Why the Sean McVay-Jared Goff partnership fell apart for Los Angeles Rams

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Lindsay Therespan


    • He covered the Rams for the Los Angeles Times for two years.
    • Previously handled by Sokolov
    • Beats the NBA, college football and basketball.

Inglewood, California. — In the SoFi Stadium locker room, under the neon logo of the Los Angeles Rams, coach Sean McVay criticized quarterback Jared Goff in front of the players and coaches. It was a scene after the game that many had never seen.

McVay looked in Goff’s direction and yelled at him to play better and not keep passing the ball. McVay did not mention the quarterback’s name, but those in attendance said they knew who McVay was talking to.

A few minutes later, an enthusiastic McVay continued to scold Goff, but this time in front of reporters, for the first time in four seasons as coach, he went after a player instead of blaming him after the loss.

Our quarterback has to do a better job of taking care of the ball, McVay said of Goff, a player general manager Les Snead traded six picks to for the promotion and the first overall draft pick in 2016.

It was the 12th. Goff was outplayed three times in a 23-20 loss against the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers. But McVay’s frustration with the quarterback has long since subsided.

In two seasons, the usual arguments between coach and quarterback have turned into a one-sided confrontation, with McVay no longer holding back. The two conflicting personalities that once worked together in harmony – McVay’s hyper-focused desire and Goff’s calm demeanor – no longer get in each other’s way. Goff’s thumb injury allowed McVay to use another quarterback late last season. That decision, along with Matthew Stafford’s desire to sign with the Detroit Lions, spelled the end for Goff in Los Angeles.

2 Connected

Two weeks into a 2020 campaign that ended with a playoff loss against the Green Bay Packers, the Rams traded Goff, a first and third rounder to the Lions for Stafford.

This is an amazing turnaround considering Goff won two NFC West division titles, an NFC championship and helped lead the Rams to Super Bowl LIII. For these achievements, he was rewarded with a four-year extension and $134 million. The total cost of the project is $110 million, including the $110 million guarantee.

Unfortunately, the way things have gone is never the way you want them to go, Goff said at the first press conference last week in Detroit. But that’s the way it is.

Looking back on the four years we spent together, I can only smile, McVeigh said a month after agreeing to the deal. I would say that there are a lot of things that, when I think about myself, I would definitely like to be better at in some cases.

The swap took place within 24 hours and few could have predicted it, even if they knew the Rams’ quarterback situation in 2021 would be different than the past four years. McVay and Snead made that clear in their press conferences this season by making no guarantees about Goff.

‘Yes, he’s our quarterback right now,’ McVay said after the loss against the Packers.

The next day, McVay didn’t want to guarantee Goff a starting spot in 2021. A week later, Snead didn’t want to either.

Jared Goff is now a ram, Snead said. So, what’s the date? 26. January.

The transaction closed on January 30, but the agreement was not reached until January 18. March, one day after the start of the championship year, officially.

The stakes are high, the most important of which is the rare opportunity to acquire a player of Matthew Stafford’s caliber, McVay said last week shortly after introducing his new quarterback to Los Angeles, despite Stafford’s 0-3 playoff record. The possibility of acquiring someone like him was an opportunity we wanted to aggressively pursue, and thankfully it worked out.

Jared Goff is currently a ram. So, what’s the date? 26. January.

Rams general manager Les Snead four days before the team agreed to trade Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford to the Detroit Lions.

But this is in no way a disregard and gratitude for all the great things Jared Goff has done.

However, interviews with more than two dozen sources, including Rams players, coaches and front-office personnel, either on the official record or on condition of anonymity, painted a picture of McVay’s relationship with Goff that fell apart in 2019 and slowly unraveled during the 2020 season.

It will be a good marriage.

After seven winless starts as a rookie under former Rams coach Jeff Fisher, Goff played masterfully the next two years with McVay as coach and a supporting cast that included All-Pro running back Todd Gurley II and All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The lanky quarterback passed for 8,492 yards and 60 touchdowns with 19 interceptions in 2017 and 2018 and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection. Meanwhile, his potential successor in Detroit has lost 8,223 yards, 50 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

With the mega-payday for Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes approaching, the Rams wanted to get ahead of the retreating market and re-contract Goff, even though he has two seasons left on his rookie contract.

The first two seasons of the Jared Goff-Sin McVay partnership were rosy, with the Rams winning two NFC West titles and reaching the Super Bowl thanks to the effectiveness of a potent and exciting offense. Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

McVay inherited Goff as his quarterback when he took the job in 2017, but he felt confident in what he saw in his two seasons together. He’s given Goffe a contract extension.

Jared Goff, as long as I’ve had the opportunity to be in that role, I hope that guy stays with me for a long time, McVay said months after the Super Bowl loss against the New England Patriots.

The day after the deal was announced, Goff smiled about his future with McVay.

He joked that I was stuck with him, I told him: I don’t think I mind, Goff said. It will be a good marriage… I’m happy to stay with him for a long time.

However, the Rams’ offense steadily deteriorated over the next two seasons – from third in 2018 to twelfth in 2019 to twenty-second in 2020 – as did Goff’s production.

With that, the problem began to seep into the Rams’ building as well: Were we wrong?

Interrupt code

What the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick did to the Rams’ offense during the Super Bowl, by limiting them to 260 yards, 60 of which were on the ground, not only ruined the game plan and the chance to return to Los Angeles with the title. He improved the scheme, exposed the quarterback and gave the NFL – the ultimate wannabe league – a plan to stop McVay’s offense.

McVay knew getting back to the Super Bowl wouldn’t be easy, but he didn’t expect the offense to take a big step back since the Rams missed the playoffs in 2019 due to a lack of scoring.

The offensive line has changed. Left guard Roger Saffold left in free agency, the Rams took an option on the contract of veteran center John Sullivan and right tackle Rob Havenstein dropped out mid-season with a knee injury. Gurley, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, has had knee problems, and McVay has struggled to consistently incorporate running into his game plan.

When the infrastructure around him began to fail, Goff had to take control.

McVay has tried to fix the offensive problems from the start. Without a full-time offensive coordinator – a position McVay did not hold after the departure of current Packers coach Matt LaFleur following the 2017 season – it was up to McVay to right the ship.



Ryan Clark explains why the Rams didn’t trade Jared Goff after he was traded to the Lions.

In the building, it became clear to some that Goff had not developed into a quarterback who could thrive without a strong throw.

The situation around him affected his game. If the offensive line didn’t always work well or if he missed a wide receiver, things didn’t go well, a source with the team said. If he had a clean pocket and everything went perfectly, he’d be a top 5 quarterback.

Shane Waldron – Goff’s fourth quarterbacks coach in four seasons (and now offensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks) – held the job with assistant Zach Robinson. McVeigh’s on his way.

The Rams’ two previous coaches, Lafleur and Zach Taylor (now coach of the Cincinnati Bengals), acted as a buffer between McVay and Goff.

McVay could get his message across, as difficult as that is for Goff, through the quarterbacks coach, so the relationship wouldn’t be broken.

Sean is an amped-up type; Jared has always been calm and composed, a team source said. I thought they balanced each other out.

But as the 2019 season went by without the results he wanted, McVay began coaching Goff more directly, and momentum slowly began to build.

Sean got more involved, was stricter with Jared and didn’t realize he wouldn’t support him, a source in the league said.

Goff complained to others about McVeigh and vice versa. A source in the union said the two would not sit together often enough to resolve issues.

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On the sidelines, where emotional outbursts are not uncommon, he became increasingly hostile, with McVay calling him out, and Goff will feel crushed, a source in the league said.

Despite these increasingly controversial interactions, it looks like McVay and Goff have hit it off by a rough patch by the end of the 2019 season. Despite missing the playoffs, the Rams won three of five games and finished the season at 9-7.

After averaging 20.6 points per game in the first 12 weeks, the offense has risen to 27.6 points per game in the last five games.

Goff was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after scoring 424 yards and two touchdowns in Week 13 against the Arizona Cardinals. I see a guy who has been playing good football lately, McVay said.

The following week, Goff passed for 293 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in an overwhelming victory over the Seahawks. Despite torn defensive coverage, Goff passed for 323 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the Week 16 loss against the 49ers.

McVeigh and Goff seem to have found their rhythm.

Opposing personalities increase friction

In the end, the fusion of type A, footballing hyperline McVay and a laid back Goff didn’t work.

Spend enough time around McVay and you’ll find he’s often absent. Consistency is the best indicator of effectiveness. Throughout the 2020 season, McVay has talked about the need to improve Goff.

Consistency is the most important thing. I know that sounds like a winning record, but it is, McVay said when asked what he wanted to see from Goff in the final quarter of the regular season.

He’s been good this season, a team source said of Goff. Except when he was terrible.

Without Gurley, who was cut at midseason, the Rams worked their way up the committee ranks until rookie Cam Akers returned late in the season. The offensive line became more consistent after an inconsistent 2019, but after trading wideout Brandin Cooks, the Houston Texans offense lacked a deep threatening receiver to stretch the defense.

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At times, we definitely had plays, Snead said when asked if he had placed enough talent around Goff to succeed. But as a general manager you always think about the losses or maybe the seasons that didn’t go as well as expected at the beginning of the season.

Goff passed for 3,952 yards and 20 touchdowns, his fewest since his rookie season, with 13 interceptions.

Work ethic was not a problem; Goff put in the hours. It was about understanding, diagnosing and applying what had been coached.

Goff had trouble recognizing the disguise of the coverage and didn’t always see consistently how the coverage would develop over the course of the game. When defenses used Cover Zero without a guaranteed safety in depth, their decision-making process was often not fast enough to get them into the big game.

You can’t lose games when you’re quarterback, a source with the team said. We just wanted him to face that and do his part.

In 2020. The Rams have ranked as an NFL defense under first-year coordinator Brandon Staley, who is currently the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. With NFL Defensive Player of the Year Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Rams have allowed an average of 18.5 points per game.

For the second season in a row, despite the hiring of offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, who was also the quarterbacks coach, the offense has failed and the defense is Super Bowl worthy.

It was the battle of the year because we had a strong defense, a team source said, which put more pressure on our offense to play well.

The lack of offensive production has been addressed by McVay, who came to Los Angeles from Washington with a keen sense of the offense and has proven to be an innovator in his first two seasons, building a top-notch team behind 11 men (three receivers, a tight end and a running back) and plenty of play-action.

McVay told those around him that he felt like he had to play every game perfectly for Goff. According to a source in the league, Goff has felt increasingly coached by McVay, who has steadily increased the complexity of his offense to outsmart the defense.

Goff’s four turnovers in Miami at 1. November was the turning point in the breakdown of his relationship with McVay and the Rams. Jackets Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

There were a few moments in every game that you weren’t proud of, and then there were a lot of moments where you really felt like you got some of the looks you were hoping for; sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, McVay said of his postseason games. I have high expectations and standards for myself and our offense.

Goff’s natural talent for throwing wasn’t the problem, it was his inability to use it consistently.

After seven games and a 5-2 start to the season, Goff, whose O’Connell is the fifth quarterbacks coach in five seasons, has shown progress against changing voices. This is similar to three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith, who met five offensive coordinators in five seasons after becoming the 49ers’ top scorer of all time in 2005.

But by week 8, it all fell apart.

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who was part of the Patriots defensive team that dismantled the Rams offense in Super Bowl LIII, has grown up.

The Dolphins blitzed Goff for 26 dropbacks, the most he’s faced in a single game in 2020.

Goff averaged 2.6 seconds to run the ball, which is the fourth-fastest time in 2020, and passed for 355 yards and a touchdown.

The Rams lost 28-17 and new quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went down in his first NFL game.

Our execution should be better. I need to coach better and put our players in better positions, that’s what it’s all about, McVay said after the loss, later adding that he had a sore spot in his mouth.

Looking back, McVay remained convinced that the game plan should have worked, while Goff thought otherwise, according to a source with the team.

Throughout the building, tensions have run high over the way McVay handled Goff, which some see as not the coach’s responsibility, while others don’t.

We get our asses kicked for… for… for… for…, said a team source. But the quarterback thing has been swept under the rug.

In the following two weeks, Goff recorded a solid win against the Seahawks, then put on a show on Monday Night Football, with 376 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in a road victory against eventual Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But a week later, the Niners suffered their fourth consecutive loss. They won without backup quarterback Nick Mullens and several other key players. Goff sat alone on the sideline after making two errors in the first half. He finished with 198 passing yards and three turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble.

Taste for the new QB

According to sources, McVay speculated at one point in the middle of an inconsistent season that the Rams might return to the Super Bowl with Goff as quarterback.

The tension with Goff has increased. On the sidelines, McVay has a history of yelling at his quarterback, but some have noted that at one point McVay didn’t come back to apologize. Some blame it on the competitive environment, others on McVay’s inability to hide his disappointment with Goff.

The situation has become increasingly difficult for Goff because of the frequency with which his coach targets him, whether on the sidelines, in meetings or on the practice field.

Sean has lost sight of how badly he broke Jared, but there should be a recovery, a source at the league said. McVeigh] did not know or was not interested in protecting Jared’s trust.

After the altercation, McVay admitted a communication violation with his quarterback.

I could be so much better with this real-time communication, McVay said. I don’t want to make excuses, but there are a lot of things, even some decisions in games, that consistently put you in the right position to succeed?

After Thursday night’s walk-off win over the Patriots, the Rams suffered another inexplicable loss, this time at home against the winless New York Jets in Week 15.

Goff faltered again in a 20-9 defeat at Seattle in the division title game in Week 16. He passed for 234 yards with an interception, which he called one of the worst plays of his career, and made an egregious mistake by making a sliding catch just before a first down. To his credit, Goff ended the game after breaking the thumb of his throwing hand by hitting it with his opponent’s helmet in the final seconds of the third quarter.

The worst part for Jared is that [McVeigh] got a taste of John Woolford.

The source of the Rams team

Goff underwent surgery the next day where three screws were placed in hopes that he would recover quickly enough to make the playoffs.

Meanwhile, McVay had a chance to make changes at quarterback, bringing in free agent John Wolford in Week 17. Some in the organization were convinced McVay wanted to do it early, but not because of Goff’s contract.

He didn’t have the courage to sit down with Jared, according to a source with the team.

Wolford, who has not played in a regular season game since being traded to the Rams in 2019, will make his first NFL start in a winless home game against the Cardinals to qualify for the playoffs.

The worst thing for Jared, according to a source with the team, is that [McVay] caught a glimpse of John Woolford.

With the help of a nutritionist, a throwing coach and a personal trainer outside the Rams’ facility, Goff has begun the work required of most starting quarterbacks in the NFL. But compared to Woolford, who some call Baby Bree, he didn’t last long.

Wolford came to practice early during the week – at 6:30 a.m. – and stayed late, even when he was on the practice squad. It’s a different animal, according to a source in the union.

He’s just as addicted as McVeigh, according to a source with the team.

The energy around the training centre changed when Walford took over.

It was just a chance for John to breathe life into the offense with his athletic ability and intelligence, a team source said.

Some players were excited about Woolford’s departure – not necessarily because they didn’t like Goff, but because they thought the agile Woolford would provide a spark.

Wolford overcame an interception on his first pass and threw for 231 yards while running for 56 yards in an 18-7 victory over Arizona.

For Seattle’s next game, McVay decided Wolford would start early in the week when no progress had been made in Goff’s recovery. Goff insisted he was ready to play, but McVay’s decision was firm. He said the game plan had to be there to prepare Wolford.

According to a source at the team, the feature should be a matter of inches. But I think it was probably the combination: We watched John play, we got into a rhythm, we had kind of a new game plan.

The weeks in Arizona and Seattle were our best training weeks, said another source with the team. The confidence of the team was high.

John Wolford replaced the injured Goff late in the season and defeated the Cardinals in Week 17 to secure the Rams a playoff berth. Kevin Reece/Sportswire Icon

Goff, 12 days after undergoing thumb surgery, was the only active reserve in the wild-card game against the Seahawks, a decision that left some players wondering if Goff would be available if Wolford was eliminated.

With 5:40 remaining in the first quarter, Wolford injured his neck and Goff was replaced. He proved – despite limited practice opportunities during the week – that he could lead the Rams to another playoff victory, winning 30-20 at Lumen Field.

Despite Goff’s incredible performance against the Seahawks, the question of who would start for Green Bay in the divisional playoffs came up again.

Wolford withdrew at the end of the week due to injury, but went to Wisconsin anyway; Goff was expected to start.

Had Wolford not been injured, McVay would have used him against the Packers, according to multiple sources.

Asked if Walford would have started if he had been available, McVeigh dodged the question.

A source in the league said he would start at 100% Wolford instead of Goff.

When we heard John couldn’t go, according to a source, we said we felt defeated.

Walford’s wish did not go down well as Goff left some supporters in the dressing room.

Jared was our starting quarterback, another team source said.

Goff played well, completing 21 of 27 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown without committing a turnover at a frozen Lambeau Field, but the Rams’ defense couldn’t slow down quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers won 32-18.

My job is to win the game, Goff said afterward in his final press conference as a Ram. I thought I could do something good today, but no, my job is to win the game, there is absolutely no moral victory, especially in the playoffs.

We’re gonna make a big swing.



Matthew Berry analyzes the fantasy of Matthew Stafford, who was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and a draft pick.

Opinions in the building about Goffe, the football player, differ. Some supported it completely, others found the change beneficial.

After the trade, McVay looked back on the success and took responsibility for some shortcomings. McVay also said they communicated after the deal, which Goff said did not happen after the deal, told the Los Angeles Times.

I’m not going to shy away from the fact that I could have been better for him as a leader and as a coach, McVay said, adding: We had good conversations that were healthy and I think we were able to communicate openly and honestly with each other.

Together, McVay and Goff won 42 games in four seasons. That puts Goff on par with Russell Wilson of the Seahawks for total wins and is second only to Brady over that span.

But the possibility of the Rams taking on Stafford, who turned 33 last month, was too great to give the offense a boost.

In other words, it’s a chance to bet on things getting better and better at the position, Snead said. Given the situation our team was in, the state of our player group, the coaching staff we had, we felt it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Goff, 26, admitted to taking the initial news of the exchange personally.

First, of course, Goff said. I think it builds up the chip on your shoulder a bit. I’m not gonna lie about it. There’s a little extra motivation and a chip that you can really feel.

After the deal was finalized, McVeigh and Stafford, who were both vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, celebrated their partnership with dinner, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Brera.

The Rams felt it was better to admit the mistake of the contract extension and move on than make no changes and try to get through another season after two inconsistent seasons with Goff as a center.

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Some solutions work, others don’t, said a source with the team. We’re gonna make a big splash.

It’s disappointing and unfortunate how it turned out.

I have so many good memories, so many good friends, so many good old teammates from there, Goff said. I learned so much there, and there is no ill will. I want to move on with my life and my career, and this is my next chapter.

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp wrote on social media: Four years in which we have grown and learned from each other. Not only do I thank Jared for being on the field, but I also owe him for all the success I’ve had while I’ve been with him.

The opinion that finally mattered was McVay’s.

ESPN’s Michael Rothstein contributed to this report.

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