THOUSAND OAKS, California. – Sean McVay's patience had grown thin. His message behind closed doors didn't get through.
As a result, the Los Angeles Rams head coach pulled off the kid gloves he'd used to treat quarterback Jared Goff for nearly four seasons and tried a different approach.
"Our quarterback needs to take care of football better," McVay said bluntly after Goff made two interceptions, including a pick-six, and lost a fumble against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12.
McVay's public announcement of Goff was a marked departure from his usual post-unsatisfactory performance or loss message, as the 34-year-old coach routinely blames the Rams for the shortcomings. But on the last Sunday in November, after the Rams lost their fourth game in a row to their division rivals, McVay didn't hold back.
"We don't care enough about football and that has to change," barked McVay, seemingly too angry to call Goff by name. "Otherwise I'll keep sitting up here and saying this week after week. It just can't keep happening."
Goff had a sales crack after giving the ball to his opponents ten times – six interceptions and four lost fumbles – over a period of four games. A week after McVay called him, Goff beat the Arizona Cardinals (6-6) on Sunday with a solid performance, who put the Rams in first place in NFC West.
"I responded exactly as I expected," said Goff after passing a touchdown, scoring a QB sneak and not making any sales. "I just had to lower my head and keep working."
That perfectly shows Goff's inconsistent career. Since the Rams picked him # 1 on the Draft in 2016, he's played brilliantly, won two division titles and a conference championship, and helped the Rams to Super Bowl LIII.
But too often he has performed confusing performances that have kept the Rams from realizing their potential.
Now that the Rams (8-4) prepare to play the New England Patriots (6-6) for the first time (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox) since coach Bill Belichick ditched their Super Bowl LIII offensive, the question remains: does Goff have the talent to bring the Rams back to the Super Bowl and win it?
"If you're a Rams fan, we may have to settle for Jared Goff for being a really good quarterback who will win a lot of games and do a lot of good things for many years," he told Kurt Warner, an NFL Network analyst and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback who led the Rams to a Super Bowl title in 1999 with The Greatest Show on Turf. "But he might never be one of those guys."
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Goff chuckled as he considered the question to get an extra punch.
"I think once you get your second contract, probably. That would make the most sense, right?" Goff asked uncertainly.
But Goff received his four-year extension of $ 134 million – with a guaranteed $ 110 million – on his fourth season last year, which was his third with McVay.
"I think you could be young in your fourth year and have a second deal," said Goff. "I probably would, I don't know. I think it's different for everyone."
For Goff, this development – where you can't make the same mistakes on repetitions – officially seemed to take place when McVay called out the 26-year-old.
Ram trainer Sean McVay, right, gave Jared Goff a hard love because he felt the fifth year quarterback could handle it. Greg Fiume / Getty Images
"I wouldn't say things if I didn't know there are broad shoulders to handle this," said McVay.
The timeline fits in with Warner saying that a quarterback gave a sense of who he will be during his career and what to count on to get things done.
So where does Goff come from, who is in the last part of the fifth year?
"He's a good quarterback," said Warner. "I don't know if he has the qualities to make a great quarterback."
According to Warner, it's by no means too late for Goff, but those quarterbacks – the sizes a team can wear – are few and far between as Warner lists Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson level above the rest.
Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw appears to have a different opinion on Goff, whose touchdown to interception ratio ranks 23rd in the NFL this season between Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"Put his ass down and put someone else in there," Bradshaw said on the Fox NFL Sunday before the Rams played the Cardinals. "I know you can't get rid of it – way too much money."
Bradshaw had the idea that the Rams would take over Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, whose Total QBR is in 19th place for this reason, four places ahead of Goff.
McVay says he didn't think about putting Goff on the bench even during his four-turn performance in a week 8 loss to the Miami Dolphins or his flawed play against the 49ers.
John Wolford is the only backup quarterback on the Rams' list. Wolford is a 2018 vacant free agent from Wake Forest and has no regular season NFL experience after serving on the training team last season.
Financially, the Rams won't be able to move on until after Goff's 2021 season, and even that would cost $ 15.4 million in dead money, according to the ESPN Roster Management System.
That's a large number, but not necessarily ruled out after the Rams absorbed $ 21.8 million in dead money in the off-season by trading broad receiver Brandin Cooks. However, the most sensible thing to do after the 2022 season – a dead money fee of $ 8.6 million – would be for the Rams to decide to go in a different direction.
However, a move from Goff may be unnecessary. The Rams have the potential to return to the Super Bowl with the lanky quarterback on top, but they need to run a full squad with excellent defense and play to Goff's strengths while doing their best to avoid his weaknesses.
"He's a perfect match for what they're trying to do offensively," said Warner, "which means running football and their action game."
In 2018, during their Super Bowl run, the Rams performed game actions on 36% of their games, and Goff was hugely successful at that, passing 15 touchdowns with two interceptions.
However, the Chicago Bears slowed the Rams' play for the first time in 2018, and the Patriots doubled their strategy – stopping the run and forcing Goff to fall back – in the subsequent Super Bowl, in which Goff passed 229 yards with an interception and was sacked four times.
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Since then, the Rams have seen similar fixtures and frontlines evolving to pressure Goff to get rid of football quickly, a skill that isn't exactly his forte.
"Footwork, progress, pocket movement, ball security in the pocket – all of these things are tested when there are seven or more in cover at times and you may need to hold the ball or a # 1 (receiving option) may not be open to you," said Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O & # 39; Connell, who also acts as the quarterbacks coach. "It's really what playing quarterback in the NFL is about, getting through the down, competing through the down while maintaining ball safety."
The Rams performed game actions 34% of the time in 2020. This is the third highest rate in the NFL behind the Patriots and Titans. Goff's QBR in the game is 66.3, which is 23rd in the league. He has six temporary touchdowns, one quick touchdown, and four turnovers, including three interceptions and one lost fiddle.
When Goff was under pressure this season, his degree of completion fell from 68.4% to 41.5%, which also ranks 23rd in the NFL. And his overall QBR drops 55.3 points to 5.5 – only Brady has a bigger drop in QBR when pressured this year.
"That's where the big guys break up," said Warner, "because they are good at many things and if you force them out of their comfort zone they are still good enough to make games and win games that way." . "
Under duress, Goff has passed three touchdowns and made 10 turnovers, with six interceptions and four lost fumbles.
His pressurized sales are most tied to Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in the NFL, while his six interceptions were with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz – who benched rookie Jalen Hurts this week – and the quarterback Drew joined by Denver Broncos are locking.
It's the sales that have been the most expensive – and perhaps the most frustrating for McVay, who came up with a myriad of suggestions on how Goff can get rid of them.
"You might have two hands on the ball. It might be understandable that when someone is swarming around you, you can't just throw them away if you can't see where you're going and trust your guys separately," said McVay. "He can do it."
But it's worth noting that Goff has sparked 45 interceptions since McVay became coach in 2017, the third most in the NFL behind Jameis Winston and Philip Rivers.
Goff was also prone to fiddling, losing 17 fiddling for a total of 62 sales in the same amount of time. He only finished second after Winston.
& # 39; I'm a big boy. I can handle it. & # 39;
A day after McVay called Goff, he admitted it was a little out of character.
"I'm not going to apologize for the high expectations I have of him," said McVay. "Maybe it was a slightly different approach, but I think it was something honest that I know he can correct."
Goff says he didn't hold a grudge.
"If he was lying, I would think differently about it," said Goff. "He's absolutely right and I'm a big boy. I can handle it."
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Goff proved that against the cardinals too.
It was a risk averse approach as it passed 351 yards and mostly moved down the field while its receivers picked up 254 yards after the catch. But it did the job and he finished the race with a pass rating of 104.9, his highest since week 7.
The Rams hurried four hundred and fifty feet and Goff re-connected to receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who had 10 and eight receptions respectively.
Most importantly, Goff didn't turn the ball over.
"The only thing I wasn't worried about was that he was overwhelmed by a tough excursion and then he was able to react," said McVay. "That was the least of my worries."
After beating the Cardinals, McVay and Goff put an arm around each other as they walked off the field and put their sales problems behind them.
At least until next week.