December 6, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Healthy Jared Goff is the Rams’ only hope to beat Seahawks

This has to be a joke, right?

Unless Jared Goff can’t wrap his hand around a football on Saturday, the Rams wouldn’t actually start John Wolford against the Seattle Seahawks in their NFC wild-card game, would they?

Rams coach Sean McVay wouldn’t say.

His discretion during a videoconference call Tuesday should be viewed as gamesmanship rather than evidence of an internal debate. Because the Rams don’t have a quarterback controversy. What they have is an injured starting quarterback.

If Goff is physically capable of throwing a football, if he can take the field without unreasonably jeopardizing his future, he must play. Period.

The decision on whether Goff or Wolford starts Saturday should be made by the team doctors, not McVay. This should be a medical judgment, not a coaching decision.

“I think the first thing is let’s see how his thumb is, let’s see what that thing feels like,” McVay said.

Go ahead, marvel at Wolford’s unlikely journey from the now-defunct Alliance of American Football. Celebrate his contributions to the Rams’ season-extending 18-7 victory over Arizona over the weekend.

But don’t get carried away.

The game was won by the defense, which accounted for half of the Rams’ points. The offense didn’t score a touchdown.

Wolford figures to be more comfortable after making his first NFL start, but so will the Seahawks. Unlike the Cardinals, they will have tape on him.

After his first pass was intercepted, Wolford didn’t make any major mistakes. But he wasn’t highly accurate, either. His speed extended some plays and translated to 56 rushing yards, but he passed almost exclusively out of the shotgun, which made the Rams predictable and limited running back Cam Akers.

He’s no Kurt Warner. He’s no Goff either, which might be the best thing going for him.

Since leading the Rams to the Super Bowl during the 2018 season, Goff has a quarterback rating of 88.1. The decline in performance alone is troubling. What makes it even more so is the $110 million the Rams guaranteed him with a contract extension.

As a regressing quarterback who takes up a substantial portion of the team’s salary budget, Goff has become a symbol of the Rams’ stagnation.

The same fans who cheered when the Rams traded up to the No. 1 spot to draft him now bemoan how his contract has made him virtually untradeable.

But unpopular quarterbacks are like reviled closers in baseball. The people calling for their ousters have to be careful what they wish for. Rarely does a team have Julio Urías available to step in, as the Dodgers did in October.

While starting Wolford would extinguish the possibility of another Goff fumble, the Rams would be giving up Goff’s upside. Which is substantial. When Goff is right, he’s a Pro Bowl quarterback.

He’s won two playoff games. He’s also 5-2 in his last seven games against the Seahawks.

“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,” McVay said.

The Rams have a dominant defense, but they aren’t reaching a Super Bowl with Wolford at quarterback. At some point in the playoffs, they will have to score. Goff gives them the possibility.

There’s also the future to consider. He’s the centerpiece around which the Rams are built. If they give up on him now, what about next year? Or the year after that?

Asked if Goff would start so long as he is healthy enough, McVay carefully talked around the subject. So when McVay later referred to Goff as the team’s starting quarterback, exactly what he meant by that was uncertain.

The characterization contained an element of undeniable truth. Like it or not, Goff and the Rams are tethered to each other, not only because of how much he makes, but also because they don’t have anyone else with nearly as much potential. They might not necessarily win with him, but they certainly can’t win without him.