Will Ex-Cal Star Jared Goff Be Rams' Starting QB in 2021?

Rams coach Sean McVay has been noncommittal on quarterback issue since loss to Packers
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Jared Goff is probably annoyed this week, or at least disappointed.

The former Cal star played pretty well in Saturday’s 32-18 loss to the Packers, considering he was 20 days removed from right-thumb surgery. He went 21-for-27 for 174 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 105.9 passer rating.

But Sean McVay’s words in the time since that loss did not breed confidence that the Rams’ head coach is fully on board with Goff being his quarterback going forward.

We’ll get to McVay’s comments in a moment, but there are four things that should be noted about Goff:

---He was named to the Pro Bowl in two of the four seasons in which he was Rams’ starter the entire season.

---He took the Rams to the Super Bowl in the 2018 season and has reached the playoffs in three of his four seasons as the Rams’ season-long starter.

---Since the start of the 2017 season, when Goff became the Rams' opening-game starter, only one NFL quarterback has won more games as a starter than Goff’s 44 victories (including playoffs). That one quarterback is Tom Brady. No one else has more. Not Aaron Rodgers. Not Russell Wilson. Not Drew Brees. Not Deshaun Watson. Not even Patrick Mahomes (although, granted, Mahomes started only one game in 2017).

---Just before the 2019 season, the Rams signed Goff to a four-year, $134 million contract extension that includes an estimated $110 million in guaranteed money. It takes effect in 2021 and runs through the 2024 season.

That’s the starting point for the conversation.

Goff was named the starter for Saturday’s playoff game against the Packers only after John Wolford (neck injury) was ruled out for the game just two days before the game.  It remains unclear whether Wolford, who had only one NFL game plus one series on his resume, would have been named the starter for the Packers game if he had been healthy.

OK, so Goff plays pretty well in the playoff loss to the Rams, and McVay is asked afterward, “Is he your quarterback?” To which McVay answers, “Yeah, he’s our quarterback right now.”

Or at least that’s how virtually every journalist reported McVay’s final two words in that comment. After listening to and watching the video of that quote several times, it’s hard to make out for certain that the final words in that statement are "right now" as McVay's voice trails off.

See what you think McVay said in his final statement at the very end of this postgame interview:

The final two words are crucial. Sports writers – and journalists in general – love to parse, dissect, analyze and interpret each word and phrase that comes out of a person’s mouth to get its meaning and implications.

To a sports writer, the two words “for now” are code for “We’ll see about that later on, because nothing is certain now.”

Then, two days later, McVay said he wants to “establish a high level of competition at all spots” and mentioned “everyone earning their spots.”

When asked to describe Goff’s starting status, McVay said the following:

“Everything’s being evaluated, not ready to make any sort of statement with regard to anybody, starting position or not. We’re going to have a level of competition at everything we do, and so that’s where we’re at. I think being able to step back and catch our breath and evaluate everything as we move forward and try to be at our best and that’s my answer to the question.”

There is less uncertainty about the interpretation here because that, folks, is classic coach-speak. When a coach declares that starters at all positions, including quarterback, are always based on competition, trying to lump the quarterback's status into the team as a whole, it means one thing: The starting quarterback’s job is in jeopardy.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid wouldn’t answer the question that way. Neither would Pete Carroll. Or Matt LaFleur. Or Sean McDermott. Or Bruce Arians. Or whoever the Houston Texans’ next head coach is.

There is one aspect of the playoffs that had to catch McVay’s eye: Three of the four teams still alive in the playoffs had a mobile quarterback get them to that position. The one exception is the Bucs’ Tom Brady, and Tom Brady is . . . well, he’s Tom Brady.

Goff was sacked four times in the loss to the Packers, and is not a guy who can buy much time or run for much yardage when things break. Meanwhile, McVay watched 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers have a nifty 1-yard run for a touchdown and get extra time to pass by moving within and outside the pocket. He was not sacked at all by the Rams, who were second in the league in sacks during the regular season with 53.

It should be noted how much praise McVay lavished on Rodgers, another former Cal star, during his comments right after the game.

Wolford was sacked three times in his one-plus games, but he also had 58 yards rushing (56 in his one regular-season start and 2 in his short playoff start).

Would McVay consider Wolford as his opening-day starter next season? Would McVay try to acquire another quarterback? If Goff is not the starter, what do the Rams do with him? Trading Goff would be difficult with his big contract, and cutting him would be painful with all the money and cap space it would cost the Rams.

But “for now” the words “for now” are ringing in everyone’s ears.

Cover photo of Jared Goff by Benny Sieu, USA TODAY Sports

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Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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