After fourteen seasons of mediocrity, long-suffering Los Angeles Rams fans may now have something to cheer about. Last week’s 41 to 39 scintillating victory over San Francisco may be evidence that the Rams have turned the corner. The NFC West, once the exclusive realm of the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers may actually be up for grabs this year. The Rams early season success has been the “feel good” story of the year in the NFL. Few league aficionados expected the rapid reversal of fortune in Los Angeles this season. However, Jared Goff should proceed with caution, knowing that Carson Wentz was being hailed as the second coming of Donovan McNabb in early 2016 after the Eagles 3-0 start. Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles then quickly faded long before the first snow in Eastern Pennsylvania.
New Rams head coach Sean McVay arrived in L.A. with the reputation as “the quarterback whisperer.” McVay was widely credited with mentoring Redskin quarterback Kirk Cousins – instilling confidence and leadership in a signal caller who lacked both. Under McVay’s tutorship, Cousins has gone on to become one of the NFL’s better quarterbacks. Enter Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Goff most certainly fits the Cousins mold. Many league observers dismissed Goff as a first-round bust in 2016. Ram ownership was hoping that McVay would live up to his reputation of developing quarterbacks and installing offensive schemes that maximized their talents. The Rams organization and fan base have to be pleased with his progress after two victories and a narrow loss to start out the season. Moving forward, however, the ingenious McVay’s offensive schemes and newly enthusiastic Los Angeles Rams fan base should err on the side of caution when it comes to Goff. The season will become a mental grind after week ten. Goff will need to be mentally ready to make a late-season go at the division title.
onlyGoff’s turnaround has been remarkable so far. After throwing seven interceptions versus five touchdowns in 2016, Goff turned the tide on his critics and the stat keepers by throwing for 817 yards and 5 touchdowns during the first three games of this young season. He is sporting a 70.4 completion percentage and has thrown only 1 interception this year. Most surprising, however, is Goff’s ability to hit the long pass. For the first time in decades, the bomb is back in Los Angeles. Sammy Watkins showed a national television audience last Thursday that speed kills. His 106 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns against the 49ers was cause for celebration. His coming out party was preceded by the sudden emergence of unheralded rookie receiver Cooper Kupp and the always dangerous Robert Woods. If this talented threesome can stay healthy, the Rams receiving corps can rival any pass-catching trio in the NFL. Add a rejuvenated Todd Gurley to the mix, and the Ram attack congers up images of the “Greatest Show On Turf” bomb squad that dominated in the NFC from 1999 to 2003. Gurley has rushed for 241 yards and 4 touchdowns in 3 games. If Los Angeles can maintain their current pace in point production offensively, they will be a unit to be feared in the NFC West.
Despite the emergence of Goff and the miraculous work put in by McVay and staff, Rams fans may want to be very cautious and pump the brakes a bit. NFL history is replete with individual stars and Super Bowl contenders that emerge in the heat of September, only to fade in the cold reality of mid-November. History echo’s out a warning from seasons past – Goff should proceed with caution. Keep in mind that that the Rams two victories have come against two struggling teams (Colts and 49ers) with a combined record of 1 victory and 5 losses. The Rams defense is also ranked 26th in the league in points allowed. Postseason success nearly always depends on a strong opportunistic defense. The Rams defense needs time to gel and come together. With only three games in the book, the sample size for a complete Rams turnaround is relatively small and somewhat premature at this point. Los Angeles is also on the verge of running a two-game gauntlet against opponents who will test their true ability to compete at an elite level. Their next opponent is the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington Texas. A week later they face perennial division power Seattle in L.A. The pending results of those games may very well alter the course of the Rams season. A victory in both or at least one of those two games may position L.A. for a late-season run. The next two weeks will be a harbinger of things to come for Rams fans. Goff should proceed with caution when it comes to the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys defense as both units rank near the top defensively and have the potential to make life difficult for any quarterback.
Despite what happens over the next few weeks, it appears that McVay and Goff are the real deal. If the Rams continue to sing this happy tune, the L.A. Coliseum may cease to be the sole province of the USC Trojans. With the bad times apparently behind them, the Los Angeles Rams future may be as bright as the Southern California Sun.