When the Los Angeles Rams selected Cal product Jared Goff 1st overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, it marked the second time in seven years that the franchise selected a quarterback with the top pick, after taking Sam Bradford from Oklahoma in 2010. But unlike the last time around, Goff has yet to play a single regular season down after 5 weeks. After being shutout by division rival San Francisco on Monday night to open the season, a game that put me to sleep on my flight back east from Las Vegas, I figured that we had seen the last of Case Keenum. But here we are entering week 6 with the Rams sitting in second place at 3-2 behind the Seahawks, and Keenum is schedule to start on Sunday in Detroit.
Other than Carson Palmer (drafted in 2003 by Cincinnati), every quarterback taken 1st overall has played during his first season since Randy Duncan, who was taken by Green Bay in the 1959 Draft and never played a single snap in the NFL. In recent years, we have seen young quarterbacks find success after sitting their rookie season, notably Aaron Rodgers (24th overall in 2005) who sat behind Brett Favre for three seasons before taking over the team. He then led the Packers to Super Bowl XLV, winning the MVP, in only his third full season under center, and has won two league MVPs, all while becoming the face of the Discount Double Check. But with the 1st overall pick, we have come to expect them to take over their teams in training came and lead them onto the field for week 1. Often times, to success, thanks to Cam Newton and Andrew Luck.
We may still see Goff this season if a couple of things happen. The first, and most obvious, would be an injury to Keenum, leaving coach Jeff Fisher no other choice but to throw his rookie into action. The second, as I see it, would be if Keenum and the Rams fall apart and out of contention for a playoff spot. At this point, it would make sense to let Goff work out as many kinks as possible during games after his team has already been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season. Fisher has repeatedly said that Goff will play when he’s ready to which, on one hand, may be good for his long term development, but on the other, may just be prolonging Goff’s rookie mistakes. Or maybe he’s just waiting until GM Les Snead can find some competent wide outs for Goff to throw the ball to (sorry Kenny Britt and Brian Quick).
Coach Fisher has held his rookie quarterback out of the lineup before when he was the coach of the then Houston Oilers, as 1995 3rd overall pick Steve McNair did not take over the job from Chris Chandler until 1997, after the team’s move to Nashville. McNair found success in the league, winning the league MVP in 2003 and leading the Titans to two division titles and Super Bowl XXXIV, where they lost 23-16 to the Greatest Show on Turf. But, unlike Goff, McNair was not taken 1st overall and blogs were not then what they are today , explaining why my three-year-old self didn’t write this “article” twenty years ago.
Ultimately, we may not see Jared Goff in action in a game that matters until the fall of 2017, as long as Jared Fisher does not deem him ready to start in the league. And who am I to judge that decision? I’ve never called a football play anywhere but my Xbox 360 in my entire life. I’m simply rooting for the kid and hoping the Rams again find success in the Golden State, where they won NFL Championships in 1945 and 1951. Maybe Fisher is just saving his franchise from the doom experienced by Cleveland Browns quarterbacks of the past, but that’s another topic for another day.