Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines a seam route between Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp in the waning minutes that had Seattle on the ropes.
Failure is the best teacher. It’s a statement that applies well in multiple ways to scouting talent. I’m not referring to assessments where I’ve missed — we all have plenty of those in our histories.
I’m referring to big moments in games where a play fails. Last year, Jared Goff and the Rams drove the length of the field in the waning minutes of its first contest with the Seahawks and were inches away from a victory.
This seam route could have been the game winner.
The play failed, but there’s a lot to learn from it as an analyst of talent and the game. Goff showed poise to get the Rams into this position and when it came to holding up his part of the clutch moment’s execution, he performed well.
The sale of the look-off to the left was thorough. It’s the work of a cool customer whose behavior has no shred of anxiety in a pressure-packed moment. Goff turns back to his intended receiver and gets the ball out with pressure in his face.
This isn’t the work of a puppet. Goff, just like he did as a rookie and a freshman before that, is a mentally and emotionally tough leader. As with many games I’ve observed of Goff throughout the years, he sets the thermostat regardless of the talent around him.
This is difficult for many people to see or understand who are too results-driven and lack a process-oriented value system. Whether they’re analysts on Twitter or players and teammates talking about Goff on the NFL 100, they saw him as a completely different player.
While the results are different, Goff sets the temperature and keeps it steady. Derek Carr gets it. Whether you appreciate Carr or not as a producer, he’s in a leadership position and he understands the challenges of focusing on the details and not letting the big moments — bad or good — push him off course.
I omitted something about the featured play that you might have noticed: Goff’s pass was wobbly because of the contact at the end of his release. This added a layer of difficulty to the target and contributed to Kupp’s drop.
The pass remained catchable. The velocity was good, the location and placement were on the receiver’s hands and leading him to open grass. Kupp dropped the ball, but there are also positives worth remembering here.
The Rams and Goff game him the opportunity. And these red zone opportunities would not be the last for Kupp this year. Although he dropped multiple red zone passes last year, he earned targets in difficult but doable situations.
This was based on his work at Eastern Washington, training camp, and the preseason. The fact that the Rams continued going to him signals that Kupp inspired confidence in his teammates and staff.
While there’s a small margin for error with mistakes in the NFL, teams account for a rookie learning curve — especially when that rookie performs well enough to partially compensate for specific failures.
Results-oriented thinkers will believe that Goff hasn’t proven anything as a clutch player and Kupp isn’t a red zone threat. Process-oriented thinkers see growth in action. Besides, Sammy Watkins was the best red zone threat of the receiving corps last year and he’s been replaced by Brandin Cooks, who has never been a strong red zone presence both from a result- and process-oriented perspectives.
Last year, these players failed at key moments but it’s failure heading in the right direction. Keep this in mind when you’re tempted to buy into the “he’s a winner” label for certain prospects but not others.
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