When quarterback Jared Goff was going through the pre-draft process, many analysts compared him to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan.
At the time, the thinking was Goff's body type and arm talent were similar enough to project that the Cal product had a high ceiling for his potential in the NFL.
Now the two quarterbacks will meet for the first time in the postseason on Saturday night, with a key coach in common.
Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons in Atlanta as the Falcons' quarterback coach, and he sees a number of similarities between Goff and Ryan.
"They're both really talented throwers, that's first and foremost," LaFleur said Thursday. "You talk about competitors — they both want to compete at the highest level. They worked their tails off to get better every day."
But in working with both Goff and Ryan, LaFleur noted a key difference.
"I think what was unique about being with Matt is he was in his eighth year in the league before I started to work with him. He nailed his process in terms of his preparation — how he went about his business on weekly basis," LaFleur said. "It's fun to see a guy like Jared who's a young guy who's working through that process and growing. So you can see a lot of growth with Jared as he's gone about throughout the season."
As Ryan's position coach, LaFleur had a significant hand in coaching Ryan to his 2016 MVP season — during which Ryan 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Ryan led the league with a 117.1 passer rating. That came after a season in which Ryan threw 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, as Atlanta finished 8-8.
LaFleur pointed that out as an example of both Ryan and Goff having overcome some adversity in their NFL careers.
"You look at Matt in 2015, some might say he struggled and compared to the standards that I know that he had for himself and then he rebounds and he's the league MVP," LaFleur said. "Same goes for Jared. I know his rookie year didn't go as well for him and then you look at him this year and I think he's handled himself and has shown improvement on a weekly basis. I think the mindset, the mentality that those guys have is very similar."
Goff finished the 2017 regular season having completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 3,804 yards with 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He led the league with 12.9 yards per completion and was No. 5 with a 100.5 passer rating.
And that's why LaFleur is so optimistic about Goff's future — whether or not it exactly echoes Ryan's career.
"I think the sky's the limit for Jared — I really do," LaFleur said. "I think he'll continue to grow and really excited what the future holds for him, because I know he'll attack it the right way."