From day one, the Sean McVay-Jared Goff pairing in Los Angeles seemed to be a match made in heaven.
After going winless with more interceptions than touchdowns in his rookie season, Goff jumped out of the gate by leading the Rams to a 46-9 win over the Colts in his first game under McVay in 2017. By the end of the season, McVay and Goff had the Rams playoff-bound for the first time in 13 years thanks to a dramatic offensive transformation.
Progress continued into 2018, culminating in a trip to Super Bowl 53 for Los Angeles. The bottom fell out in the big game, as the Rams scored just three points in a loss to the Patriots. That would set the stage for a two-year march toward the end of the McVay-Goff duo.
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As McVay and Goff meet again in the playoffs, there will undoubtedly be a few complicated emotions for each side. Here’s a look at why McVay and Goff went their separate ways in 2021.
Why did the Rams trade Jared Goff?
When the Rams traded Goff to the Lions in a deal that landed them Matthew Stafford, most assumed the motivation was simple: Stafford would give the team a better chance at winning a championship than Goff.
That was true, considering Stafford led the Rams to a Super Bowl win in his first season with the franchise, but there was more to the deal than just a team searching for an upgrade. The relationship between McVay and Goff had deteriorated, to the point that it was tough to envision the pair continuing even if the deal for Stafford didn’t materialize.
McVay and Goff saw their wildly different personalities clash during the 2020 season, according to ESPN, with the young coach reportedly calling out his quarterback in meetings. McVay also made it clear in media sessions that he believed Goff needed to do a better job of avoiding turnovers. Goff had 13 interceptions in 15 games in 2020, after tossing a career-worst 16 in 2019.
The Rams reached the playoffs behind a stellar defense and even won a game, but the writing appeared to be on the wall after a divisional-round loss to the Packers. Both McVay and GM Les Snead told reporters at that time that Goff was the team’s quarterback “right now” and refusing to commit to anything for the 2021 season.
By the end of January, the Stafford deal with the Lions was in place.
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Both Goff and McVay opened up about the awkward split ahead of Sunday night’s game.
“I think it’ll never leave me, and I think that’s a good thing,” Goff told ESPN, not exactly shying away from the dramatic impact the trade had on him.
“Obviously, we had our differences there at the end,” Goff continued, still maintaining that he believes McVay is a “great coach.”
McVay admitted to ESPN that he made mistakes with the way he handled the end of Goff’s time in Los Angeles.
“Could it have been handled better on my end? Absolutely,” he said. “And I’ll never run away from that.”
“He deserved better than the way that it all went down. I’ll acknowledge that,” McVay added. “And I think he knows that too. And I’m not afraid to admit to those things, but I think we’re all better being able to look back on those things. And I do have more appreciation for him as time goes on.”
That appreciation might disappear for a few hours on Sunday, when the Rams’ mission will be to do everything in their power to slow down the Lions’ potent offense. But as it does, the events of three years ago will still surely be on the minds of Goff, McVay and Stafford collectively.
Has Jared Goff played in the Super Bowl?
If Goff can take the Lions to the Super Bowl, he’ll join rare company as the fifth quarterback to start a Super Bowl for two different teams. Goff reached Super Bowl 53 in his third NFL season and second under McVay, leading a high-flying offense that produced a 13-win season.
The Rams’ road to the Super Bowl might be best remembered for the controversial non-call in their NFC championship win over the Rams, when Los Angeles’ Nickell Robey-Coleman appeared to interfere with Saints WR Tommylee Lewis. However, it was their offensive failures in the big game that turned out to be the beginning of the end for Goff’s time with the franchise.
Goff was 19 of 38 for 229 yards and an interception in the 13-3 loss, taking four sacks against a powerful, disciplined Patriots defense. He has thrown for less than 200 yards in half of his six playoff starts, so the Lions will need Goff to step up and help the offense reach its full potential if they want to get to football’s biggest stage.