THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — His tone shifted and his usual cadence skipped a beat.
“Jared’s the one making the plays,” McVay said. “I mean, it’s our job as coaches to try to put him in position — our players make the plays.
“I think that’s a total discredit to him and all the different things that he’s doing.”
McVay became fired up as he highlighted the strengths of his third-year quarterback – his arm, intelligence and feel for the game.
Goff responded to the same question a bit differently.
“I’ll be a product of the system if we win games,” Goff said. “We just continue to go out there and keep playing, keep putting up 30 points and call me whatever you want.”
One question. Two very different answers. All encapsulating part of what has made the McVay-Goff tandem so great, so fast.
The Rams hired McVay before last season, in part, because of his reputation for developing quarterbacks — most notably, Kirk Cousins, whom the Rams will face Thursday when they play the Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1) at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
But what sometimes is overlooked is that the offensive-minded McVay accepted the job, in part, because of Goff’s potential. Together, the two have developed a perfect dynamic — and an unstoppable offense — through 20 games together.
McVay, 32, is fiery. He gets amped up. Meanwhile the 23-year-old Goff, while entirely competitive, is much more even-keel.
“It’s a fun little mix,” receiver Cooper Kupp said. “It’s fun to be around those two when they’re talking football and I think they play off each other really well.”
Goff has led the Rams to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2001, and the offense has scored 30-plus points in all three games.
Goff passed for 354 yards in back-to-back victories over the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Chargers, becoming only the third player in NFL history to do so while completing 75 percent of his passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Trent Green accomplished the same feat in 2004, and Ryan Fitzpatrick did it this season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A product of McVay’s system, Goff is not. But he has benefited since the Rams’ hired the offensive-minded coach — Goff was winless in seven starts as a rookie under former coach Jeff Fisher.
And now, a season after McVay introduced Goff to his system, Goff has mastered it.
There’s a noticeable uptick in his velocity. He’s squeezing passes into windows that he would not have dared to last season. The 6-foot-4, 222-pound Goff doesn’t flinch in the pocket. And he just looks the part of a franchise quarterback.
“You’re not limited with him,” McVay said. “You can utilize him in any way and because of just his overall poise and confidence and his demeanor, it helps me too.”
Through three games last season, Goff completed 15 of 24 passes of more than 10 yards. So far this season, he’s 25 of 38, on throws of 10 yards or more, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
In a Week 2 shutout of the Arizona Cardinals, Goff let loose on a 57-yard throw over the middle to Brandin Cooks. Cooks, playing in his second game with Goff after he was acquired via a trade with the New England Patriots, finished with seven catches for 159 yards.
While that play was part of the plan, a standout play from Week 3 was not.
Against the Chargers, Goff maneuvered in the pocket to avoid the rush, stepped up, and delivered an off-schedule throw to Kupp, who shed a tackle and went 53 yards for a touchdown.
“Starting to get more comfortable,” Goff said. “And as time goes on, I will continue to get more comfortable and better and improve.”
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Robert Woods, now in his second season with Goff and the Rams, said it was apparent how much confidence and trust Goff has developed in his arm — and in his knowledge of the game. Woods caught 10 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers. None more impressive though, than a 22-yard pass Goff delivered along the sideline — just over the top of leaping cornerback Casey Hayward, and inches beyond the reach of safety Derwin James. Woods caught the ball with two feet toeing the sideline before he stepped out of bounds.
“He’s standing tall in the pocket,” Woods said. “That’s what he does every single game, every week – delivering the ball on the money, only where we can catch it. He’s putting it right in a catchable spot every single time.”
The Rams fell 24-7 to the Vikings last season in Minnesota, as the offense sputtered against a stout defense. But ahead of Thursday’s game, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Goff has noticeably improved.
“He’s got a much better feel for the offense,” Zimmer said. “He throws the ball a lot better than I thought a year ago. He’s more accurate. It looks like the ball has great velocity. He’s moving in the pocket well. It looks like he’s taken another big jump. I thought he took a jump from his first year to his second year, but I feel like this year he’s taken another jump, a big jump.”
So far, Goff has completed 71 of 101 passes for 941 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions. There have only been a couple of plays — namely the interceptions thrown to Patrick Peterson and Derwin James — that Goff has wanted back.
McVay said Goff’s performance against the Chargers was among the best of his career.
It’s his execution. His presence. And his ability to complete throws into tight — and ever-closing — windows.
“That’s why he’s a great football player,” McVay said, before adding dryly, “He’s not a system QB, right.”