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Gerald Lombardo

What would an offseason be — we’re going on eight years now — without a juicy Jon Gruden rumor?

The latest is that the Los Angeles Rams are very interested in throwing a boatload of money at Gruden to come coach their team, and that Gruden might be willing to listen to their overtures.

Consider these fully loaded caveats:

1. We don’t yet believe Gruden will leave his cushy TV gig to return to coaching.
2. Not everything Gruden says on his famous “QB Camp” show should be taken at face value.

With that being said, it’s worth at least going back to watch Gruden sit down before the 2016 NFL draft (and before the Rams traded up for the first pick) to hear what the coach had to say about Cal QB Jared Goff. After all, if Gruden would consider the Rams’ job he’d have to be completely on board with the player in whom the Rams invested so much to trade up for and draft.

The entire episode is worth a watch, but short of you doing that, here are some of the highlights, including some fascinating ones that take on new light considering everything that has happened to Goff and the Rams this season.

Goff arrived at Cal, and the place was a mess. He was recruited by Jeff Tedford, who then was fired and replaced with Sonny Dykes — two completely different offensive systems. Goff stuck with his commitment and was pegged to commandeer the full rebuild in Berkeley. It was a whale of a job for an 18-year-old freshman. The Bears were 1–11 his true freshman season, and Goff took a pounding behind a bad offensive line and a system that left him vulnerable often.

Now Goff sits as an unproven commodity for a Rams team that has gone in the tank. Jeff Fisher has been fired as coach, and John Fassel knows he’s no more than a placeholder as interim coach. Someone will take this job and (likely) instill a completely new offense. After a 3–1 start this season, the Rams have dropped nine of their past 10 and Goff and the rest of the offense are struggling behind bad blocking. And that means if they lose their final two games, the Rams will have closed out their season 1–11 down the stretch.

Gruden mentions off the top that Goff should embrace the struggle he went through early at Cal, as it likely will help prepare him for his inevitable rebuild wherever he lands in the NFL.

“If there’s one thing I want you to write down,” Gruden says, “it’s this: 1–11. I want you to keep that with you forever. I think it’s going to push you through some of the dark times. Someone is going to draft you early. And you know why they’re picking early? Because they’re probably 1–11. They’re probably going through a similar type of situation that you were in at Cal.”

Yes, the Rams’ rebuild certainly has some Cal-like aspects to it. Smart guy, that Gruden.

Goff admits with Gruden because, well, he has to; it’s his show. But the QB understood then what he might need to understand now: that this struggle of a rookie season with the Rams could help prepare him for what lies ahead, just as his freshman did for him at Cal.

A lot of this is cliché. It’s TV, and Gruden has heaped praise on pretty much everyone he’s had on his show the past seven years. This is a man who once compared Johnny Manziel to Steve Young.

Still, Gruden said in another forum that he “would want [Goff] if I were still coaching” and appeared impressed with his toughness and smarts.

“This kid will run through a brick wall to win a game,” Gruden said. “He’s tough, he’s smart, and he’ll shred you.

“When you look at the physical abuse he took, to keep coming back from that … that’s the kind of guy I am looking for.”

Goff’s toughness hasn’t been questioned in his five games since earning the starting job. But the protection the Rams have provided most certainly has. In each of the past four games, he was sacked three or more times and taken several big hits, including one last Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks that knocked him out of the game and landed Goff in the concussion protocol.

Author: Eric Edholm