By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com
Back in 2013, Jared Goff arrived on the campus of UC Berkeley as a token skinny blonde kid from Marin Catholic High School, hoping to win the starting quarterback job for the Golden Bears. For various reasons, I had my doubts about how he would fare as a true freshman in the Pac-12. To be honest, I thought Zach Kline, the hyped gunslinger from San Ramon Valley, deserved to beat him out for the job headed into the fall. His high school field didn’t even have lights, I reasoned. How could he take over at the helm of a major college football team that quickly and easily? Shouldn’t Kline, with a year under his belt in college, not to mention a stronger arm, get the first crack at the job?
Ultimately, Sonny Dykes selected Goff to run the show for the Bears, effectively handing him his slick Air Raid Offense playbook and getting out of the way. In year one, despite some flashes of brilliance in the pocket, Goff struggled mightily as Cal sputtered to a 1-11 record, with their lone win coming at home versus Portland State, a team that can’t exactly call itself Division 1.
Despite the adversity, Goff bounced back with big passing seasons as a sophomore and junior, thriving in Dykes’ open air offense. Blessed with a strong receiving corps around him, Goff began to attract the attention of NFL scouts with his ability to put a ball on a dime, while never getting truly rattled, even on the road at the likes of the University of Texas.
Yet for as much success as Goff had on the collegiate level, he never quite solidified himself as a truly big-time quarterback. Alarmingly, over his three years with the Bears, Goff never once beat a top-25 team. Yes, you could argue that his defense was the problem, but Goff also shrunk in big moments himself. Perhaps his biggest test came as a junior on the road at no. 5 Utah, with College Gameday present in Salt Lake City. The 23rd ranked Bears gave themselves a chance to win that night, but ultimately could not overcome Goff throwing FIVE interceptions.
But, true to form, Goff would let his low points roll off his back and by year’s end, the junior was throwing six touchdowns in a bowl game victory over Air Force. NFL scouts were loving every minute of it, apparently.
When draft day hit in Chicago in the spring of 2016, one of the main storylines was how weak of a draft class it was for QB’s. Beside Goff and Carson Wentz, it was slim pickings. The LA Rams and head coach Jeff Fisher needed a franchise QB, so they went with Goff at number one overall, leaving Wentz for the Philadelphia Eagles at #2. Almost immediately, Goff became a rookie bust. Meanwhile, Wentz hit the ground running, leading the Eagles offense and winning games immediately and winning over the Philly faithful.
Deadspin foreshadowed Goff’s rookie campaign beautifully by ripping him a new one for his unabashed, over-the-top marketing efforts on draft night. The first overall pick was bashed for his social media ads on his personal channels with the article titled “Man, Jared Goff Loves Brands,” which basically made fun of him for squeezing every last dollar out of a night he was already making millions on.
By June of 2016, Goff was back in the news with Deadspin’s prestigious site for going back on his word with LA Dodger Yasiel Puig. A life-long Giants fan, Goff has been known to hunt souvenir baseballs in the stands at Pac Bell Park in a cream colored SF jersey. As a teenager, he even went as far as to tweet out his desire for Puig to get drilled in the ribs. That’s why it was a bit lame to see Goff immediately buddy up with Puig in a Dodgers jersey on the field at Chavez Ravine. Naturally, Deadspin gave the rookie hell for it with the headline, “Jared Goff Buddies Up With Yasiel Puig, Betrays the Sanctity of His Takes.” Honestly, it was pretty well deserved when you considered the sanctity of the Giants-Dodgers/NorCal-SoCal rivalry. Poor form indeed.
When the preseason of Goff’s first pro season got underway, he looked, well, really bad. Thus, drawing the headline, “Jared Goff Looks Kinda Butt” by Deadspin. Under the guidance of Fisher, Goff looked lost leading the Rams offense, quickly spurring on whispers of “is Goff a bust?” from guys like Colin Cowherd and the like. Of course, it was way too soon for this type of chatter, but then again, it could very well have been true. He did look pretty butt out there.
To add to the “bust” whispers, Goff didn’t even suit up in his first game as an LA Ram. Coach Fisher seemed too worried to let him be the second string QB against his hometown 49ers on Opening Night. So instead, the first overall pick in the draft would be asked to watch cautiously from the sideline and take notes form Case Keenum. The headline “The Rams Might Be In A New City, But They Still Suck” was run by Deadspin, outlining the apparent dysfunction of the new-look Rams franchise.
By the time Goff finally got a chance to suit up for Fisher’s archaic offense, the only Deadspin headline Goff could produce was one of a casual mocking. “Jeff Fisher Pleased With Jared Goff’s Ability to Perform Basic Funcitons,” it read. Still pretty depressing all things considered.
2017, however, was an entirely different story for Goff and the LA Rams. Fisher was sent packing and in came 31-year-old Sean McVay to the rescue. The offensive wonderboy didn’t waste any time in his first season as an NFL head coach, winning the NFC West with an 11-5 record. In one short year, Goff went from an NFL cautionary tale, to a Pro Bowl and a playoff appearance. It all happened so fast that the media, especially Deadspin, didn’t know what to make of it. Was this real life? Would McVay’s secret sauce be sniffed out? Could Goff continue to slice up NFL defenses at this alarming rate? Most were still skeptical.
By year two of the McVay era, there was no denying that the Rams were on to something. And by the middle of this season, after turning in one of the most electric games in Monday Night Football history, Deadspin in particular began to wonder, “Was That the Future of Football?” And if you thought about it for a second, it absolutely was. Jared Goff vs. Patrick Mahomes trading touchdowns to the tune of 54-51 in LA. Yes, the future football was upon us.
Yet even as Goff was solidifying himself as young star quarterback in year three of his prosperous NFL career, the naysayers still had reason to believe the skinny blonde kid from Marin would eventually fall back to earth and fulfill “bust” label that seemed to fit him well enough. A few bad games and the narrative could be unearthed once again. And that is exactly what happened. “It Only Took Four Bears to Make Jared Goff Look Like a Chump.”
Yes, technically that would be correct, Deadspin. Then again, the Bears defense isn’t all that chumpish (Khalil Mack, heard of him). But wait, the struggles continued, prompting the concerned Deadspin headline, “Jared Goff Is Really Struggling” to pop up as a headline. The article read as follows:
The Jared Goff who seemed like an obvious MVP candidate three weeks ago is nowhere to be seen. In his last three games, Goff has only one touchdown against seven interceptions; compare that to 26 and six over the first 11 weeks of the season. The Rams were perhaps the best team in the NFL through 11 weeks, winning the game of the season and only dropping a thriller to the Saints, in which Goff played heroically. Since winning that Monday Night Football classic, Los Angeles has gone 1-2, struggling to dispatch the Lions two weeks ago, getting crunched by the Bears last week, and convincingly losing to the Nick Foles-led Eagles this week, their first home loss of the season.
That’s why going into the NFC Championship game in New Orleans, I made the conscious (more importantly sober) decision to bet against Goff. He was getting just three points on the road in front of a literally deafening New Orleans Saints crowd. On the other side of the ball was the ultra-experienced Drew Brees, a 40-year old competitive junkie who basically never loses at home inside the dome. A man with a Super Bowl to his name and over a dozen playoff appearances as a starting QB. The Saints had the savvy Sean Payton leading them, while the Rams countered with 32-year-old McVay, a guy who still hasn’t finished two seasons as a head coach in the NFL. Goff had never one a truly big game in his life. Would he start now? Well… yes.
Say what you will about the “worst call in NFL history,” Goff made plays for his team to put them in position to win the game. With Montana’s #16 displayed proudly across his chest, Goff weathered a treacherous storm in the first quarter when the Rams fell down 13-0 to start the game. He could have easily folded at that point, as most other unproven quarterbacks that young would have been swallowed up by the noise in the dome. All his excuses were built in and ready to go. He could head into the post-game pressor and talk positively about how young the Rams were as a team from top to bottom and how much room they had to grow in the seasons to come. The narrative would have made sense. But somehow, Goff was able to push the noise of the fans and the headlines aside and pull out an improbable, albeit controversial victory in the face of sure defeat.
Now onto Atlanta Goff goes for Super Bowl 53, to square off against one of his childhood heroes in Tom Brady, another Bay Area native in his own right. If you want to bet against Goff in the Super Bowl, by all means go ahead. After all, the Vegas odds will be in your favor. Just don’t expect Deadspin to use the word “bust” and “Goff” in the same sentence anytime in the future. They’re way too smart for that.