April 18, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

The new Jameis Winston? Rams in dead end with Jared Goff

The truth came roaring down from Seattle like a frigid December wind.

The Rams have a championship defense but a clunker quarterback.

The Rams are strong enough to bully their way into the playoffs, but their quarterback will ensure they don’t last long.

The Rams could be great, but Jared Goff is not.

On a Sunday afternoon that crowned the NFC’s West Division champion, the Rams were not that team because Goff is not that guy.

The $134-million question is, will he ever be that guy?

It sure didn’t look like it against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field, where, in their most important game of the season — with an offense designed by one of the leading football minds in the business — the Rams couldn’t even score a touchdown.

The Seahawks won 20-9 in a game that felt like a 60-minute indictment of the Rams’ five-year future.

In the short term, even if they defeat the Arizona Cardinals in the season finale and qualify for the playoffs, there is little hope the Rams can survive long with a quarterback whose horrible game-changing interception Sunday was his 13th turnover in the last eight games and 17th this season.

In the long term, how are they supposed to move confidently forward while being tied until 2024 to a quarterback to whom $110 million is guaranteed, a quarterback who has committed a league-worst 39 turnovers since 2019?

Jared Goff has become Jameis Winston West, and there’s seemingly nothing the Rams can do about it.

“My confidence will never be shaken by anything,” Goff said afterward.

If only others could feel the same way.

The frustration in Goff reached a peak in the final minutes of the second quarter Sunday when the Rams drove deep into Seattle territory and were on the verge of improving upon a 6-3 lead.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff prepares for a snap against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

On first down from the Seattle 29-yard line, Goff scrambled to his right and had plenty of room to keep running. Instead, he inexplicably threw the ball into a vast expanse of nowhere, lobbing it between two covered Rams receivers and into the hands of the Seahawks’ Quandre Diggs at the 10-yard line.

“It doesn’t get any uglier than this,” said Fox announcer Troy Aikman, and even Goff agreed.

“I made what I think is one of the worst plays in my career,” Goff said, later adding: “I need to stop trying to make a play if it’s not there … Just dumb. Just really dumb. I’m a lot smarter than that.”

He’s indeed smart, but he doesn’t play with much savvy. He’s truly gifted, but he doesn’t play with much focus. He should be carrying this team, and instead he has become its burden.

The Goff gaffe led to the Seahawks’ game-tying field-goal drive just before halftime, and when Goff ended the Rams’ first half by carelessly sliding short of a first down, that tie began feeling like a loss.

That feeling became official when Goff was a no-show at the end of the Rams’ first possession of the second half, after the Seahawks had plowed forward through the Rams’ NFL-best defense to score on Russell Wilson’s four-yard touchdown run.

The Rams drove to set up first and goal from the Seattle two-yard line. Game soon tied, right? Goff involved in some sort of play-action rollout to finish the job, correct?

Wrong.

Sean McVay apparently was not in the mood to trust Goff with anything fancy. The coach seemingly had lost confidence in his quarterback to do anything beyond the routine. So, even though Cam Akers was missing with a sprained ankle and Darrell Henderson had just left with a leg injury, the Rams ran the ball four times.

Malcolm Brown was stopped three times. Goff was stopped once. Threat over. Game soon over.

“We can’t get stuffed like that. That’s the difference in the game right there,” Goff said. “We score on the one, we have a completely different type of game outcome. Bottom line, it comes down to us on offense and it comes back to me.”

McVay, of course, blamed himself for that failure. There’s no way he would say he no longer trusted Goff in high-leverage situations. But it seems obvious he doesn’t.

“Really, my job is to put these guys in better spots, and I don’t think I’ve consistently done a good enough job of that,” said the coach, echoing his weekly mantra.

Goff showed his toughness in the final seconds of the third quarter by popping a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand back into place and finishing on the field. By then, his damage to the team already had been done. The injury might be serious enough to keep him out of the season finale.

On Sunday, Goff was 24 for 43 for 234 yards with no touchdowns and just 5.4 yards per pass attempt. He didn’t complete a pass longer than 20 yards, which, to be fair is also because the Rams lack a downfield threat. His quarterback rating, which was already in the league’s bottom third, was 61.6. For the season, he ranks just below Mitchell Trubisky and barely above Andy Dalton and Nick Mullens.

“Jared and I, we’re in this together, and that was a tough outing,” McVay said.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if McVay held Goff more publicly accountable. The coach blamed him exactly once in four years together. But as with everyone in the organization, McVay is stuck with the knowledge that Goff is the Rams’ very expensive, very immovable cornerstone.

For better or worse, the Rams will go as Goff goes. And right now, they’re going nowhere.