[Ed. note: Lots of animated gifs in this post, so it might take a while to load, but it'll be worth the wait.]
Jared Goff has been my favorite pick for QB for some time. He's on a lot of radars to be sure, and despite his naysayers there are many who feel he won't even make it to the Dallas Cowboys at pick #4. That, and the Senior Bowl buzz, have moved many prognosticating eyes on to Carson Wentz instead. Nonetheless I remain hopeful that Dallas will have the opportunity to draft Goff. If they view him as I do, they might even move up to get him - to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, if I read the BTB commenters correctly.
But why would someone be so high on a guy that threw five picks against a college team? On 10/10/2015, the then undefeated Cal Bears took on the #5 ranked Utah Utes. It was a disaster for Goff as he threw five interceptions (four in the first half) to only two touchdowns and his team dropped their first game. Nonetheless, looking at what might be the worst game of Goff's career to date gives me some reasons to remain a huge Goff supporter. First, let's look at the interceptions.
Right read. Perfect throw. Goes right through Kenny Lawler's hands for what should have been an easy red zone penetration and might have been a touchdown as the coverage left his path to the end zone unobstructed.
Pick two is a little less obvious.
There are double slants being run on the offensive right. Lawler's job here is to get across the face of the defender no matter what. At first glance, it might look like Goff has led the throw too far, but the final slow motion view of the play clearly shows the defender pulling Lawler off of what was supposed to be a sharper inward cut and preventing Lawler from getting across to where the ball needed to go. On a timing route like that, Goff cannot be faulted.
The third interception does place some blame on Goff. On first glance it looks terrible.
The guy is clearly undercut and not even open, why would Goff throw that ball? Here's a still shot taken just before release. Goff has checked the right side of the field and comes back to see this:
Two things you can see from this shot, but I've blurred one of them to show what Goff is thinking. Thing 1: every receiver is currently covered. But thing 2, which I have focused on in this shot, is the gigantic wide open area from the numbers to the numbers, across the field and out to the 20 yard line where there is exactly nobody. Goff has a receiver heading into that area and he throws the ball betting on his receiver, Treggs Bryce, to beat his man to the ball as he has so many times this season. He doesn't and Goff turns the ball over on a risky, but not totally unwarranted, throw.
On to pick 4.
It's a jailbreak on a screen which is always dangerous. Goff doesn't get enough loft on the ball and it's tipped by a lineman, but what makes the interception happen is that lineman Dominic Granado cut blocks his own RB, Vic Enwere leaving no one to prevent the Utes LB Gionni Paul from making a spectacular grab.
Now to explain why I like Goff. He's thrown four interceptions in one half of football, never having thrown more than 3 in a game in his career. His team is down by two touchdowns and he comes back and leads a two minute scoring drive. No spectacular plays, by the way, and a lot of it came on a WR screen that broke big. But still significant that he came back and led that drive to keep his team in the game.
But he also went on to make plays like this one, which should look vaguely familiar
And throws like this one into a window, still trusting a receiver that he can't even see clearly to make the play.
Or this perfect strike to move his team forward again.
The ability to come back after a four-interception half and make these type of NFL quality plays is a very important trait. The resilience and mental toughness here are huge traits that team leaders need to have.
Unfortunately, he still had his worst play of the day to make.
With an unblocked blitzer right in his face from the moment he takes the hand off, Goff doesn't think and throws straight into the teeth of bracket coverage for an easy pick.
Still he didn't fold up the tents. With 3 minutes to go and only one score down, he still managed to make plays like this 3rd and 12 conversion:
Or these two strikes to move his team as the clock ticked down:
But the comeback was not to be as, after a drop, he threw this pass on 4th and 5 with 31 seconds left and two time outs:
and once again Utah gets away with a pretty blatant penalty.
Still, Jared Goff showed a lot of moxie and resilience keeping his team in the game with a top opponent. The ability to come back and play like you know how to play when things are not going your way, to perform and fight in adversity, is extremely valuable, and very few places is it more valuable than at quarterback in the NFL. It's one of the things which makes Tony Romo great, and I believe it will make Jared Goff great as well.