It’s December 24, 2016. The Rams have just lost their sixth game in a row — a 22-21 final score to the division-rival 49ers. L.A. has already decided to make a coaching change. And quarterback Jared Goff is standing at the podium, facing the media for his postgame press conference.
He’s asked about defenses making adjustments, since they have a few games of tape on him. And he begins his answer by addressing the question. But then he says something else, unprompted.
“I’ll say this — to all the fans and everybody that came out today, we’re appreciative. We understand where we are and we know they understand where we are,” Goff said that day. Then he paused. “It’s just hard. And I know they see it, I know we — it’s hard in the locker room. It’s hard for all of us.
“But I promise you guys, it will get fixed,” Goff continued. “[I’ll give] everything in my heart and soul to get it all fixed.”
Fast forward a year to the day and the Rams are NFC West Champions, having clinched the franchise’s first division tittle since 2003 with a 27-23 victory over the Titans in Week 16.
So for Goff, is there any extra gratification in knowing that the turnaround was able to get executed in just a calendar year?
“You know, I think it goes back to what I was saying — it’s a whole team effort,” Goff said recently. “I was upset at that time, and it was a hard time for not only myself, but the whole team — the whole staff, everybody involved in the organization. I wanted to kind of take a lot of it upon myself to try to get it fixed, and try to do a lot of things. But, ultimately, it’s been a complete team effort here.”
The quarterback clearly did a lot to improve over the course of the offseason — from working with famed private instructors Tom House and Adam Dedeaux to getting receivers together to run routes after the conclusion of the offseason program.
But Los Angeles also hired a strong coaching staff that continuously put Goff in position to succeed in 2017. And that paid dividends to the tune of the quarterback completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 3,804 yards with 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions — the first signal-caller in franchise history to have at least 25 TDs and fewer than 10 picks. Goff ended the 2017 season No. 5 in passer rating at 100.5.
“We’ve got a great rapport, our coaching staff, with Jared. And players really respond to him,” head coach Sean McVay said. “I think he’s got a great, authentic way about the way that he’s leading. And he’s playing at a really high level. And anytime you’re able to lead your team to 11 wins through 15 games is a real credit to a lot of the things that Jared has done for us.”
“I’ve just gotten more comfortable, started to understand things a bit more, and started to understand defenses, and our own offense. And just settled in and got comfortable,” Goff said. “I feel like I’m in a good spot."
Running back Todd Gurley had an up close view to everything Goff went through as a rookie, but figured Goff would have a strong 2017.
“He’s been playing like I’ve been expecting him to play — just like he’s been playing his whole life,” Gurley said. “We know he’s a special talent — he wasn’t the No. 1 pick for no reason. And the main thing as a team, you’ve just got to make your quarterback feel like he’s that guy — which he is that guy. Protect him and just let him do the work. That’s what makes him a special player. And just the way he’s been able to compete, make plays for us this year, has been huge.”
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, however, has been around only for the 2017 season and said he’s been struck by the way Goff’s even-keel demeanor comes through in all situations.
“I think with Jared if you look all the way back to OTA’s his growth has been determined, one by his want to — really his passion to get better in every single way, in every single week, his ability to handle pressure, his ability to handle the big moments of games,” Whitworth said. “It’s amazing how calm and really relaxed he is as he’s gotten more polished and understands things better. He’s just continued to grow in leaps and bounds. Honestly you look at where he’s been and I think it’s night and day just from the start of OTA’s until now how much confidence not only that he has in himself but that we have in him.”
Like his teammates, Goff is now preparing for what’s sure to be a tough matchup against the Falcons. Even though this will be the quarterback’s first postseason start in just his second season, Goff maintains he’s not looking to change his approach from what’s been successful in 2017. But he does recognize that it’s going to be special to begin the postseason in Los Angeles.
“Yeah, it means a lot. It’ll be great,” Goff said of having a home playoff game. “It’s rewarding to these fans who have been through a lot — a lot of the fans had the team leave 20 years ago, and then had it come back, and then had to go through last year, and are able to enjoy it with us this year. And I think it’ll be fun to get out in front of them and have some fun.”