The ball was right there. It was a third-and-10 throw, eight seconds to go, and it was on and off the fingertips. If Connor Kupp makes that catch the Rams beat Seattle and we’re having a completely different conversation right now about that team, about Jared Goff, about Sean McVay.
But they’ve been fun to watch and it’s not just a deal where they’re playing well at home. They’ve taken it on the road. They went to Dallas and got a big win, then came home and took Seattle to the wire. They’re 3-2 and one year after having one of the worst point differentials in the NFL (minus-170, 30th) they have one of the best (plus-31, fourth). And this is a team with the youngest coach in the NFL, with the second-youngest roster and with a quarterback who many were ready to write off last season.
McVay has done his best work there, with Goff.
You heard a lot in the offseason: “He’s not going to pan out. He doesn’t have the arm strength or the talent.” I watched him come into the league with Carson Wentz, and I liked Carson better just from a physical standpoint. He also was ahead from a protection standpoint and a read-recognition standpoint.
Jared Goff is playing with the confidence of a quarterback who knows the coordinator has his best interests, who knows he can trust the reads and trust the throws.
It’s not that Jared wasn’t going to be able to do it, it’s just that he wasn’t asked to do a lot at Cal. Then last year, with the Rams, that offense was just archaic.
It was boring and old school and really not a lot of fun to watch. It wasn’t very creative and it didn’t do what Sean is doing this year, which is create offense for his quarterback, create easy throws and make it a simple game for him. They do that now, and Jared is playing with the confidence of a quarterback who knows the coordinator has his best interests, who knows he can trust the reads and trust the throws. He’s letting it rip and you don’t hear anything about arm-strength issues or mechanical issues.
The Rams are an impressive team, and they’re only going to get better on the defensive side of the ball as they’re transitioning into that new front that Wade Phillips likes to play.
I wish Sean McVay would have been there last year when they showed up in Los Angeles because I think they would have put a better product on the field.
That offense a year ago, it was just hard to watch. If they were going to throw the ball, a lot of times they’d be outnumbered. They’d keep too many guys in for protection, probably because their line wasn’t very good. But sometimes they’d run a three-man route and there would be eight guys dropping into coverage and you’re just not going to win that battle, especially with a rookie quarterback.
Now, the personnel is better up front and that’s a credit to Sean, also. But as a quarterback you’re never in a situation where you’re scratching your head trying to come up with answers. I’ve been in that situation. My rookie year in Houston, we ran an old-school offense and I didn’t know better and I’m sure Jared didn’t know any better. But when you get with someone who really gets it and knows how to move guys around, you finally see it, and you see the way Jared is playing.
Sean is on the offensive. He’s on the attack.
Saints coach Sean Payton is another example. He’s on the attack at all times. He hasn’t had the best personnel, but he’s a coordinator who keeps defensive coordinators up at night thinking because Payton is going to exploit his matchups. He’s going to find a way to get his guys in open space.
Sean McVay is one of those guys.
He has done a fantastic job of spreading the football around and getting everyone involved. It’s not just the “Force Feed Tavon Austin Show” anymore. He’s just part of the plan and he comes in and he’ll play running back and he’ll do some of the things that he did last year, but it’s so much more than that.
Sean is creating offense for Jared and that’s the coordinator’s job. If you’re going to be a good one, at least 30 percent of the game plan should be just easy money throws, where guys have 4 or 5 yards of separation and you just out-scheme the other guy.
I think the good coordinators get close to that number and Sean is definitely doing that.
It’s great to see him with Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Tavon. Todd Gurley, it looks like he’s one of the top backs in the league. I’m sure if you asked Todd if he’s a different player than he was last year he might say he’s on the field more, and he is, he’s playing a lot more third downs. Other than that, I’m sure he’d tell you he has prepared the same way his whole career, but now you have a guy who knows how to utilize a back like that and you’re seeing the dividends.
Question of the week
From Janell Clark: My favorite quarterback is Josh Rosen at UCLA. How would you fix the problems he brought up in regards to making students play college ball to be drafted in the NFL when they have no desire to be a student, how to juggle being a student at a high-caliber school and be a full-time football player, and how ethical is it for the athletes to get a monthly stipend? Thank you for being a blessing.
It’s an interesting question. I totally get the amateur status of college athletes and there’s something really cool about college football and college sports in general because they’re not professional athletes. I think whatever the NCAA decides to do or not do, I think you will have to keep that intact. But, at the same time, I’ve been a college student who didn’t have money in his account. I’ve struggled to find food, a summer job, just to stay in Fresno to work out and continue my career path. I see schools get bowl money and build fantastic football facilities. UCLA, for instance, just finished one. We were down there for a 7 on 7 tournament this summer, and you sit there thinking guys like Josh Rosen are going to get whatever they get a month off their scholarship check and it’d be nice to have more of that bowl money go to them. If the stipend was just a little more, we’re not talking about a lot of money. We had guys who would do anything just for a bag of chicken breasts to be able to go cook. It’d go a long way.
The academic part, I’ve seen so many guys who had to go back to school because they didn’t take it seriously. We’re not all going to play for 15 years – and you have to have something that you’re able to transition to. The most successful players I’ve been around, and I’m not taking about their playing credentials, they come into the NFL already ready to transition to whatever they’re going to do next. They’re hoping the NFL goes well and they’re going to give it all they have, but they already know what they’re going to do after that. I think it’s the same in all sports. You’re going to college to get a good job and if you can get a good job playing football, great, but that’s not going to take care of you for the rest of your life. You’re going to have to do something after that, so make sure you’re set up for that and you’re ready to transition to that.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
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