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Jared Goff Had the Worst Game of His Life on the Biggest Stage

The third-year signal-caller had largely shaken the “system QB” talk that chased him early in his career, but that discussion could come roaring back after an all-time bad performance against the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

I covered Cal sports when Jared Goff first earned the starting job there as a true freshman and have been following the Rams since they moved to Los Angeles and drafted him in 2016. I went to UC Berkeley and I currently live in L.A. What I’m trying to say is this: I’ve watched every pass Goff has made in college and the pros, and I’ve never seen him play like that.

In the biggest game of his life, Goff completed 19 of 38 passes for 229 yards and an interception. That’s not the worst stat line, and it undersells Goff’s struggles: For 60 excruciating minutes, he was late on throws, he failed on his reads, and he just flat-out missed guys. It was all capped by this horrendous pick:

This ball floated in the air for longer than Gladys Knight’s national anthem lasted before falling softly into Stephon Gilmore’s hands. The Patriots took the ball over on their own 4-yard line up seven and with under five minutes left in the game. After a few gashing runs by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 41-yard field goal that pushed the score to 13-3 and all but put the game away for the Pats.

It was the worst offensive performance the Rams have had under Sean McVay, tied for the fewest points a team has scored in a Super Bowl, and the worst game of Goff’s life. For him, this one will sting forever:

There is some competition here for “Goff’s worst game,” but I really feel this Super Bowl deserves the title. Still, let’s run through the contenders: In Goff’s freshman year at Cal in 2013, he had an abysmal game against Oregon where he completed three of six passes for 11 yards and fumbled once in monsoon conditions before getting benched for Zach Kline. In a game against Utah in 2015 he threw five picks, but most of those were not his fault. Under Jeff Fisher in 2016, Goff had a 90-yard, one-touchdown, two-interception game against the 49ers. And even during his time under McVay, we all remember his 180-yard, four-interception performance against the Bears in early December.

But this one was more difficult to watch than any of them. He threw only one interception, sure, but he missed on a litany of passes, including this would-be touchdown to Brandin Cooks that was delivered far too late:

Cooks had a chance to make the catch, but Goff was well protected and needed to have unloaded this ball far earlier. This was the most wide open any Rams receiver had been all night, and a touchdown would have changed the complexion of the game. All Goff had to do was get it to Cooks a fraction sooner.

Earlier, Goff took a sack when he absolutely couldn’t, though Greg Zuerlein made the field goal anyway:

Goff did … whatever he did here:

Goff also failed to notice a wide-open receiver on a second-and-22, which CBS announcer Tony Romo highlighted on the broadcast. Heck, he even had a head bob that resulted in a critical false start on a late fourth-quarter drive, backing the Rams up from second-and-1 to second-and-6. It was error after error—a variety of different miscues that led to the worst offensive showing in Super Bowl history. There were some bright spots, of course (the throw before the interception was nearly perfect, even though Cooks couldn’t haul it in), but Goff looked unprepared and green. Tom Brady didn’t play well on the opposite side of the field, but he didn’t look unsettled on every dropback the way Goff did.

Naturally, a lot of credit goes to Bill Belichick and the game plan he put together with defensive play-caller Brian Flores. The Pats schemed tight coverage, got pressure on Goff, and generally made life living hell for the Rams. In a clash of scheme lords, Belichick clearly got the better of McVay, and Goff had little room for error all night. McVay knows it too:

This performance will bring lasting questions for the Rams. Earlier this year, there was talk that Goff was a “system QB,” that he was mediocre and thrived only because of Sean McVay’s masterful offensive system. That talk mostly quieted after Goff’s incredible performance against the Vikings in Week 4, in which he completed 26 of 33 passes for 465 yards and five touchdowns and had a perfect passer rating. With this performance in the Super Bowl—and some late-season struggles against the Lions, Bears, and Eagles—the “system QB” narrative will roar back in the offseason.

There will be questions about whether the Rams should commit to Goff long term, and the idea of trading him and starting over has been floated this season:

Goff is still on his rookie deal in 2019, and the Rams will likely pick up his fifth-year option for 2020, which would see his salary jump from under $9 million to more than $20 million. From there, the Rams could offer him a megadeal around $30 million per year—and that will greatly impact how L.A. constructs its roster. After this game, a long-term commitment to Goff seems particularly grim.

Yet if one performance in the Super Bowl defined a quarterback, then Nick Foles would be an All-Pro and Joe Flacco would be a perennial MVP. It’s worth noting that Goff improved in just about every area this season: He threw for more yards and touchdowns and had a higher passer rating, QBR, and Pro Football Focus grade than any other season in his career. Goff doesn’t look like a future MVP right now, but think of it this way: He’s younger today than Tom Brady was when he won his first Super Bowl.

This game showed that Goff has a lot of growing left to do, but he has a lot of time to do it.