Jared Goff had an abysmal rookie year.
Despite being the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams quarterback played in just seven games and finished with more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (5).
Now, Goff looks like a totally different player. After a Pro Bowl campaign in 2017, Goff took another step forward in his third pro season. He finished in the top five in the NFL in passing yardage (4,688) while slinging 32 touchdowns during the 2018 regular season. Heading into the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints, Goff is the conductor of a high-powered Rams offense that averages 32.9 points per game.
A driving force behind Goff's improved play has been an ingenious in-game tactic employed by Rams head coach Sean McVay. First employed last season, it centers around the coach-to-quarterback radio technology employed by NFL teams. Introduced in 1994, the system helps offensive coaches discuss plays and strategies with their quarterback throughout the game. There's one catch, though—the radio cuts off when the play clock hits 15 seconds, limiting the coach's ability to call pre-snap reads or audibles based off the defense's alignment.
McVay hasn't tried to decipher a way to communicate with Goff during those final 15 seconds of the play clock. Instead, he's focused on maximizing the amount of time that's available before the 15-second cutoff. The Rams offense strives to get to the line of scrimmage very quickly. This forces the defense to line up equally fast, lest they risk giving up easy yardage. So the defense typically shows their hand well before the 15-second communication cutoff, affording McVay time to relay in pre-snap reads and audibles to Goff. Mark Bullock, a contributing NFL writer for the Washington Post, first noticed the tactic during a SoundFX segment.
Around the 1:15 mark, you can hear McVay radio in a "Wilson Hoosier" call before Goff yells it to the rest of the offense. Seconds later, you can hear him do the same for an "Elvis" call. He then proceeds to call a number of other audibles, ranging from "Tupac" to "Ric Flair."
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) November 16, 2017
Here's an example from a 2017 game:
Here is an example. 8:30 in Q1. 9 yard completion to start drive. Rams get set quickly with 29 seconds on play clock. Immediate motion. Pause, silence, receives check, relays it, ball snapped at 9 seconds. Copy, paste. pic.twitter.com/1UGUG8MQzs
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) November 27, 2017
It's an ingenious tactic from McVay, as it allows him and his offensive staff time to analyze the defense before communicating with Goff. That simplifies things for the second-year signal caller, who at times was overwhelmed with the intricacies of the position last season. It also doesn't wind the Rams offensive players like a Chip Kelly-style fast-paced offense would, since they're simply lining up quickly but still getting sufficient rest between snaps.
Every NFL quarterback receives in-helmet communications from a coach pre-snap, but McVay and his exceptional football IQ have found a way to make the most of this strategy. Pair that with an offense loaded with talent, and you have one very explosive unit.
Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
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