In the offseason, Jared Goff did a fun prank on a community college football team. The Los Angeles Rams quarterback put on a wig, got a few temporary tattoos, and practiced with a team who was told a new transfer student was there to challenge for the starting job.
Despite the fact that Goff’s face was clearly visible and he was having conversations with his new “teammates”, none of them recognized the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
It’s the type of prank that’d take a much more convincing disguise if 2018 first overall pick Baker Mayfield tried to pull it off. The Cleveland Browns rookie was the most visible man in college football last year, he’s must-watch TV now with the Browns, and he’s the star of a few hilarious Heisman House commercials.
Goff is the opposite. You know he’s the Rams quarterback and you know he was the No. 1 pick. Quick, try to name absolutely anything else about him.
What’s especially interesting about his relative anonymity is that Goff is playing really, really well. After a rough rookie year, Goff broke out 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a passer rating over 100 in 2017. But he’s pushed things even further in 2018.
Across the board statistically, Goff is playing better than ever. He’s making throws he didn’t make in 2017, and he just became only the third quarterback ever to have back-to-back games with more than 350 passing yards and a completion percentage above 75.
Don’t look now, but Goff is in the MVP race.
Goff is doing much more than he did in 2017
The offensive star of the Rams a year ago was Todd Gurley. The running back earned Offensive Player of the Year honors by leading the NFL with 2,093 yards from scrimmage as well as 19 rushing and receiving touchdowns.
Goff finished No. 18 in the NFL in pass attempts with a Rams team that was one of the more offensively balanced units in the league.
That’s still true in 2018. Goff is again No. 18 in pass attempts while Gurley leads the league in rushing attempts through the first three weeks. But in 2017, the Rams’ offense disappeared when an opposing defense was able to shut down Gurley.
The Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings were the only teams able to hold Gurley under 90 yards from scrimmage. It resulted in a 16-10 win for Seattle and a 24-7 win for Minnesota. Goff couldn’t do much when he didn’t have production from his star running back.
But when the Arizona Cardinals committed to stopping Gurley this year and held him to 42 rushing yards and 31 receiving yards, Goff shredded the team for 354 yards in a 34-0 blowout win in Week 2.
Goff averaged 253.6 yards on 31.8 attempts in 2017. Those numbers are up to 313.7 yards on 33.7 attempts per game so far in 2018, while his passer rating jumped from 100.5 to 111.0.
Goff is making tougher throws
The Rams haven’t done much different schematically. The offense is still leaning on Gurley and using Goff a similar amount that they did in 2017.
The difference is that the quarterback is completing passes he didn’t make last year. He’s finding tight windows down the field:
Probably one of the best throws of Goff's career. pic.twitter.com/nctGvVsPj9— Cian (@Cianaf) September 26, 2018
Moving well in the pocket:
Goff with the dime to Kupp despite pressure pic.twitter.com/orArgSIkS8— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 23, 2018
And trusting his arm to get the job done:
The Rams were scary enough in 2017 when a more conservative version of Goff was taking advantage of teams that had to stop Gurley too. That allowed the team to top 30 points nine times and win eight of those matchups.
But with the improved, aggressive Goff, the Rams have scored at least 33 points in each of their games to win by double digits every week.
In the Super Bowl era, only nine teams have ever averaged more than 33 points per game, and each finished with at least 10 wins. That win total seems like an easily attainable goal for the Rams at this point, although facing the Vikings’ defense in Week 4 is a challenge that will be telling about the team’s progress.
If Goff’s play holds level, he should be in the running for NFL MVP — and maybe then he won’t be quite so anonymous anymore.