Ever since the Los Angeles Rams made that first pick in the NFL Draft, fans from all 32 teams have been speculating about the impact California Golden Bear Jared Goff will have. The transition from college to professional ball is never an easy one. The success of any player is very difficult to predict before he takes the field. However, in the NFL transition of Jared Goff, there is one particular difficulty he must overcome to succeed not just in the NFL, but within the Rams organization. He will face the adjustment from the Cal air raid offense (effectively named The Bear Raid) to the Jeff Fisher and Rob Boras offensive system.
The NFL Transition of Jared Goff
From 2013 to 2015, Jared Goff led the high-paced and manipulative Bear Raid offense under head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. He was the first true freshman to ever open a season for Cal. Goff excelled in the exciting system, shattering records all throughout his tenure in Berkeley. This included his final season with over 4,700 total passing yards and 43 touchdowns. Obviously, these numbers will hardly be replicated in the NFL’s context, but why exactly is that so?
The Bear Raid Offense
First, a quick look at the basics of the Bear Raid Offense and why it has had so much success for Goff. One of the biggest trademarks of Cal’s offense is the no-huddle element. In fact, Goff has not been in a true huddle since high school. The offense relies on speed and manipulation. It gains yards as quickly as possible, before a defense is able to properly prepare for the repeat attacks. This is done first by heavily employing elements of zone blocking. The line takes a faster and more malleable approach to the multiple plays run out of only a handful of formations.
Confusion is a big part of the Bear Raid. Hence, the simplicity in formations and a variety of plays that can come out of said formations. Many of these plays blossom into either runs or passes. The latter is often a short pass or screen, allowing linemen to maintain their blocking assignments as if within a run. Add all of this to a very high-paced play calling rhythm (the no huddle), and a heavy amount of passing, and you have the California Bear Raid offense. This is a system that Jared Goff was able to exploit for three standout years. It utilizes his excellent accuracy, light speed recognition, and overall consistent performance.
However, there is a reason this system is not found often in the NFL, outside of the fact that Cal had its own trouble winning games with it. The talent and complexity increases substantially at the professional level. Gimmicks do not last long on Sundays.
Los Angeles Offense
Jared Goff has proven that he can put up big numbers in a Bear Raid tactical assault. Fortunately for him, the Rams run a package surprisingly close to the fundamentals of his preferred system.
Starting with 2012-2014 offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, tweaked by successor Frank Cignetti Jr., and soon to be polished by first-time NFL coordinator Rob Boras, the Rams offensive system is marked by traits very similar to Goff’s pedigree. This includes elements of heavy zone blocking, a short passing game, and streamlined play calling, to some extent.
Many elements employed due to the infancy of the Rams offensive personnel may end up serving to Goff’s massive advantage. Jeff Fisher has his young linemen often packaged in a heavy zone blocking scheme. This pits their young athleticism against the stronger, experienced lines in front of them. This is similar to how the Bear Raid keeps the defense constantly tracking, moving, and guessing.
The short passing game will also be a great fit for Goff. He may be reluctant to take big shots down the field against aggressive defensive backs and fast-approaching rushers. Add to this Fisher’s inclination to give Tavon Austin more touches. He has excelled thus far in short passing scenarios. As a result of these factors, the formula for Goff’s success becomes much more of a reality. Additionally, Goff will have the added benefit of previous quarterbacks Nick Foles and Case Keenum both coming from air raid schools. They had the Rams offense already tailored around that familiar system.
Case Keenum was just recently named the starter, at the very least for the opening preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, and rightfully so. The issues Fisher sees in his first-round draft pick are ones that should not be ignored for the sake of seeing him on the field as soon as possible. Goff has a lot of adapting and a lot of learning to do. He currently lacks some key components of an offensive leader in the NFL.
The fact that Jared Goff has not been in a huddle since high school is very problematic. The ability to command a huddle is not an easy skill to develop. It becomes even more difficult amidst professional players. This is complicated even further when you have the least experience in the group. Simply delivering plays to the other ten in a clear and effective manner is an undertaking at this point. There will be a major learning curve for identifying mismatches and areas to exploit and then properly communicating them to his teammates within a drive.
Leading on the Field
There will also be times where he will have to motivate and correct players, managing the game at all points, which can appear very daunting to a rookie. Becoming a leader in this league takes a lot of practice. There needs to be a lot of confidence building both on and off the field. In addition to making big plays and keeping his offense running smoothly, Goff has a long way to go to earn his teammates’ respect and their trust. A rushed outing could set him up to delay this to a point very late in the season.
The complexity of an NFL playbook that will be even more difficult for someone coming off a simplified Bear Raid offense. There is also the issue of going to the line and calling audibles that Goff will need to master. Goff will be asked to make pre-snap reads against disguised coverages. He will also be in charge of audibling out of bad play calls and making key changes under center. With the intricate and ever-changing coverage fronts that have already been giving him trouble in camp, one can only assume disguised or delayed blitzes will rattle the young quarterback. They may also send him to the ground more often. A little more film study and some intense sideline presence can help the blossoming player develop some bearings. It will be important to do this before he is cast out onto the merciless NFL field.
None of these deficiencies indicate that Jared Goff will be a poor player or even a mediocre one. As Fisher is preaching, this rookie needs a little more time to learn the basics of the NFL. This is a slightly more daunting task given his Bear Raid background. The fact still remains that he threw for a staggering amount of yards. He also made a lot of outstanding plays in a very competitive Pac-12 division. Goff has been very impressive at camp, and against a nasty Greg Williams defense, at that. How exactly this translates to on-field professional football remains to be seen. If that happens four, five, or more weeks into the season, it’s better to have a late, great showing than an early, poor one.