft, this is clearly Goff’s team.

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The most important story line of the season will be, what will he do with it?

High School football

Times High School football columnist Eric Sondheimer is counting down to the season by picking the top players at each position. Today, he moves on to wide receiver. Take it away, Eric.

“The Humphreys of Newport Beach could be the “Brady Bunch” of the 21st century — a family to emulate. Except there’s nothing fictional about them.

“They’re high achievers in sports and academics while engaging in the kind of competitive activities a reality TV series would appreciate. From football to volleyball, from basketball to dominoes, the men and women in the family don’t like losing.

“Oh my gosh,” father Brad Humphreys said of the family games. “That’s probably not our proudest moments. It dissolves into a competitive mess.”

“The patriarch played football at Stanford. The matriarch, Wendy, was an NCAA champion volleyball player at Stanford. The oldest girl, Kelsey, played volleyball at Stanford. The oldest boy, Ben, played football at Duke. The youngest girl, Ashley, plays volleyball at USC.

“Now comes the youngest, tallest and perhaps the most talented, John, a 6-foot-5 receiver at Corona del Mar who is a Stanford commit and caught a school-record 103 passes for 28 touchdowns his junior year. He has learned plenty from those he watched growing up, even though sometimes he was getting beat up more than trained by his siblings.

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“He’s been my mentor, my best friend,” John said of Ben, who was a standout linebacker at Santa Ana Mater Dei before becoming a starter at Duke.

“Said Brad: “He lucked out. He has a great relationship with his siblings. They were very inclusive. His comfort level and maturity is really derived from that.”

“John was a ball boy on the Mater Dei sideline. He saw how his brother dealt with the ups and downs of football. And yet, despite all the family sports success, John said there was no pressure from mom and dad to become sports stars. Their focus has always been academics.

“They’re awesome,” John said. “They want us to do well in all aspects of life. They guide me like parents should, but all decisions are my decisions. They made that clear. Academics is what my parents are on me hardest about. If I were to play the piano or be a writer, they’d support me 100%.”

Humphreys could have joined his brother at Mater Dei to play for family friend Bruce Rollinson but decided he wanted to take a different path, attending his neighborhood public school to play with kids with whom he’d grown up.

“As I played football with my local team, I realized we have a special group,” he said. “I knew wherever I was going I would have a great experience. At the end of the day, I wanted to play for my local neighborhood team and be unique. It was awesome growing up with the guys and make memories out on the field.”

“Humphreys isn’t afraid to go against the grain. He’s also a top basketball player for Corona del Mar and insists the time in the gym helps in football. He’s part of a strong group of receivers in Southern California.

“Going up and getting a rebound is exactly like going up and winning a 50-50 situation,” he said. “Getting by a defender in basketball is exactly like getting by a defender in football. For sure it’s helped develop my game.”

“Humphreys also welcomes skeptics who question his speed. He’s been working on it for several years. The cornerbacks who don’t respect his speed better beware.

“I’ve proven I’m tall but I can play fast,” he said.

“Now, if only the males in the family could beat the females in volleyball.

“The losing team usually has two boys on it. We have no chance,” Brad said.

Top receivers

Players, School | Ht. | Wt. | Yr. | Comment

Gary Bryant, Corona Centennial | 5-11 | 160 | Sr. | Averaged 22.6 yards per catch

Lavon Bunkley, Gardena Serra | 6-0 | 185 | Sr. | Caught 81 passes in 2018

Jermaine Burton, Calabasas | 6-2 | 195 | Sr. | Louisiana State commit caught 14 touchdowns as a junior

Beaux Collins, St. John Bosco | 6-3 | 180 | Jr. | Has size, hands and moves

DJ Harvey, Sierra Canyon | 5-11 | 170 | Jr. | Ready to emerge as a standout

Traeshon Holden, Narbonne | 6-3 | 190 | Sr. | Alabama commit should be No. 1 in City Section

John Humphreys, Corona del Mar | 6-5 | 205 | Sr. | Had 103 receptions, 28 touchdowns

Kristopher Hutson, St. John Bosco | 5-11 | 165 | Sr. | Averaged 18.3 yards per reception

Chad Johnson Jr., L.A. Cathedral | 6-2 | 180 | Sr. | Arizona State commit has big-time skills

Caine Savage, Western | 5-11 | 170 | Sr. | A

The schedule

Aug. 13: Quarterback Bryce Young, Mater Dei

Aug. 15: Wide receiver John Humphreys, Corona del Mar

Aug. 16: Offensive lineman AJ Vaipulu, Corona Centennial

Aug. 17: Tight end Jake Overman, Servite

Aug. 18: Running back Anthony Spearman III, Notre Dame

Aug. 19: Defensive lineman Jordan Berry, Narbonne

Aug. 20: Linebacker Mister Williams, Oaks Christian

Aug. 21: Defensive back Mason White, Birmingham

Aug. 22: Kicker Josh Bryan, Sierra Canyon

Your favorite sports moment

What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Click here to tell me what it is and why, and it could appear in a future newsletter. And yes, if your favorite moment is about the Angels or Ducks or a team just outside of L.A., I’ll count that too. And the moment doesn’t have to have happened in L.A., just needs to involve an area team.

Today’s moment comes from Henri Lee of Diamond Bar:

“I have been a Los Angeles Rams fan since 1954. I have watched many a losing season like the 1959 team that went 2-10. Then George Allen was hired by the Rams and in 1966 the Rams finally had a winning record of 8-6.

“The 1967 season came with great expectations. Finally the Rams were a dominant team in the NFL. By December the Rams record was 10-1, with two ties. On Dec. 9, the Green Packers, under legendary coach Vince Lombardi, came to play the Rams in the Coliseum. The game was sold out but I was able to obtain a ticket at the high price in 1967 of $5.00. Unfortunately I had to work that Sunday so I gave the ticket to my father and I listened to Dick Enberg on the radio.

“This was a tough, highly contested, emotional game for players and fans. The game went back and forth the Rams matching the Packers with the same intensity. At halftime the Packers led, 10-7. The score was tied at 17 at the end of the third quarter.

“The Rams took a 20-17 lead on a Bruce Gossett field goal but late in the game, Chuck Mercein scored for the Packers 24-20. I and many other Ram fans felt that again the Rams were about to lose to the Packers. With less than two minutes to play, Green Bay had the ball but the Rams used all their time outs and stopped the Packers. Donny Anderson went back to punt. The Rams would get the ball back but against the vaunted Packer defense their chances were slim. Anderson started to punt, then Enberg excitably describe how linebacker Tony Guillory burst through the line and blocked the punt. Safety Claude Crabbe picked up the ball and was escorted to the Packer five-yard line by a convoy of Rams. Many fans who had left rushed back to their seats to see if the Rams could finally defeat the the Pack. Roman Gabriel got the offense set and threw the ball out of bounds on first down to stop the clock. Now it was second down what would the Rams do? Gabriel ran a play action pass into the line, Bernie Casey went up as if to block and then headed for the left corner of the end zone. Gabriel hit Casey with a perfect pass. TOUCHDOWN RAMS! PANDEMONIUM!”

“My father told me that a lady next to him grab him and hugged him crazily. Rams 24, Packers 20. That is how the game ended. For the first time in my young life my team had a hard-fought emotional come-from-behind victory. This is why it is a favorite moment for me. I am now 70 years old and the one favorite moment I am still waiting for is that Super Bowl win by the LOS ANGELES RAMS. WHOSE HOUSE?

Odds and ends

Clayton Kershaw strikes out first seven in another Dodgers romp over Marlins.... Felipe Vazquez, the closer the Dodgers didn’t acquire, hits 100 mph against Angels.... Albert Pujols becomes the all-time foreign-born hits leader in Angels’ win.... Column: Las Vegas oddsmakers see L.A. as the city of potential sports champions.... Column: Boxing is dead and the sport has only its internal politics to blame.... Angels have a third option in their stadium search.... UCLA’s Martell Irby is ready to take command of running back spot, for now.... Rams quarterback Blake Bortles is expected to make start again in Hawaii against the Cowboys..... Sparks’ five-game winning streak snapped against short-handed Wings.... Former NFL quarterback Matt Moore is expected to become an assistant at Hart..... Column: Young Celtics use Team USA training as jump-start to upcoming NBA season.... USC’s Christian Rector and Drake Jackson hope their story has a strong ending.

Today’s local major sports schedule

Dodgers at Miami, noon, Sportsnet LA, AM 570

Chicago White Sox at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, 830 AM

Born on this date

1945: NFL player Gene Upshaw (d. 2008)

1950: Baseball manager Tom Kelly

1955: NBA player Kenny Carr

1962: NFL player Bubby Brister

1969: NFL player Eric Bieniemy

1969: NFL player Yancey Thigpen

1978: Beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh

1979: NASCAR driver Carl Edwards

Died on this date

2002: NFL player Kyle Rote, 74

And finally

Clayton Kershaw strikes out 10 in Dodgers’ win over Miami. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me by clicking here. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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