“With the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select Matthew Stafford, quarterback from the University of Georgia.”
“With the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams select, Jared Goff, quarterback from California.”
Two number one overall picks. Two very different narratives.
Matthew Stafford has long been regarded as the diamond in the rough of Detroit, one of the NFL’s “cursed” losing franchises. Detroit went 74-90-1 during his tenure with 0 wins in 3 postseason appearances despite the gunslinger putting up these numbers by age 31 quarterbacks of history:
1st in completions (3,559)
- 2nd in yards (41,025)
- 3rd in touchdowns (256)
He also played through brutal injuries for his utterly unimpressive team for the majority of his career. Lauded as a warrior, everyone wanted to see him play for a stable organization with good coaching and talent surrounding him because he puts up numbers that deserve to win.
Jared Goff was drafted to a Rams team with Jeff Fisher at the coaching helm and went 0-7 after being named the starter midseason. It was an unimpressive first year, and Fisher was fired following the year.
In walks Sean McVay, the youngest coaching hire in league history at age 30. In Goff’s second year and first season under McVay, he turned the Rams, the lowest-scoring offense in the league in 2016, into the top-scoring team and turned Jared Goff into a Pro Bowl quarterback on their way to an NFC West title. It was revolutionary- the Rams turned into an offensive electric factory, everyone hired anyone with the smallest connection to McVay to recreate what he did, and the Rams made the Super Bowl in 2018 with a 13-3 record. However, the Super Bowl appearance was seemingly the beginning of the end of this offensive juggernaut; the Rams only managed to put up 3 points in their loss to the Patriots, and the following year, Goff, fresh off signing a 4-year, $134 million extension, regressed significantly by only throwing 22 touchdowns with 16 interceptions as they went 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
With a dominant defense and McVay crowned the offensive wizard mastermind, Goff was viewed as the weak link; the inverse of Matthew Stafford’s situation, where he was the Lions’ only saving grace.
So that takes us to 2020, where McVay couldn’t wait to move on from Goff after being just two years removed from making the Super Bowl with him. After their loss to the Packers in the playoffs, McVay said, “everything is being evaluated” when asked if Goff would be the starter in 2021, then the very next day still couldn’t commit to him and said he was the quarterback “RIGHT NOW”. Even the owner, Les Snead, said the same thing in a press conference the following day and said that any contract can be moved in a salary cap league. Saying someone is on your team “right now” is another way of saying, “not for long if I have anything to say about it.” The Rams clearly were of the mindset that the only thing preventing them from making the Super Bowl was Goff holding McVay’s offensive genius back.
If quarterback was the missing piece as McVay implied, and the surrounding talent/coaching was the only thing preventing Stafford from being a top-tier QB, then they have no excuse now. They will not only be expected to win together, but they will be expected to win A LOT and appear in Super Bowls together. They’ll be 30th in the league in cap space with 38% of their money going to Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Matthew Stafford alone and will be set to go seven straight years without a first round draft pick. For LA, it’s Super Bowl or bust.
Now, likely online coat shopping after having lived in California, gone to school in California, and played professionally in California, Jared Goff has become one of the most sympathetic figures in the NFL. Traded to a team in clear rebuild mode with a new coaching staff, a depleted roster, and a division with Aaron Rodgers in it, he’s set up to fail going forward after being in one of the most-ideal football environments possible. The Rams ultimately hung Goff out to dry, and it’s clear that he was hurt by being the scapegoat of their operation. He said he was “blindsided,” and in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he said, “if you’re in a place that you’re not wanted and they want to move on from you, the feeling’s mutual.” and commented on Detroit saying that it was nice to join a team that wants and appreciates him.
These comments are really heart-breaking; things were looking up for Goff as a young, promising quarterback who had finally had a solid teacher, and it looked as if he had hit his stride and made a Super Bowl. The Rams even made it appear that he was their guy going forward when they committed the largest-guaranteed contract in league history at the time it was signed, and then they simply redacted that faith put in him after just two seasons.
Goff has been criticized mightily by the media on a weekly basis ever since that Super Bowl and still would not even receive credit for the positives while playing in Los Angeles. When Goff would go 20/24 with over 200 yards and a few touchdowns, the story was, “Man. Sean McVay is an offensive genius running a system where you can’t make a mistake.” And when the Rams would lose, it was, “Can you imagine if McVay had an elite quarterback instead of Goff at quarterback? It’s a shame he has a weak link at the most important position in the sport.”
Goff couldn’t win.
Granted, we haven’t seen Goff perform well without McVay, but that lone season was under Jeff Fisher, also known as a quarterback killer. He mismanaged a Heisman-winning quarterback in Vince Young, Nick Foles was 4-7 and won a Super Bowl immediately after he got cut, Case Keenum was 4-5 and made the NFC Championship immediately he left him, and Goff’s 0-7 record turned into the best offense in the league when he was taken out of the picture.
However, Goff is still ultimately not in a position where we could see him in an ideal situation to get some credit. It’s great that the Lions and their new staff are willing to give him a chance, but with that roster, there just doesn’t appear to be a conceivable way the Lions win a slew of games and make the postseason. His would-be primary weapons, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, are set to be free agents, so he might not even have targets to throw to. On top of a weak and questionable surrounding offense, their defense was dead last in yards allowed (419.8 per game) and points allowed (32.4 per game), so the other side of the ball isn’t going to do him any favors.
The argument is not that Jared Goff is going to be a top-tier quarterback, it’s that we’ve never given him the chance to succeed, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting that any time soon either. For someone to receive the amount of criticism that he did in Los Angeles when all he did was steer a ship that rode the waves pretty smoothly with consistent winning, we should be rooting for Jared Goff: the sacrificial lamb thrown into a den of hungry lions.