Prior to the 2016 NFL draft, the Los Angeles Rams swung a blockbuster deal with Tennessee to acquire the first overall choice … and they acted because they had a conviction about the next player they wanted to add.
Quarterback Jared Goff.
The Cal star was one of two top quarterbacks in the draft, with Carson Wentz the other. But the Rams were sold on Goff, and, after exhaustive research, convinced he was the right choice. So they were happy they made the move.
They couldn’t, however, have been happy with what happened next. Because what happened was that then-coach Jeff Fisher kept him nailed to the bench until Week 11, the team stunk, Fisher was fired and Goff, when he did play, did next to nothing — with more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (5) and a lackluster 61.7 passer rating.
Worse, he was 0-7.
Knee-jerk critics shook their heads and charged the Rams blew the pick — making a mistake that would set the franchise back years.
Except they didn’t … at least not based on early returns this season. Goff not only has the Rams tied with Seattle at the top of the NFC West but he’s made them entertaining, with L.A. averaging 35 points a game before getting checked by Seattle Sunday.
Goff’s touchdowns are up, his interceptions are down, his sacks are down and his critics are gone. So the obvious question: Did the Rams ever waver in their support last year for the guy who was supposed to become the cornerstone of the franchise?
“The answer is no,” said GM Les Snead on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “and you always know this: I’m not saying that you’re not well aware that, OK, when we started playing Jared that, OK, he’s struggling; that he wasn’t there yet.
“We did know from the start that we were drafting a 21-year-old kid who was coming from a non-conventional offense. We knew there was definitely going to be a developmental curve from that.
“But, when you go through what he did, I don’t think you waver. I think you collect data, and let’s just say: You start with the GM, right? What do I need to do better to help Jared Goff out? Do we need to add some pieces to the skill positions? To the offensive-line positions? Do we need to delete some problems? Things like that. And it trickles down from there.”
What Snead and the Rams did was improve the players and environment around their young quarterback. First, they hired the youngest coach in the business, then 30-year-old Sean McVay, who energized the Redskins and Kirk Cousins. Then he added weapons like Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp before addressing the offensive line, shoring up left tackle with free-agent Andrew Whitworth and adding center John Sullivan.
“All those thing help Jared Goff, and, obviously, the Rams team,” said Snead.
The results speak for themselves. The Rams are better, and their young quarterback is better. And, suddenly, the future looks good.
“You don’t ever waver,” said Snead. “Hopefully, you’ve done the research, and you believe in the player that you picked. But you do know that, in most of these cases, especially the QB, you’ve got to work to make the decision work. Because most of the time these guys aren’t ready made — especially a guy like Jared who is still 22 now … (and) about to turn 23 here in early October.
“Hey, with a very, very young QB, he was a blank slate, and we just needed to bring the right people in to fill that slate up.