What's in a play call? What's in an audible?
In some ways, that's been the talk of the NFL when it comes to the Rams over the last few days.
Head coach Sean McVay has famously engineered a stellar year-to-year turnaround of Los Angeles' offense from one of the league's worst to one of its best. But there's been some criticism of the way McVay has operated with quarterback Jared Goff.
Each coach-to-player headset — the one for the quarterback and the one for the defensive signal-caller — cuts off when the play clock reaches 15 seconds. The Rams' offense often varies its tempo, which means the unit will huddle, huddle quickly and get to the line of scrimmage, or simply operate without a huddle.
"We've got a lot of smart players and we change up our tempos throughout the course of the game and really, just like anything else, whether Jared is calling a couple plays in the huddle or one call, we do the same thing," McVay said. "We just do it at the line of scrimmage."
"Sometimes he talks all the way up until 15 seconds, sometimes he talks for five seconds, sometimes he talks for 10 seconds — it all varies," Goff said. "Just like every other quarterback in the league, it stops at 15 seconds and we're on [with] the play."
The quarterback added that McVay has been helpful in giving him tips and options. And that's something Goff has said going back to the preseason when asked about how McVay was as a playcaller.
"He's great on the headset, though," Goff said Wednesday. "He does a really good job and gives me as much or as little information as I need and does a great job."
Though one analyst called the approach "unethical" and verging on "cheating," as McVay explained it, the Rams really aren't doing anything out of the ordinary.
"The experiences that I've had — that's kind of been standard operating procedure," McVay said. "Like we've said, we're all a product of our experiences and environments that we're placed in, and most important is it's about the players. And if you've got players that like to be able to have some extra information, great. And they can always decipher if they want to utilize it or not."
The head coach even pushed back a bit on the criticism, saying that kind of talk is attempting to take away from what Goff has accomplished as a quarterback this season.
"To say that you're in his ear — because I've seen some of the things out there — I think it's a discredit to what Jared has done," McVay said. "And really, when you just look at it with the experiences that I've had in Washington and here, it's totally at the quarterback's discretion whether they want to have you be able to talk to them, give them any sort of reminders or if they say, 'Just give me the play and then let me go ahead and just play the position.'"
"He's doing a lot of different things at the line and that's really a credit to him because a lot of that communication goes on after that 15 second window. And then, like I said, there's different various tempos that we operate with," McVay added. "But, to say that I'm in his ear the whole time — that wouldn't be the case."
McVay said Goff does have some leeway to make changes at the line of scrimmage when necessary. And it can be necessary, because there are times when the play clock is under 15 seconds and Los Angeles' offense is already at the line of scrimmage.
"We've got certain where we've got packages of plays and we might say, 'Hey, we're looking to run it.' And he knows the menu that we're operating off of or we're looking to throw it and based on some of the looks that we've gone through throughout the course of the week with our weekly preparation," McVay said. "That's part of what the week of preparation is, is becoming that extension of what we're looking for."
Even so, Goff said he doesn't try to do too much to supersede McVay.
"Most of the time he calls the play and he knows what he's talking about, so I let him do it," Goff said. "But there's plenty of times where it gets below 15 and we have to adlib it a little bit. It doesn't happen often, but there are times where that'll happen and it's been really good so far though the way we've been communicating. Obviously, we've had success with it, so it's been a good experience so far."
For instance, McVay said that Goff got the Rams into a good situation on his touchdown pass to rookie wideout Josh Reynolds.
"That was all him. That was a bad call by me," McVay said of the play.
On that 2nd-and-goal play, the Saints rushed three and dropped eight into coverage. Eventually, Goff pointed for the wideout to move to the quarterback's left, and that's when Goff delivered a strike to the end zone.
"He did an excellent job being able to sit in there, remain a passer, great protection and then he's directing traffic and that's what special players do," McVay said.
Really, this whole "controversy" has the appearance of something fairly overblown.
"We talk about it all the time — the quarterbacks being an extension of the coaching staff," McVay said. "And that is certainly what Jared has become."