Los Angeles fans waited a long time for a football team, but they can’t wait any longer for a competent quarterback. As early as the second quarter, and multiple times in the Rams’ 13-10 loss to the Panthers, the Coliseum crowd struck up the chant: “We want Goff!”
The continued absence of the No. 1 overall pick is getting harder and harder to explain, and head coach Jeff Fisher isn’t really trying, instead focusing on making the case for Case Keenum, despite all evidence to the contrary.
“I honestly didn’t hear them root for Jared,” Fisher claimed of the chants.
“I would submit that Case was not the reason we lost this game today,” Fisher said. “We just didn’t make plays in all three phases. We’ll circle the wagons with the coaches and look at the tape, but I’m pleased with the way Case has fought. As I say consistently, repeatedly, week after week, I’m pleased with Jared’s progress.”
That sounds painfully familiar to Fisher’s statements after the Rams’ previous game, a four-interception performance in London. “Quarterback is not the reason we lost,” Fisher said after that one. Well, how flaccid does this offense have to be before QB is the problem?
Yesterday’s game was not quite so ugly as that London game, but Keenum was 27 of 46 for 296 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. That lone score came with 34 seconds left, capping off a drive against Carolina’s prevent defense. There were mitigating what-ifs—Keenum bounced a would-be touchdown off Lance Kendricks’s chest, but also overthrew a wide-open Brian Quick for what would have gone for a score—but there always are. The truth is the numbers just aren’t good. Keenum has the NFL’s worst Total QBR, and the fifth-worst passer rating—and two of the four QBs below him have been benched at one point this season.
Fisher keeps noting that the Rams have more problems than their passing game, and while that’s true, Keenum’s ineffective play has a role in all that too. The Panthers were daring Los Angeles to throw, overloading the line and stacking the box. The Rams played into it, calling just 17 running plays against 50 passing plays. Airing it out against one of the worst secondaries in football, the Rams didn’t score until the fourth quarter.
So, uh, where is Jared Goff? L.A. gave away the farm to draft him, but in preseason he didn’t look close to ready. The Rams talk about how valuable and gradual his acclimation from the bench can be, but they were as surprised as anyone else when he didn’t grab the job in camp.
Well, it’s two months later, and no one outside the organization has any clue how far along Goff has come. But the very fact that the Rams didn’t use their bye week to make the switch, right before games against two of the NFL’s softest pass defenses (Carolina and the Jets), makes it appear that a QB switch still isn’t imminent.
The MMQB’s Emily Kaplan wrote about the nuts-and-bolts reasons Goff’s adjustment might be taking so long, and it’s a persuasive case; his Air Raid-esque offense at Cal was so different from anything in the NFL, and QBs from Air Raid systems have tended to do poorly in the pros. The Rams are terrified of doing anything to hinder Goff’s development, and have made plenty of noise about not plugging Goff in until they’re sure he can handle it.
But there’s another, more cynical possible reason to hold off on starting Goff as long as possible. Goff remains the ace in the hole, and the promise of a franchise quarterback only holds out as long as he doesn’t fail. If he doesn’t play, he can’t fail. “Mr. 7-9" Jeff Fisher can afford to lose games with Case Keenum, because that is expected and those losses are in service of a longer-term goal. He cannot afford to lose games with Jared Goff. (It seems very curious that someone floated a contract extension for Fisher back in September, and nothing seems to have come of it.) Once Goff comes in, Fisher’s own clock starts ticking. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend you’ve got reinforcements waiting than to run the risk of finding out you don’t.