Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jared Goff is the Next Ryan Leaf and the Rams are Doomed

He even looks like Ryan Leaf.

When the Rams made the trade to acquire the #1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, I was convinced they were taking North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. There was no way, I thought, that the Rams were going to mortgage their future on a guy who wasn’t even the best QB in his league.

I was wrong. And the Rams were wrong too.

jared goff shaving
While Goff clearly has the arm strength and ability to be an NFL quarterback, he has given zero indication that he’s ready to be a franchise quarterback. The fact that he’s going to be the franchise QB for a team moving to Los Angeles and will now be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks just adds to the unrelenting pressure that is going to break him.

It was obvious on draft night that the Rams made the wrong choice. On Draft Day, I watched ESPN on my lunch break and watched Goff give an interview as he was being shaved, to help promote Gillette. Throughout the night, his Twitter feed was a #brand special, as he apparently sold his name to anyone willing to give him money. It was not a good look.

It provided a pretty clear window into the head of a guy already indulging in the fame of playing NFL football, before even playing NFL football. Now Goff isn’t the first first-round pick to exploit his notoriety for money before playing a down – particularly since Deion Sanders set the template three decades ago. But rarely, if ever, has a QB managed to do that and been successful.

In fact, if you look at the NFL’s top QBs, there is almost always a story of triumph over adversity. Tom Brady and Tony Romo were not #1 picks. Drew Brees was thought to be done a decade ago. Joe Flacco had to drop down to the FCS level to play. Russell Wilson was too short. Even top picks who made it were not flashy – Peyton Maning and Andrew Luck entered the league as sure-fire stars, but were not exploiting their #brand from day 1.

The parallels between Goff and Leaf will hopefully only remain confined to the field – Goff has not given an indication yet that he’s a moronic hothead ready to pop off at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, he has given an indication that he shares Leaf’s characteristics on the field.

I’ve been wrong before, because I would’ve taken Leaf over Peyton in a heartbeat in 1998. Of course, I was 16 and not a good evaluator of men. But in terms of talent, I didn’t even think it was close. Leaf had carried an extremely average Washington State team to the Rose Bowl and nearly knocked off eventual national champs Michigan. The Cougars had zero right to be in that game, but Leaf was a difference maker. Seriously, the dude threw for 331 yards against that Michigan defense!

Leaf played a brand of high-velocity, wide-open West Coast football that was the antithesis of the NFL, and he couldn’t  adjust. While the NFL is more like college football today than in 1998, the Sonny Dykes’ Air Raid offense is still nothing like what you’ll see on Sundays.

todd gurley rams
Even more confounding about the whole thing is that Jeff Fisher coaches the Rams and Jeff Fisher is going to run the ball 40 times a game. Hell, if you had Todd Gurley, you would too.

This is where I pre-emptively blame Jeff Fisher for Goff’s failure, similar to how Fisher’s tenure ending up derailing the career of Vince Young. Let’s be honest – Jeff Fisher is a very mediocre coach who has somehow parlayed one Super Bowl appearance into a never-ending NFL coaching career.

This is where I pre-emptively blame Rams’ management for Goff’s failure, because why did they need a QB? The franchise is going to be Todd Gurley and they already have him. They need a better offensive line. They need better receivers. They need to boost the back-end of the defense. The QB pick was one for show, to try to sell tickets and move the needle in a city that doesn’t give a shit about the Rams.

Even then, I still don’t know why they didn’t draft Wentz! He played in a pro-style offense in college. He has the perfect temperament to be the starting QB, yet defer to Todd Gurley. Why couldn’t they sell tickets on the back of the game’s best running back?

Instead, the Rams are stuck with a walking advertisement who has yet to win a big game in his career. Do the Rams think he’s going to suddenly step up and knock off top teams as a pro?

Even worse, there will be no time for Goff to develop. He must produce in year 1, because Jeff Fisher needs to start producing or he’s shown the door. They share a division with two bona fide Super Bowl contenders in the Seahawks and Cardinals, and a total wild card in the Chip Kelly-led 49ers.

I’m not rooting for Jared Goff to fail. It’s just that he will. And I feel bad, because it’s not his fault the Rams made a terrible trade, compounded by a terrible draft pick.

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