Jared Goff has taken a dramatic step forward between his rookie season and Week 13 of his second year in the NFL. And some people think it’s because Sean McVay is too involved in making pre-snap reads through the helmet communication system from the sideline.
Goff’s completion percentage has improved from 54.6 last year to 61.8 percent this season. Last year, he threw five touchdowns and seven picks. He’s thrown 18 touchdowns against just five interceptions in 2017. And the Rams are 8-3. That’s double the wins they finished with last season.
How has he improved this much so quickly? The easy answer is improvements to the roster and better coaching. However, some think what McVay’s is doing crosses a line. Count former NFL quarterback Chris Simms among them.
Simms said that McVay’s involvement is “cheating” and “unethical” on a recent episode of PFT Live.
Is that really the case?
What are McVay and the Rams doing pre-snap?
McVay has been criticized for getting the Rams to the line of scrimmage quickly so he can maximize the time he has to communicate with Goff.
And that means McVay can take advantage of that time to assess what the defense is giving them and direct Goff accordingly.
McVay said that it’s “a discredit to what Jared has done” to suggest that McVay is too involved before the snap.
"He's doing a lot of different things at the line, and that's really a credit to him. ... To say that I'm in his ear the whole time, that wouldn't be the case,” McVay said, via ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez.
Goff does have latitude to audible out of a play, but he said that’s pretty rare.
"Most of the time, (McVay) 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 [seconds on the play clock] and we have to ad-lib it a little bit. It doesn't happen often, but there are times where that'll happen.
“It's been really good so far, though, the way we've been communicating."
What are the rules about pre-snap communication with quarterbacks?
The rules state that the sideline can be in contact with the quarterback until the play clock hits 15 seconds. Then a league official shuts down communication.
"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 the play.”
There’s not really any way around this rule. It would be almost impossible for the Rams, or any other team, to break it.
McVay said that his approach with Goff is standard operating procedure in the NFL. He said it’s similar to the way he ran the offense in Washington with Kirk Cousins. And Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians backed McVay up on that.
"When you have a young quarterback in a new system, it helps tremendously,” Arians said, via Gonzalez. “You wish you could talk to him all the way to five seconds."
McVay’s pre-snap communication with Goff is well within the NFL’s rules. And it’s working.