IRVINE, Calif. -- Jared Goff has been here before. He's been young for the position, been counted on before he was ready, been under center for a team that hardly stood a chance. Goff was a teenager and a true freshman when he started every game for a Cal program that went 1-11 in 2013, losing 10 times by at least a couple of touchdowns.
"I don’t think people understand how difficult that was for an 18-year-old kid," Goff's father, Jerry, said in a recent phone conversation. "Unless you’ve been through it, you don't know how hard that is."
Jerry brings it up to prove a point -- that his son knows what it's like to get his ass kicked.
More importantly, that he knows how to get up, dust himself off and keep going.
Goff was the No. 1 pick for a Los Angeles Rams team that moved up 14 spots to select him, but he never challenged for the starting quarterback job during training camp and ultimately never won a game. He went 0-7 over the final seven weeks of a 2016 season that finished with a 4-12 record, absorbing 26 sacks while putting up some of the NFL's worst passing numbers.
A week later, Goff was back at the Rams' facility, poring through film even though he didn't even have a head coach.
He already had moved on to the biggest offseason of his life.
"He was chosen in a spot where there's a lot of expectations, and he embraces that," Jerry said. "He really, adamantly wants to let everybody know, through his production, that he is the guy and worthy of all the Rams did to get him. I think people are going to see that moving forward."
The Rams have since done everything they can to tap into Goff's potential. They took a chance on a 31-year-old Sean McVay, now the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, in large part because his offense can be so quarterback friendly. They guaranteed $15 million to a 35-year-old left tackle, Andrew Whitworth, because he remains one of the game's best pass blockers. They signed Robert Woods, a 25-year-old receiver, to a five-year, $34 million contract. And they used three of their first four picks on pass-catchers, even though they drafted four the year before.
But it's what Goff himself has done that has people around him encouraged.
He basically spent the entire offseason at the Rams' facility, immersing himself in the new playbook, adding 10 pounds to his willowy frame and displaying a leadership and an ownership of this offense that he never did last season. He has been exceedingly eager.
"It's my team to lead and my team to direct and control and command," Goff said. "I don't take that lightly."
Goff's real work began at 3DQB, the highly regarded, L.A.-based training facility that relies heavily on biomechanics to maximize a quarterback's throwing ability. For about four weeks from the start of February to the end of March, Goff worked with one of the program's instructors, Adam Dedeaux. The primary task, Dedeaux said, was to familiarize Goff "with the hows and whys of what makes him special, what makes him good, so that he can be repeatable and consistent."
Dedeaux wanted to build a foundation that gave Goff an understanding for what his quintessential throwing motion looks like, so that he can easily correct himself whenever it was off. By the end of their program, Dedeaux said Goff's mechanics "became way more repeatable." He saw more consistent accuracy, velocity and spin on his throws. He said Goff, who turns 23 on Oct. 14, is now "way better" and that he's "definitely on the right path."
"He has a lot to work on, and he knows that," Dedeaux said. "But I think he's got a good process."
Goff wasn't just bad as a rookie; he was deplorable. In the stretch of games he started, from Weeks 11 to 17, Goff posted the NFL's fourth-lowest completion percentage (54.6), fourth-worst touchdown-to-interception ratio (0.71), second-worst Total QBR (22.2) and fewest passing yards per attempt (5.31). He played behind a bad offensive line, threw to an underwhelming group of receivers and learned from a staff devoid of experience coaching NFL quarterbacks, but Goff himself didn't perform well enough.
Cian Fahey closely studies quarterbacks for Pre Snap Reads and has dedicated a 187-page catalogue to the position heading into the 2017 season. In it, Fahey utilizes a stat called accuracy percentage that strips away external factors -- throwaways, spikes, batted balls, Hail Mary passes and miscommunications -- to get a true measure of a quarterback's precision. Goff's accuracy percentage last year was 65.24 percent, last among the 33 quarterbacks analyzed. Fahey also broke down accuracy in six ranges, and Goff fell within the bottom three in five of them.
In Goff, Fahey saw someone with a relatively weak arm, shaky mechanics and poor footwork. He saw someone who couldn't spot underneath defenders and couldn't take his eyes off his first read in a timely manner. Fahey wrote that Goff "showed nothing during his rookie season that suggests he can even be a competent NFL quarterback, let alone a low-end starter."
The Rams are hoping McVay's intellect and Goff's resolve flip that narrative.
Those who don't know Goff tend to stereotype. They see a young, handsome California product and envision someone who is easygoing and laid back. Jerry, a Major League catcher from 1990 to '96, will tell you that "couldn't be further from the truth." He sees a kid whose work ethic "doesn't have an off switch" and whose confidence "never wavers."
"He never doubts himself, regardless of the situation," Jerry said. "He knows he can be successful at this level."
Jared said this year's training camp feels "night and day" from last year's. He has a year of NFL experience to lean on and he knows he will be the starting quarterback, so he's a lot more decisive and direct. His first three practices have been hit and miss, but it's early. And McVay sees steady progress. Tavon Austin was asked about the biggest difference in this year's Goff and he didn't hesitate.
"His confidence," Austin said. "... I like how he's taking control of the huddle."
Jerry remembers how much pressure Goff put on himself as a college freshman. The team was so bad, but he was already so good and he took it all on himself. It taught Goff a lesson about staying within himself. Goff improved a little each year, and in the process, so did the team. By the end of his junior year, the Golden Bears had their first winning season in four years and Goff had thrown for 4,714 yards and 43 touchdowns, shattering Pac-12 records.
His dad awaits a similar turnaround in the NFL.
"Judge him all you want, but give him some time," Jerry said. "He's going to be great. He's never not been. He's never not gotten better. I don't care what level it is, whether it's little league baseball or Pop Warner or high-school sports or college or whatever. His track record is he continues to get better year in and year out."