Did he surprise himself?
"No," Goff said. "I always knew what I could do."
From 2016 to 2017, Goff, the Los Angeles Rams' 2016 No. 1 overall pick, made significant strides in completion percentage (54.6 to 62.1), yards per attempt (5.3 to 8.0), touchdown-to-interception ratio (0.71 to 4.00) and passer rating (63.6 to 100.5). He finished 296-of-477, throwing for 3,804 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the regular season, before being eliminated by the Atlanta Falcons in the wild-card round this past Saturday night.
Robert Woods, a preferred target, expects Goff to get "a lot" better heading into his third year.
"He’s 23," Woods noted. "This was really like his first year playing, first year getting experience."
"It’s only his second year, so, yeah, there’s definitely a lot of [room for] improvement," running back Todd Gurley said. "We have to get better around him to help him improve, as well."
Goff's year-to-year improvement had a lot to do with those around him.
He operated behind a better offensive line, bolstered by the additions of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan, which helped Goff go from 26 sacks in seven games as a rookie to 25 sacks in 15 games as a second-year player. He threw to a more dynamic group of receivers, including Woods, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp, a trio that combined to haul in 65.4 percent of its targets for 2,243 yards and 18 touchdowns. Most importantly, he ran a more nuanced, quarterback-friendly scheme that was overseen by first-year head coach Sean McVay and helped the Rams become the first team in the Super Bowl era to go from last to first in scoring.
But Goff himself also showed his teammates something.
“That he can do it; that he can lead this football team," right guard Jamon Brown said. "I think he’s gotten the confidence of everybody in this locker room. Everybody feels confident in him and the growth that he’s made and the direction that he’s headed."
Woods was most impressed with Goff's "mental toughness, how he stands in the pocket."
"That was one thing I saw before coming here," Woods said. "He took some shots early, but he always stood in the pocket and trusted his receivers to get open."
Goff completed 71.9 percent of his passes when he operated within a clean pocket, sixth-highest among the 32 quarterbacks who took enough snaps to qualify. But he completed only 34.4 percent of his passes while under duress, which ranked 29th. Operating under pressure stands out as a major target for improvement. So does ball security, with Goff fumbling eight times this past season.
Speaking Sunday, Goff said there are "a lot of different things" he will look to shore up. But it was too early in his offseason to narrow the list down.
"I feel like I made some good steps," Goff said, "but a lot of work to do."
He'll remain in Los Angeles throughout the year, just like he did last year, and will once again spend some of his time before organized team activities working out at the acclaimed quarterback training facility 3DQB. McVay believes playing a full season will be a major benefit for Goff, just like having a full offseason benefited him last year.
"He’ll be able to look at himself critically, learn from some of the mistakes," McVay said. "He did a lot of really good things, too. I think it allows him to go into the offseason program with a lot of confidence."
While he took his lumps as a rookie, teammates and coaches raved about Goff's toughness, level-headedness and arm talent. In his second year, he was able to remain calm in the pocket, limit interceptions and make numerous impressive downfield throws. The game slowed down for him, and Goff -- suddenly surrounded by better teammates and better coaching -- was finally able to display the talent that made the Rams trade up 14 spots to draft him.
Now the expectation is that he'll take another step forward.
"There’s something special about that kid," said tight end Tyler Higbee, Goff's training camp roommate. "I think he’s going to keep getting better. Obviously you saw this year, what he’s done -- he’s shown that he can be that guy. There’s a reason he is that guy."