Rams: Is Their ‘System QB’ Poised for an MVP Push?

When a quarterback is taken first overall, he is expected to become a top-tier franchise signal-caller that will perennially be contending for MVPs while helping his team into Super Bowl contention. And when you add in a record-breaking contract, the expectations are heightened even more. With that in mind, is there a more confusing quarterback than the Rams’ Jared Goff?

Depending on who you ask, he’s either overrated or underappreciated. Some believe he is a ‘system quarterback’ who at best, is average, while others believe he is somewhere in, or on the cusp of cracking into the top ten at his position. 

His detractors are scarred by his horrid rookie year, subpar (post-bye week) close to the 2018 regular season, and bad Super Bowl performance- which happens to be our first and last impressions of him- so will argue he is a mediocre passer elevated by Sean McVay’s magic pixie dust.

Others, however, will look at everything in-between and claim he’s not given enough credit for his talent and play. The Rams fall under this category, as the extension shows they are 100% sold on him.

So, is this the year that the former number one overall pick makes the next jump into MVP consideration? He’s undoubtedly talented, throws arguably the prettiest ball in the league, and the numbers suggest he’s tracking towards it. But he’s also had his ‘deer in the headlights’ gaffes that cause hesitation.

Over the last two seasons, Goff has thrown for 8,492 yards (5th), 60 touchdowns (5th), and 19 interceptions, with a 100.8 passer rating (6th), two Pro Bowl appearances, and a trip to the Super Bowl, while tying Tom Brady for the most regular-season wins (24). 

During the 2018 season, the 24-year-old was fourth in passing yards, sixth in passing touchdowns and eighth in passer rating, en route to leading the Rams to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance.

And before his late-season meltdown, let’s not forget that the Rams quarterback was having an MVP-worthy season through 11 games, with 3,347 passing yards on 67.7% completion, 26 touchdowns, six interceptions, a 113.5 passer rating, and a 10-1 record. 

Included was a Thursday night showcase against the Minnesota Vikings in which he threw for 465 yards and five touchdowns with no picks, en route to becoming one of only three players to have a perfect passer rating with at least 30 pass attempts in a game. And in another matchup, he outdueled Patrick Mahomes during a Monday Night Football thriller, tossing four touchdowns to zero interceptions with 413 yards. But like every young quarterback, the man has his flaws.

Goff’s numbers dip when pressured by defenders. His reading of defenses is not bad, but still a work in progress, and he doesn’t command an offense yet. And he was exposed for being more reliant on the talent around him, than the other way around. But these are all problems almost every young quarterback faces. 

Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Ben Roethlisberger weren’t who they are today until years into their career. It took them time to grow and develop from game-managers to future Hall-of-Famers.

Now Goff has a ways to go before reaching their ceiling, but he possesses great talent, and you can argue he has a headstart on that trio and other quarterbacks like them. And the main point is even the great ones start off relying heavily on others, so doubting the youngster while giving McVay all the credit because of his blemishes makes no sense.

A young quarterback will always need help as he grows, and Goff is no different. But 2019 will be the season he finally “pops” into a perennial MVP candidate and starts to silence all the doubters.

And before you think that’s hyperbole and throw around the “system quarterback” criticism, let’s establish one thing: almost every player is a product of a system. It’s up to the front office to find the coach and scheme that optimizes his franchise quarterback’s talent.

It just so happens that Goff’s good arm, accuracy, coachability, and elite anticipation fit McVay’s to the dot, and he runs it near perfectly. It’s also Jared Goff making the reads and throws, not the head coach, and a lot of the plays he made last year are “WOW” throws which only the best arms can make in actual gameplay.

Plus, there’s something to be said when wunderkind Sean McVay wants to keep you around longer, and over 1,000 of your peers rank you as the 32nd-best NFL player, and eighth-best quarterback. And these are the throws of such a man.

I’m anticipating the Rams’ terrible loss to the Patriots will have the opposite effect of a Super Bowl hangover on the offense and the coaching staff. I fully expect Sean McVay to use it as a learning experience and grow, which, in turn, will help Goff improve.

The 24-year-old has shown promising signs of maturation and progress the last two years, taking steps up statistically and on tape. But more encouragingly, he’s still a baby by NFL standards, meaning there’s still a lot of room for growth, and this is his third training camp under Sean McVay, which should lend itself to amplifying the natural growth Goff would experience individually.

The fourth-year quarterback is also part of a loaded Rams roster that is favored to claim a third-straight division title and reach double-digit wins again, which would further help his case.

He also has excellent weapons at his disposal, along with Cooper Kupp returning, which is huge because the wide receiver is Goff’s favorite target. The disparity in numbers with (118 passer rating, 17:5 TD: INT, and 348 yards-per-game in six games) and without the pass-catcher is significant so his presence should help Goff sustain his level of play.

But again, that’s how it is with young quarterbacks; they all have that one guy who helps make the game easier for them. Even Aaron Rodgers had a down year in 2016 after Jordy Nelson went down with an injury. 

Will Goff win the award this season? Chances are no. But, that doesn’t mean he won’t become a viable candidate. He’s played like it before, and growth will only help him achieve both more consistency and a higher level of play, which should lead to a full-on breakout season.

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Featured Image via Flick/Smashdown Sports News

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