The Rams clawed their way to the Divisional Round before bowing out in a two-score loss to the Packers on Saturday, setting up Los Angeles for an interesting offseason at the game's most important position.
Jared Goff managed to return from thumb surgery in time to enter the game in an emergency situation and help the Rams earn a wild-card win over Seattle in which its defense was the biggest winner. But Goff wasn't able to keep the Rams in an offensive showdown with the Packers, who ran away with a 32-18 win. Goff finished the season with an adequate body of work, posting a final passing line of 3,952 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, a completion percentage of 67 and a 90 passer rating.
Goff was as effective as he was inconsistent, showing a tendency to start games the Rams ended up winning on a hot streak, and also beginning other contests with struggles typical of his worst days in the NFL. The Rams simply haven't known which Goff they'd get on a consistent basis, leaving the door open for McVay to take a hard look at his team's future at all positions -- including under center.
McVay told reporters Saturday that Goff is "the quarterback right now," which wasn't exactly the most resounding endorsement, and then Sunday he would not implicitly state Goff is the QB going forward in L.A. NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported Monday there's more than just inconsistent performance at play with the quarterback situation for the Rams.
"We know John Wolford came in and they were excited about him when Jared Goff got hurt and the way he performed, and then he got hurt," Wyche said. "So I think a lot of people are wondering if they're going to bring in a veteran type of quarterback to push Jared Goff this offseason. Or at least have that threat there as a backup to see if they can elevate Goff.
"The people I've spoken to said basically at this moment the relationship with Goff and McVay: not great. They need marriage counseling is what one person said to me. I think this is something that they're going to be able to work through, but there's got to be some healing and that's not just with Jared Goff's injured thumb."
McVay's vague responses in Saturday's aftermath seemed to indicate there was an underlying uncertainty about Goff's standing that extended beyond his inconsistent play. He did credit Goff for his effort in returning to help the Rams win a playoff game, but noted he needs to meet with Goff to develop a shared understanding heading into an important offseason.
"For me to fully answer that, I think those are conversations that you have between (you and) your players first," McVay said Sunday, when asked what he needs to feel confident in Goff going into 2021, via the team's official site. "To be able to have the right plan of attack, I think you've got to be able to take a step back, evaluate the entirety of it. What I will say that you certainly can't take away, that I mentioned to you guys each the last couple of weeks, (is that) for him to come back from a thumb surgery, do what he did in Seattle, do what he did yesterday, it's a real credit to him, his competitiveness, his resilience. I think there's a lot of positives from that."
Positives also emerged from the brief performance of backup John Wolford, who was called into action in Week 17 following Goff's thumb injury and did enough to get the Rams to the postseason with a regular season-ending win. McVay was unusually optimistic and encouraging when it came to what he saw from his backup in the lead-up to Los Angeles' wild-card meeting with Seattle, but was robbed of a full showing after an early neck injury ended his day.
Wolford's existence could be enough to push Goff, one might think, but a third roster spot occupied by someone other than Blake Bortles could prove more effective in pushing the former No. 1 overall pick. After all, that type of draft selection brings with it expectations of a premier passer, not just an adequate one, and with a top-ranked defense essentially being wasted by an offense that didn't match its performance, it's time for McVay to search for ways to improve.
"I'd say, I think as you grow, as you continue to learn, that's just where we're at," McVay said, when asked why he might feel a need for a quarterback competition in 2021. "I'm not saying anything other than we're evaluating that right now. I think it's important that you do that at every single spot and no position is excluded from that conversation."
The Rams are now free to join their division rival Seahawks in Cabo, if they so desire, but they have to feel as if their season ended prematurely with such a stellar group on one side of the ball. McVay has plenty of time to work with general manager Les Snead on a plan of attack for 2021.