April 19, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Rams’ Jared Goff can show he is ‘the man’ against Green Bay

Shortly after being named Saturday’s starting quarterback by default, the affable Jared Goff was asked if he was irked by all the mystery.

“No,” he said tersely.

That was it. No expression. No explanation. No expounding. Just, no.

Which, given Goff’s competitive nature, probably means yes.

Hell hath no fury like a quarterback scorned, and so it is reasonable to expect Goff to decorate the frozen tundra in flames.

At least, he better.

How Goff leads the Rams into their NFC semifinal game against the Green Bay Packers at cold Lambeau Field will serve as a template for his future with the team.

The Rams will learn whether he is about fight or flight. They will learn how well those gifted golden shoulders can handle a chip. They will see whether he will soar above the slights or be swallowed by them.

The Rams have questions, plenty of questions, enough that they have just endured two weeks of uncertainty over their most important position in dealing with them.

Come Saturday, in the biggest start of his career since the 2019 Super Bowl, Goff will be given a perfect opportunity to provide answers.

Have the Rams invested $134 million in a quarterback who can fight through the ignominy of being benched and the pain of a thumb injury to play error-free football and give the league’s best defense a chance to steal one? Goff did so as a reserve last week on a smaller stage in Seattle. Can he do it again as a starter against a top-seeded team in a much tougher test?

Or, or, or … was coach Sean McVay right in starting John Wolford last week, and probably wanting to start him again this week if Wolford wasn’t suffering from a dangerous neck injury?

Can the Rams count on Goff to overcome a brief history of bad football in cold weather and a longer history of mediocre football in the playoffs?

Or, or, or … will the end of this game officially mark the beginning of next summer’s competition between Goff and Wolford and some yet-unnamed free agent veteran for the Rams starting quarterback spot?

For Jared Goff, this is a game for all seasons — this season, the offseason, next season, perhaps the next several seasons.

Meeting with reporters on a videoconference call Thursday, he sounded chippy. He sounded impatient. He sounded ready.

When asked what it felt like to be told he was the starter earlier in the week, the longtime starter said dryly, “I’ve been that way since I’ve been here.”

When asked whether not starting against Seattle affected his relationship with McVay, he said, “I think I explained it last week. We are able to disagree. We’re two grown men who disagreed on the status of my thumb, it’s not the end of the world. I think I was able to come in there and us get the win and that is the most important to me.”

Goff clearly has developed a certain edginess after the Seahawks benching. This is an asset for a quarterback preparing for a duel with Aaron Rodgers, and McVay loves it.

“I think it’s good,” said McVay. “As a competitor, there was reason to have edge. … I think it shows his competitive side. I like seeing that.”

McVay also repeated how much he admired Goff’s resilience under last week’s circumstances.

Rams coach Sean McVay liked what he was seeing from Jared Goff against Seattle last week.

(Scott Eklund / Associated Press)

“I think it’s a credit to who he is as a man, that he can be able to step in, do what he did, and now this week has represented an opportunity [to] build on last week, get another week removed from that thumb injury … he’s played in a lot of big games and this is a great opportunity for us,” McVay said.

Did you hear him? McVay praised Goff, but he wants more, he demands more, and Rams fans should expect more. They should expect that their expensive quarterback who claims to be unhindered by his thumb will, at the very least, not do anything to mess up this biggest game of the season.

Simply, for all his past accolades, Goff needs Saturday to prove himself as the Rams quarterback of the present and future.

He needs to show he can be a consistent playoff performer. In his postseason career, he has a below-average passer rating of 75.8, and in five postseason games he has only three touchdown passes with two interceptions.

He needs to show he can play in all sorts of conditions. In two sub-30-degree games in 2018, he completed less than half of his passes — 34-of-72 — with no touchdowns and five interceptions.

More than anything, he needs to show that when the lights get bright, the player with the most turnovers in the NFL since 2019 can somehow meet their shine.

When asked if he feels he has something to prove to the organization, Goff said, “I think every day you feel that way. I think every day at practice, every game, you always want to assert yourself and prove yourself. … I think back to [when] I heard Philip Rivers talk about this — every day at practice is a chance to win your job.”

This, then, is what Saturday in Green Bay represents for what was once the Rams lock-solid starting quarterback.

This is Jared Goff’s chance to win his job.

If he’s irked by that, well, good.