After sitting him on the bench for the first 10 weeks of the NFL season, Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, will start for the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. It's a decision that's either 10 weeks too late or seven weeks too early, as bringing in Goff in mid-November to take the reins of a dreadful football team seems most likely to increase the whispers that he's already a draft bust. That's ridiculous, of course, but when Dak Prescott is out there putting Dallas in position for home-field advantage, it shifts the entire curve.
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He's not ready
All season, Fisher, who has never met a quarterback controversy he can't fib about, has said Goff will take over "when he's ready." Is it dumb luck that Goff, after three months on the bench (with some of that time coming as the No. 3 quarterback) happens to be ready the week after the Rams didn't score a touchdown for the third time this season?
That's some great timing if so. It can't be, though, which is why the whole charade doesn't feel as much like a promotion for Goff as a demotion for Keenum. It's like Fisher just pushed Goff into the pool to see whether he can swim.
Goff isn't getting compared to Keenum, he'll be compared to his rookie peers
This is a draft that's seen five rookie quarterbacks start games this season, two of whom are playing at historic levels. The quarterback selected immediately after Goff in the draft, Carson Wentz, has his Eagles above .500 in the best division in football and is a darling of the stat community. Trevor Siemian is basically a rookie (he dressed for one game in his rookie season of 2015), and his Broncos are 7-3. And then there's Dak Prescott, the MVP candidate on the 8-1 Dallas Cowboys who, and memorize this number because you're going to want to say it a lot, was taken 134 picks after Goff.
Everything Goff does is going to be viewed through that lens. It's unavoidable. There are no baby steps when you get dropped into the middle of a season that's seeing a rookie quarterbacking renaissance -- especially not when you've had four months to prepare. And with games like Dec. 4 at New England looming, it's not going to get much better. If Goff starts the rest of the season, he'll still have started fewer games than all his other rookie friends have started at this moment in time. That's a big game of catch-up.
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Fisher did this for all the wrong reasons
The Rams are 4-5. If they go 6-10 with Keenum as their starter and Goff on the bench, what's Fisher's job security like? The Goff decision was likely made with the input of the front office, but head coaches, especially ones who can plan January vacations before the season, have been the fall guy plenty of times before. How do you assure yourself you'll be back the next year? Throw Goff to the wolves and pray he has enough lateral mobility to outrun them.
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The Rams have played more than half a season with Keenum
The reason Fisher had to insinuate this would be a "watch" season for Goff is so he could have plausible deniability when he didn't bring Goff into a game. It worked for a little while, but then every game became a question of "why don't they bring in the No. 1 pick?" Then fans started chanting his name and the media was all over a faux Goff/Keenum controversy, and finally the whole facade cracked and Goff gets seven games where the main goal is that he remain upright through all of them.
At some point, though, didn't Fisher and the Rams pass a point of no return on Goff? When a mediocre team is halfway through its season and playing mediocre football, the last thing you want to do is add an unknown variable into the most important spot on the depth chart. The Rams have teetered on the edge for years. Putting in a rookie quarterback who was so bad in the preseason he was the No. 3 quarterback at the start of the year might tip the Rams back to the ledge. More likely, he'll send them careening down into crevasse currently occupied by Chip Kelly and the 49ers. How is that good for anybody?
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The Rams offense is bad and quarterback isn't necessarily the spot that needs fixing
After scoring 29 points total over the last three games (10, 10 and nine, respectively) Fisher has to feel the offense has stagnated (though that assumes it was ever non-stagnating). Maybe now is the perfect time to bring in Goff because he certainly can't be that bad, right?
Consider: The Rams haven't scored more than 10 points in five of nine games to go along with those three touchdown-less games. Keenum is 30th of 33 QBs in quarterback rating. It's been like this all season, though. He didn't start hot and go into a cold snap. Even when the team was 3-1 it was doing it with smoke, mirrors and crappy defenses. So, after going on a 1-4 stretch, there's not much to lose. Things can't get any worse.
But they can. Ohhhhhh, they can. Goff is taking over a team whose running back is averaging an anemic 3.1 yards per carry, which would be last in the NFL if not for the two-man Vikings tandem that seems allergic to positive yardage. Maybe that's on Keenum, or maybe it's on an offensive line that has just one guy ranked in the top half of players at his position (according to PFF). The problem is there, not anywhere else. And unless Goff comes along with a cloned version of Orlando Pace, it's only going to get worse.
Sitting Goff for an entire season was a bold move by a team hoping to build a superstar rather than hoping they had one fully formed. It took 10 weeks for the panic to set in and now Goff, who is already fighting the stigma of being a bust before his first-ever NFL snap, is the starting quarterback of one of the worst teams in football. Should have stuck with Plan A, guys.