Goff leaves Hermosa Beach; Snead should follow; farewell Parker and Pederson   

by Paul Teetor

Goodbye Jared Goff. Enjoy your time in depressing, rundown Motown with one of the worst teams in the league. As for that beautiful home you just bought in Hermosa Beach, well, there’s always Airbnb if you need to make a little extra cash while you’re out of town. 

Hello Matthew Stafford. Welcome to paradise. Now take us to a Super Bowl – or else this trade will be a huge failure.

That was the bottom line of the stunning news that broke Saturday night as the Rams and the Detroit Lions exchanged their unwanted quarterbacks.

Oh, and the Rams had to send two future first round draft picks and a third round pick this year to the Lions to persuade them to take Goff and his bloated, $134 million contract off their hands.

If there were any justice in the transactional, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of pro football, Rams General Manager Les Snead would follow Goff out the door. He’s the one who put the Rams in such a precarious position that they had to make a desperate move that doesn’t necessarily solve their QB problems. 

As All Ball has been documenting every week since last September, Goff has seriously regressed the last two years and had to be replaced if the Rams were to have any shot at winning a Super Bowl. But just making a move – any move – does not absolve Snead of blame for the situation he created. Indeed, he may have just made it worse in a frantic attempt to clean up his own mess.

Stafford and the Lions had agreed it was time to end his decade-plus in Detroit. And Stafford said he would only go to a team that is ready to contend for a Super Bowl. That automatically put him in play for the Rams. The problem is that the side-arm slinger is only marginally better than Goff. He moves a little better than Goff, has a stronger arm and he’s a little more accurate despite his decidedly unorthodox delivery. And he’s indisputably a better drop-back passer than Goff, but that is not the scheme Coach McVay likes to run. His system, with all its play-action, run-pass-options and mis-direction, requires a highly mobile QB.

That is not Stafford, but it is DeShaun Watson, who demanded a trade out of Houston last week. The spin coming from Snead’s enablers in the mainstream media is that Watson was priced out of the Rams budget. If Stafford is worth 2 firsts, a third, and a starting quarterback in Goff, the spin goes, then Watson would have required something like 5 firsts, a second, and Goff. It says here the Rams should have been willing to pay any price for Watson – except trading their all-world defensive lineman, Aaron Donald. Without him, their defense would no longer be elite, and that is the whole reason for the urgency to replace Goff: the Rams have to take their best shot at a Super Bowl while Donald is still in his prime.

But is Stafford enough of an upgrade to justify such a steep price? Remember, he has never won a playoff game in three tries. His other nine seasons the Lions didn’t come close to a playoff spot.

And he’s 32-years-old to Goff’s 26.

And he has a long history of serious injuries, including a broken back.

Indeed, it’s hard to see an upside to this deal for the Rams except that it gets them out from under Goff’s ridiculous contract, which Snead handed to him two years ago like a rich guy handing out candy on Halloween.

All it really does is make Coach Sean McVay, who had clearly given up on Goff, excited about having a new QB to work with. And do not underestimate what McVay, a noted quarterback whisperer, could do with someone with the arm talent of Stafford. Considering that he turned Goff from a complete failure into a pretty good QB in less than 12 months, it’s not impossible to project that he could immediately turn Stafford into a Super Bowl winning quarterback.

But it’s pretty unlikely. Indeed, the chances are just as good that Stafford will turn out to be damaged goods way past his sell-by date, a played-out player the Rams acquired just because the sight of Goff taking the field in a Rams uniform was making both McVay and Snead sick to their stomachs.

So it’s hard not to see this as a panic move by the Rams, who are nursing their impossible dream of reaching the Super Bowl next year, when it will be played in their new $5.5 billion So-Fi Stadium.

If they make it to that So-Fi Super Bowl, win or lose, then this trade will be a huge success.

In that sense, Snead has bought himself another 12 months before owner Stan Kroenke will have to make a decision on his future.

One thing we know for sure: If Goff was introduced as the starting QB before the first game next season, the ensuing booing would have shaken the state-of-the-art stadium from its gold-plated foundation to its largest-video-screen-in-the-world roof. 

That is how unhappy Rams fans had become with the wildly inconsistent Goff as he regressed from a two-time Pro Bowl QB to the 23rd ranked quarterback in a league where you need a top-five – or at worst top 10 – QB to be a genuine contender for the Super Bowl.

Look at the starters for the final four teams who competed in last Sunday’s playoffs for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The first game featured Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, the undisputed Greatest of All Time, against Aaron Rodgers, who is a lock to be voted this season’s MVP. The 43-year-old Brady won his team’s third straight road playoff game. Their reward: a Super Bowl played in their home stadium – the first time that has happened in NFL history. 

The other game featured Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, the undisputed best QB in the game today, versus Buffalo’s Josh Allen, who this season vaulted from back in the pack into the top 10 of QB’s and maybe even the top five.

Mahomes, as expected, prevailed. But Allen and the Bills gave notice that they will be back.

The inescapable conclusion: The Rams were never going to the Super Bowl again with Goff calling the signals and orchestrating the offense. The reasons for his regression from a Super Bowl QB just two years ago (albeit one who produced exactly 3 points in the biggest game of his career) are clear to anyone who watched every Rams game for the last five years.

Start with this, because it’s often forgotten: Goff was a complete and utter bust in his 2016 rookie year after Snead gave up a boatload of draft picks in a trade that moved them up from 15th to take the first pick overall. All the problems we saw the last two seasons were foreshadowed during his rookie year. For one thing, he rarely throws a tight spiral to just the right spot for his receivers. The ball is frequently wobbly and usually off-target, a bit high, a bit low, a bit off to the side. But because he had great receivers like Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, they frequently caught his knuckleballs. I’ve seen more accurate passers with tighter spirals in the informal games of touch football played at the beach on 14th St.

Then there’s his lack of running ability. Coach Sean McVay has concocted the most creative and innovative offense this side of Kansas City Coach Andy Reid. But it requires a QB who is a genuine running threat. Once defenses realized that Goff is not a very good runner, does not like running the ball, and will always avoid contact if he can, they were able to ignore much of the razzle-dazzle, mis-direction and play action built into McVay’s game plans. They could simply focus on waiting for the inevitable pass, usually short or mid-range, and converge on Goff’s chosen receiver when the pass finally came.

Despite those obvious flaws, somehow Snead and his scouting department – headed by Brad Holmes, who just happens to be Detroit’s new GM — saw something in Goff’s play at Cal Berkeley that justified paying such a steep price for the right to draft him. The reality is, had they just waited for their 15th pick to come around, they would have had a good chance to draft Goff without giving up anything. That was how luke-warm most pro football scouts were on Goff as a pro prospect.

But Snead made the deal, Coach Jeff Fisher could do nothing with him as he lost his first 7 starts, and at the end of the awful 2016-17 season Snead fired Fisher and hired McVay, making the 30-year-old offensive whiz kid the youngest head coach in NFL history. That was the last smart thing he did, other than trading for the great defensive back Jalen Ramsey.

Like magic, McVay instantly turned the team around. The offense went from sluggish to super-sonic with Goff passing the ball and star running back Todd Gurley getting stronger and more productive by the game. While Goff was given a lot of credit, a close look at the game tapes revealed that Gurley was the key guy, drawing so much defensive attention that Goff was able to operate relatively freely. With McVay calling the plays and whispering in Goff’s ear – the coach can electronically communicate with the QB until there are only 15 seconds left of the 45 seconds allotted for each play – the Rams took off like a rocket ship.  For the next two years Gurley was the best player in the league and Goff was dragged along for the exhilarating ride. Of course he had some highlights – like the incredible 51-48 win over Kansas City in which he outdueled Mahomes – but most of the time Gurley was so good as a runner/receiver that Goff’s flaws were hidden, or at least masked.

But a month or two before the Rams Super Bowl appearance in early 2019, Gurley’s performance began to regress due to what we now know was a fast-deteriorating arthritic left knee. The full impact of that debilitating disease became clear in the Super Bowl match-up with the New England Patriots. By then Gurley was a shadow of what he had been just 12 months earlier and played little. What’s worse, Pats Coach Bill Belichick, one of the best defensive minds ever to coach in the league, had figured out the best way to play Goff: ignore all the play-action fakes, end-arounds, and run-pass option plays and realize that most of the time Goff would end up throwing a dink-and-dunk pass. That strategy was so effective that the Pats ground out a 13-3 victory in one of the most boring, unwatchable games in Super Bowl history. More important, it taught coaches all over the league how to suffocate Goff and the Rams’     razzle dazzle offense.

But instead of realizing the ominous implications of what the entire nation had just witnessed, Snead acted like the brutal loss was just a momentary setback on the road back to Rams greatness: he handed both Gurley ($45 million) and Goff ($134 million) huge extensions far into the future.

Gurley was so ineffective the next season that the Rams fell to 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Snead finally realized that Gurley would never justify his huge salary cap hit playing on one good leg and simply waived him, forcing owner Stan Kroenke to eat $45 million. With a net worth of $8.3 billion, Kroenke is one of the richest owners in all of pro sports. That little snack didn’t seem to give him any indigestion.

With rookie running back Cam Akers showing signs this season of being able to replace some of the fire-power Gurley used to give the offense, the Rams produced another 9-7 record but at least they won a wild-card spot in the playoffs thanks to a gutty performance by backup QB John Wolford, who replaced Goff in the last, must-win game against the Cardinals after Goff suffered a fractured thumb in the previous game.

In the wild-card game against Seattle, McVay benched Goff in favor of Wolford. That was a stunning move, both to Goff – who was ready, willing and able to play — and to the entire NFL. It was also a signal of what was coming Goff’s way.

When Wolford was injured early in the game, Goff shook off his shock and disappointment and came off the bench to play just well enough – he connected on 9 of 19 passes – for the Rams defense to manufacture a win.

But Goff came back to earth in the next round against Green Bay as the Rams lost 32-18. They never led and never seriously challenged the Pack. After the game McVay delivered the diss heard round the football world.

Asked by a reporter if Goff was still the Rams quarterback, McVay replied: “He’s the quarterback right now.”

And then this week Snead delivered the message even more bluntly when asked the same question 48 hours before the big trade.

“What I can say is Jared Goff ‘s a Ram in this moment. It’s way too early to speculate on the future,” he said.

Fortunately, it’s not way too early to speculate on Snead’s future. He should be fired right now, but with this trade he bought himself another 12 months. If the Rams don’t get to the Super Bowl next year, he should be fired immediately.

Happy trails to Candace Parker and Joc Pederson          

While all the media attention was focused on the Rams clumsy dissing of Goff last week followed by his sudden departure this weekend, two other notable LA athletes took their considerable talents to Chi Town this week without receiving a proper thanks and farewell.

Candace Parker, the second greatest LA Sparks player behind only the immortal Lisa Leslie, signed as a free agent with the Chicago Sky.

After 12 years as the Sparks’ best player, the departure of the two-time league MVP (and first player to win rookie of the year and MVP in the same season) was a huge blow to the team.

But it wasn’t really a surprise considering how the season ended.

In a win-or-go-home playoff game with the Connecticut Sun, Sparks Coach Derek Fisher inexplicably benched Parker for most of the game. Even worse, he sat her down for the entire fourth quarter of the 3-point loss.

Afterwards, Fisher mumbled something about wanting to keep fresh bodies in the game and insisted it was not a personal diss of Parker. But her teammates knew better. Something bad went down between Parker and Fisher, but those who know exactly what it was aren’t saying, and those who are saying don’t know exactly what it was.

Adding to the blow, the Sparks second best player, Chelsea Gray, signed with the Las Vegas Aces this week.

The Sparks will essentially be starting over next season, and both Parker and Gray will be sorely missed.

Especially Parker.

Meanwhile Pederson, a Dodgers slugger since 2014, signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Chicago cubs this week. His career in blue topped out in 2019 when he hit 36 home runs with 74 RBI. His problem was two-fold: he did little besides hit home runs, and his fate was sealed when the Dodgers signed Mookie Betts to a long-term deal last off-season. With Betts and Cody Bellinger penciled in as Dodgers outfielders for the next century or so, there was just little opportunity for Pederson to get on the field.

But it’s worth remembering how productive he was in the postseason as the Dodgers won eight straight Western Division titles and finally a World Series last fall.

No matter how the rest of his career goes, he will always be a Dodger first and foremost.     

Contact: teetor.paul@gmail.com. Follow: @paulteetor. ER

 

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Written by: Paul Teetor

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