When Sean McVay was interviewing to become the Rams' head coach in January, he studied plenty of film on quarterback Jared Goff, and was able to meet with the young signal-caller. Los Angeles' top draft pick in 2016 clearly did not have the type of rookie season anyone envisioned, but McVay noticed Goff still exhibited positive traits — both on and off the field.
"What you see on tape from Jared before you ever get a chance to work with him and know the person [is that he's a] natural thrower of the football, he's tough where he'll stand in there and keep his eyes down the field," McVay said on Wednesday.
"The thing that I really like is, when I got a chance to interview for the job, you talk to him about how he processed last year," McVay added. "Clearly, it didn't go the way that we wanted it to go, but I sensed a guy that was motivated in the right ways. He didn't lose any of his confidence, but I think it was something that has driven him to work harder moving into this year, motivated for the right reasons."
As the two got to know each other better over the course of the offseason program, McVay continued to see Goff make strides. The head coach said his quarterback is someone who takes instruction well, with the understanding that most comments are about correction rather than criticism.
"In terms of building and developing a relationship with him, he's been a joy to coach — very coachable," McVay said. "I think we've been really pleased with what we've seen in practice – the pocket movement, the ability to work through progressions. The best test is when you can truly get tackled and I think in spurts, he's showed some really good positive signs of going in the right direction with what he did in the preseason. Certainly this game on Sunday will offer a great opportunity for us to see if what we feel like the confidence that we have in him and that we expect to see."
Now it's all coming together, as Goff will make his first opening day start against the Colts on Sunday. It's been a long process to get to this point, but the quarterback feels ready to show just how much he and the offense has gotten better heading into his second year.
"I think as a whole we've really improved everywhere — not only offensively, but defensively, special teams, everywhere we've improved," Goff said. "I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we feel really good where we're at."
Like many players going from their first to their second year, Goff said the game has slowed down for him.
"I think that, obviously, getting all the reps through the offseason has been huge and understanding what we're trying to do and … understanding so much more about the game and about what everyone's intent is on the field," Goff said. "Ultimately, just comfortability and just being where I want to be mentally, physically, emotionally, everything."
Even as a former No. 1 overall pick, Goff said he hasn't felt much pressure of expectations.
"I don't think you can pay attention to anything and put too much unneeded pressure on yourself," Goff said, adding his approach is to "everyday come in here and do the best you can and continue to be the best person, player, teammate you can be. And, ultimately at the end of the day, it should be enough."
And yet, the bar has undoubtedly been raised this year with McVay as Los Angeles' head coach. With that, Goff sounded a lot like his head coach — who often cites "daily improvement" as a main focus — when asked how he'll define success in 2017.
"You always want to win and that's always the main point, but I think as long as we continue to keep getting better and continue to improve, I think the rest will take care of itself," Goff said. "You don't want to say too much or say too little, but I think we're happy with where we are right now and excited about the future and excited to go into this season and hopefully make some noise."
Goff echoing that coaching point may be minor, but it speaks to how the new coaching staff has approached developing a successful team.
"I've felt like they've done an incredible job just changing the culture around here and doing a great job with not only the offense, but Sean peeks in on the defense at times and has done a great job just keeping everything in line," Goff said.
And so Goff and the Rams will begin their 2017 season on Sunday. While Goff admitted he may have a few nerves to start — "There will be some of that, but I've never really had many issues with being able to stay calm," he said — those will likely fall away with the first hit. After all the practices and coaching points dispensed, McVay is looking forward to seeing the quarterback lead the offense against Indianapolis.
"I think with Jared leading the way, we feel good about it. We know it's going to be about making good decisions, distributing the ball to the playmakers that we do have," McVay said. "As long as we just take it one play at a time, we expect him to make good decisions, throw with accuracy, timing and rhythm. And if he does that, then I think he'll give himself a chance to play good football for us."