INDIANAPOLIS — A year ago, Jared Goff was in the same position as this year's incoming corp of quarterbacks on Saturday — performing on-field drills at the NFL Combine to impress the league's many decision-makers.
Now, Goff has seven games of NFL experience under his belt and has been working with noted private instructor, Tom House, to improve before the Rams' offseason program begins in April. At the same time, Goff's new head coach, Sean McVay, is putting together a plan to further his development.
"One of the things you appreciate about Jared is he's going about it in a way that he is working with Tom House and those guys, who have a lot of respect in terms of fundamentals, the technique of the position," McVay said on Thursday. "Once we get Jared in the building it's going to be about teaching him our system, seeing how he processes things, how he's able to handle the above-the-neck information and then be able to translate it to the grass once we get out on the field in Phase 2 in the OTAs."
Goff had his share of struggles in the 2016 season, completing 54.6 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. While there were myriad factors, some of Goff's performance may be attributed to the significant adjustment from his Cal's system to the 2016 Rams offense.
"When you do go from Bear Raid, spread — whatever you want to call it — it is different than what we normally do at this level and that's just going to take re-wiring your central nervous system," general manager Les Snead said on Thursday. "A lot of times, you're going from two ski's to snowboarding. You're going to be able to snowboard at some point, but the first time you go down that mountain it's going to be a little different. Last year was the first step in that."
Realistically, that is becoming a more pressing issue throughout the league, as college and professional offenses evolve in somewhat diverging ways.
"One of the things that's interesting when you really watch a lot of the college tape is these guys are almost exclusively in the shotgun," McVay said. "Some of the pass concepts are kind of one-to-two reads where it might not be pure progression. And when you want to try to evaluate these guys, playing underneath the center, with the play-action game with the five- and seven-step drop where it might be dispersing the field or certain coverage reads, it is a little bit tougher to project."
"I think it's going to take patience with QB's, but also wide receivers, even offensive linemen, and even running backs," Snead said. "Because now you've got running backs lining up beside the QB and they run sideways, whereas in the NFL a lot of times they're behind the QB running north and south. It's seeping over to the defense too. We're going to have to be more patient with these young kids coming out."
These issues make it that much more important to surround a young quarterback with strong instructors. To that end, all of McVay, offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson have plenty of experience developing quarterbacks.
Asked specifically about Olson this week, McVay called it "extremely important" to get him on staff in L.A.
"I think he's a great communicator. Great teacher," McVay said of Olson. "Really does a great job developing those relationships with the players that he's been around. And he's called plays for a long time. He's called plays longer than I have. And he's going to be a great resource and a mentor and that I'll be able to go to for guidance."
If there's a frustrating element to creating Goff's improvement plan, it's that players can't receive coaching from the new staff until the offseason program begins. That comes from the rules and regulations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, enacted in 2011. Because of that, any interaction between McVay and Goff is essentially limited to conversational pleasantries until early April.
"Especially with that quarterback position, with how much there's a mental approach, being able to learn new information — how am I going to be able to communicate play-calls in the huddle — there's a lot of things that need to be done in a short amount of time," McVay said. "That's why it's going to be very important for us to maximize that when we are able to get those guys in the building."
Still, McVay has been encouraged from what he's learned about Goff through his evaluations so far, saying he does see some similar traits between last year's first-round pick and Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins.
"When you really look at some of the things that allowed us to have success in Washington, I think it was getting a bunch of different guys involved — using the width and the depth of the field in the pass game to make the defense defend every blade of grass," McVay said. "And I think there are some things when you try to look at a quarterback, what you value, both of those guys possess those skills and traits."
"And that's why you're interested and intrigued to get Jared in the building," he continued. "How is he going to process our offense? How does he handle the verbiage — being able to communicate in the huddle and kind of command that huddle and that respect of his teammates? But just from a natural thrower, the toughness, some of those things that we really value — you definitely see that in both of those guys."
And so while Goff's development will be a process, it's one that is already being meticulously planned out in order to give him the best chance for success both in 2017 and beyond.
"It's a day-by-day process, like we talked about, and you see the traits, you see the characteristics," McVay said. "But [we're] very excited about Jared and some of the things we've seen on tape from him."