CALABASAS, Calif. — Jared Goff still has a home in the hills about 20 miles southeast of the Los Angeles Rams’ training facility, and he still has close ties to many of the people responsible for the team’s second trip to the Super Bowl in four seasons. Eight days ago, while the Rams were rallying for a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game at nearby SoFi Stadium, Goff took it all in from his couch near the front entryway and took pleasure in their moment of triumph.

Yet while the Rams’ former franchise quarterback expresses what seems to be genuine happiness for L.A.’s success — even cheering the accomplishments of his replacement, Matthew Stafford — Goff can’t help but experience a surreal strain of displacement.

His well-wishing may be sincere, but the FOMO is real.

“Most of all, I’m happy for those guys because I know how hard they’ve worked, and they deserve it,” Goff said Sunday while sitting in his sunny backyard, a week before the Rams and Cincinnati Bengals will meet at SoFi for Super Bowl LVI. “Of course, as a human, you feel like you can be missing out at times. But I think about, if I was in that situation, how would they feel about me? They’d be equally as thrilled for me.

“It’s something that you wish you could be a part of in your own right with the Lions, but we’re not right now — and watching them do it is just another part of the journey.”

Goff’s journey, which included a mostly successful five-year run with the team that drafted him first overall in 2016, featured an abrupt relocation to Detroit a little more than a year ago, when he was included in the blockbuster trade that brought Stafford to L.A.

So yes, Goff is human, and yes, he has human eyes and ears. He knows his once-healthy connection with Rams head coach Sean McVay deteriorated in the 17 months after the Rams signed Goff to a four-year, $134 million contract extension, in the wake of a Super Bowl LIII run that ended with a disappointing defeat to the New England Patriots. He understands that Stafford, who failed to win a playoff game during his 12 seasons as the Lions’ starter, has now been anointed as the ultimate upgrade that propelled L.A. to its current perch, not to mention the quarterback who finishes McVay’s sentences, and vice versa.

And Goff, who battled through a 3-13-1 season with the Lions, is well aware that his past exploits — including an epic performance in the Rams’ 2018 NFC championship game victory in New Orleans — are yesterday’s news, and that unless, and until, he gets back to the big stage with another team, he’ll be treated as a bit of an afterthought in such contexts.

“I mean, it happened,” Goff said of the Rams’ Super Bowl run that he helped spearhead three seasons ago. “But it doesn’t matter. I think this whole league is ‘What have you done for me lately’?

“That was a long time ago, at this point, and something I look forward to getting a chance to get back to. It takes a lot of hard work in the offseason and doing things the right way, and ultimately winning your division or getting in as a wild card and anything can happen. But for our organization, it’s one step at a time right now.”

Goff will step away from the madness of Super Bowl week on Tuesday and take a pair of mini-vacations in other locales. He said he plans to watch the game, partly because of his ties to his former teammates and others in the Rams organization, and also because of his friendship with Bengals coach Zac Taylor, who was an assistant on McVay’s Rams staff in 2017 and ’18.


Jul 28, 2018; Irvine, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16), quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor (center) and coach Sean McVay react during training camp at UC Irvine. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ sudden ascent in Taylor’s third season, after they went 6-25-1 in his first two years, gives Goff hope that the Lions can make a similarly sharp turnaround. It’s something Goff experienced in his second NFL season, when McVay took over a team that had gone 4-12 in 2016 and guided the Rams to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.

“That’s something I’ve talked about in Detroit, (what I experienced) with the Rams — it can turn so quickly,” Goff said. “You can go from having a high draft pick to making the playoffs so quickly, if you do the right things in the offseason and work hard and do everything right. Zac Taylor is another guy who I’m close with, and just talking with him over the last couple of years and hearing his process and how they’re doing things the right way — and getting it to a point where you are competitive and winning games and having fun — it’s really cool. And all of that’s something we look forward to.”

Goff had a rough start in his new home, as the Lions lost their first eight games (and didn’t win one until their 12th). He ended up with solid statistics, completing 67.2% of his passes for 3,245 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a 91.5 passer rating. And despite missing three starts due to a knee injury and a bout with COVID-19, Goff improved as the season progressed, with a 3-2-1 record in his final six games.

The most tangible change came during the team’s bye week: Though Goff and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn had a good personal connection, there were obvious struggles on game day, to the point where rookie head coach Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties at midseason, with tight ends coach Ben Johnson assuming a larger role. The results improved once the change was made: Goff threw eight touchdowns and six interceptions and had an 85.3 passer rating with Lynn calling the plays; he had 11 touchdown passes, two interceptions and a 101.8 rating with Campbell making the calls. Lynn has since left to take a job with the San Francisco 49ers as their assistant head coach, while Johnson was promoted to replace him.

“The last six or seven games Dan took over and put a pretty good fingerprint on it, and I thought Ben Johnson was incredible as well,” Goff said. “I thought we were able to see a glimpse of what we’re capable of — and what I’m capable of and our offense as a whole — when we’re doing things the right way. We started eliminating some of the stupid stuff, some of the penalties, some of the pre-snap stuff, and it really got clean and it got efficient. That’s how it’s supposed to look.”

The signature moment of the Lions’ second-half mini-surge came on Dec. 19 when they rolled to a 30-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, who led the NFC West at the time. Detroit ended its season with a victory over the Green Bay Packers, who had already clinched the NFC’s top seed and pulled some starters as the game progressed.

“We kind of went through the mud through those first 12 weeks, and to be able to come out the other side and win, you’re able to receive that reward,” Goff said. “You get the candy after you serve your punishment. It’s part of how the season went for us. And I think it was big for the young guys and a lot of guys on the team to feel that and to know that, OK, it wasn’t all for naught, we were putting in all that hard work for a reason.”

Similarly, the hard work put in by his former teammates, including good friends like All-Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and tight end Tyler Higbee, is what enables Goff to derive happiness from the Rams’ success in his absence.

“It’d be one thing if I didn’t think that they earned it or deserved it,” he said. “Those guys work hard there and deserve everything they’re getting. I’m so happy for Matthew, so happy for Cooper, so happy for Whitworth to go get another shot at it.”

And yes, you read that quote right: Awkward as it may seem, Goff is appreciative of Stafford’s success.

“Yeah, I’ve always been a huge fan of Matthew’s as a player and as a person,” he said. “I know that what he went through the first part of his career was tough, and seeing him battle through that and get his opportunity now, it’s amazing. You root for people like that. It’s impossible not to. And it’s impossible not to root for good things to happen to good people.”


Oct 24, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) shake hands after the coin flip before the start of the Rams-Lions game at SoFi Stadium. The Goff was traded to thew Lions for Stafford in the off-season. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Wearing a Cal letterman sweater honoring the memory of Joe Roth, who preceded him as a Golden Bears quarterbacking great by four decades, Goff smiled often during our conversation. Toward the end, as he pondered what he hopes will be an eventual return to the big stage with his new team, he grew more serious, and his competitive fire began to flare.

“I think the overwhelming feeling is how happy I am for those guys and them getting a chance to win it, and how many friends I have there — and coaches and staff, and all the way up to (owner Stan) Kroenke — them getting to experience it for a second time,” he said of the Rams. “But at the same time, the competitor in you, you want to do it personally. I’m focused on how can we get the Lions to a championship game, to the playoffs, to win the division? That’s what the majority of my focus is.

“We all run our own race, whatever that may be. It’s part of the journey and this year obviously was a tough experience, winning three games and all that, but it’s all part of the journey. My time will come, whenever that may be, to get another crack at it. In order to get there, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. And that’s part of my job and my responsibility. My ultimate and entire focus now is on myself and how I can be better for my team this upcoming season. How can I be at my best consistently and be a part of building a winning culture in Detroit?

“It’s how it goes, you know — everyone runs their own race and everyone gets their chance.”

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