Rams, Jared Goff hoping to buck trend of 'Air Raid' misses

LOS ANGELES -- At first blush, the pairing of quarterback Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams doesn't make much sense from a schematic standpoint.

Goff spent 99 percent of his college career at California lined up in the shotgun or pistol formation. The Rams spent less time in those formations than any NFL team in 2015. So if the simple act of lining up is going to be a big adjustment for Goff, then what about the more difficult pieces of learning a pro-style offense after playing in Cal's wide open "Bear Raid" scheme for the past three years?

“It’ll obviously be an adjustment, but that’s going to be for any team and any player for that matter that is going to an NFL team," Goff said. "I am excited for it, and I am excited to get to work and getting ready to play.”

Goff will have no shortage of adjustments to make in going from one of the college game's most notorious spread offenses to one that has been as strictly pro-style under coach Jeff Fisher.

Goff's collegiate career was spent directing coach Sonny Dykes' spread system, a scheme that emphasizes tempo without huddles, plenty of three, four and even five-wideout formations and little in the way of the lengthy NFL verbiage that Goff will grow to learn. Goff took exactly one snap under center in his three years leading the Bears.

It was hard to argue with the results. Like most "Air Raid" offenses derived from originators like Mike Leach and Hal Mumme, the numbers were eye popping. Goff threw for 12,195 yards and 96 touchdowns in his three college seasons, setting multiple school records along the way.

Goff's production compares favorably to many other top "Air Raid" quarterbacks, such as Tim Couch, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel and Kevin Kolb. The other thing those quarterbacks have in common? Serious struggles at the NFL level.

In the growing history of uber-productive "Air Raid" college quarterbacks, the number is essentially the same as NFL signal-callers who haven't worked out. Couch was the only previous No. 1 overall pick from an "Air Raid" offense. He posted a whopping passer rating of 75.1 in his five-year career.

Goff's new teammate, Nick Foles, has the highest passer rating (87.3) of quarterbacks to play in the scheme in college, but that number is skewed by a huge 2013 season in Philadelphia playing in a wide-open system that had him in the shotgun on a regular basis. Foles struggled mightily in 2015 when the Rams asked him to transition to a more pro-style scheme.

Case Keenum, the quarterback the Rams have earmarked as Goff's mentor, also came from an "Air Raid" scheme in college and had a little bit of success as the Rams starter at the end of last season. He should be able to offer Goff plenty of tips on making the transition.

Taking all of that into account, it seems risky for the Rams to bet their future so heavily on Goff. But they have their reasons.

“If you look at his college, I think there is a natural instinct to anticipate, to get the ball out quickly, to read coverages quickly, get to the second and third reads," general manager Les Snead said. "People who can do it as fast as he can, I don’t want to say you are born with it, but mom, dad, God, somehow there is a DNA that comes natural. Whether you are an 'Air Raid' or however we are going to name it, I think you kind of notice that in players, whether they have that special quality or not.”

Goff took over the starting job as a freshman, and with each passing year Dykes offered him more freedom within the system. Unlike many spread schemes, Cal's offense wasn't just simple slants with little in the way of progressions. By Goff's final season in 2015, he had almost absolute power to run Cal's offense.

“I was in control of a lot as far as protections, route combos, running plays and everything in between," Goff said. "At the line of scrimmage, I was changing a lot of stuff. I think it is something that will transition well and I can carry with me to the next level.”

Even with that experience, Goff knows he won't be able to just flip a switch and put up the gaudy stats of his college days. After he was drafted, Goff made it clear that NFL speed is going to be a challenge, as the throwing windows will be tighter and the receivers and defensive backs will be faster.

Goff will get his first glimpse of the Rams playbook this week. In it, he'll find plenty of quick drops asking him to get the ball out quickly and, of course, plenty of handoffs to running back Todd Gurley. New offensive coordinator Rob Boras and passing game coordinator Mike Groh will also look to add more shotgun work to help ease Goff's adjustments.

“I think a lot of our passing concepts were similar to some of the stuff they do, from what I have seen," Goff said. "There is a lot of stuff that translates. I haven’t seen enough of their playbooks to know exactly what it is, but from what I have seen there are a lot of passing concepts that translate, and a lot of shotgun stuff that does translate.”

As for working under center, Goff has been working on it throughout the pre-draft process.

“I think it is just muscle memory," Goff said. "It took me a few days to get used to it, and I’ve been doing it ever since I got out of Cal. It’s not something I think there is going to be too much of an issue with."