In a now-famous Hard Knocks rant, Jeff Fisher told his Rams players , "I ’m not f------ going 7–9. Or 8–8, or 9–7, OK? Or 10–6, for that matter. This team’s too talented. I’m not going to settle for that."
Well, bad news, Coach ...
The Rams lost their third straight game Sunday morning, 17–10 to the Giants in London, sending them into their bye one game below .500. Case Keenum tossed four interceptions, counting one that led to New York's go-ahead TD and a brutal game-ending miscommunication with Brian Quick. Now the Rams are headed exactly where Fisher swore they would not, which would mark their fifth consecutive seasons failing to reach eight wins under Fisher.
So, at this point, it’s time for Los Angeles to see what it’s No. 1 pick can do. Jared Goff sat the first seven games of the season, while Keenum ran the offense. At times, Keenum even excelled in that role—he threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Cardinals; he posted three TDs and 321 yards in a loss to Detroit last week.
Never, though, did it feel like Keenum was going to be the answer if the Rams were truly to turn a corner. He was there to buy Los Angeles’s coaching staff time to prepare Goff. He did that, giving the rookie all of training camp and almost half the regular season to sit and watch, all while fellow rookies like Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott were playing well elsewhere.
The Rams are not going anywhere with Keenum. They may not go anywhere with Goff this season, either, but it’s time to start the wheels turning on their presumed quarterback of the future.
This is the perfect opening to make the switch. L.A. has the typical post-London bye week, followed by a home game with Carolina and its reeling secondary. Tossing Goff into the fire for his first action mid-game would have been a difficult proposition, but he has 14 days now to prepare for the job, should the Rams make the switch.
What is there to lose?
O.K., devil’s advocate: Maybe it is a complete mess with Goff in there. Goff was beyond mediocre during his preseason action (22 of 49 passing for 232 yards, two TDs and two INTs), part of why the Rams stuck with Keenum in the first place. Outside of the resurgent Kenny Britt, the Rams’ receivers don’t offer any QB much comfort, and the offensive line is a major trouble spot—left tackle Greg Robinson turned in a jet-lagged performance Sunday, continuing the 2014 No. 2 pick’s recent downslide.
The concern with giving any rookie quarterback the reins under difficult circumstances is that he crumbles, stifling any progress. It’s happened before. It could happen again with Goff.
But at some point, the Rams have to turn the page and commit toward the future. They put that future very much on the line when it traded a cornucopia of picks, including next season’s first- and third-rounders, to Tennessee for the chance to draft Goff.
Goff wasn’t ready to take over in Week 1? Fine. Patience is a virtue often hard to come by in the NFL, and Keenum did look the part in stretches.
The circumstances have changed now. This Rams season is yet again headed down the drain, the enthusiasm of their move to Los Angeles and a surprising 3–1 start undone by the last three games. At some point, it’s on the coaching staff to ensure that even if their rookie quarterback is not entirely prepared to be a full-time starter, he’s put in positions to succeed. If Goff is rough around the edges, it’s on the staff to work around those issues, as Philadelphia and Dallas did after their first-year quarterbacks were forced into action.
Fisher remained defiant following Sunday’s loss about the possibility of a QB change, recommitting to Keenum and stating that he sees the Rams’ receivers as more of an issue than the guy under center.
Maybe he’ll change his mind after time to decompress and reevaluate. Maybe he’s using Goff as a trump card to maintain his own job security—“Don’t fire me before you see what we can do with Goff in there.” Maybe Goff really has been that bad in practice and film sessions. (If it’s the latter, then the organization needs to take a hard look at its entire process, from front office to coaching staff.)
Whatever the real answer, the window for sticking with Keenum has closed. This team has maxed out with its current quarterback, as the sub-.500 team that Fisher promised it would not be.
For better or worse, it’s time to find out what Goff can do. The Rams invested too heavily in him to let another season evaporate while he stands on the sideline.