Green: Rams’ Jared Goff, 24, prepared for another battle of the ages
Atlanta — The standard procedure — back when Bobby Layne played and when Roger Staubach played and when Brett Favre played — dictated that hot-shot quarterbacks endure a waiting period before they were ready to compete in the NFL.
The apprenticeships lasted four or five seasons.
There were rare exceptions who jumped the gap from college to the pros as rookies.
Terry Bradshaw comes to mind. So do Joe Montana and John Elway and Joe Namath, Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman, Eli Manning and Jim Plunkett. They started fresh from their colleges.
But it took a while before they were sufficiently groomed to play in Super Bowls.
And not on every occasion, win them.
Now here is Jared Goff, finishing his third season as a pro, in Super Bowl LIII – taking on rival quarterbacks a generation older than he is.
First Drew Brees, in the Rams’ marred overtime victory over the Saints in the NFC championship game. Brees had just turned 40.
And now Goff, a mature 24, is preparing without much pomp and circumstance, to combat 41-year-old Tom Brady.
A match between a young quarterback in the Super Bowl due likely to an historic gaffe by the NFL officials and a not-yet craggy opponent with the experience of eight Super Bowls.
And Brady and the Patriots have won five of those previous eight.
This a generational duel between two quarterbacks who marched their teams to their victories in drives in overtime.
In the Super Bowl glare, Jared Goff steps up to a podium and says, “Cool.”
He is in a Rams’ blue windbreaker and a cap that bears the Super Bowl LIII logo on it.
When he removes the cap, I notice immediately that he fits the image provided more than 50 years ago about the quarterback species by the Lions’ late, quarterback-hating Alex Karras.
“They’re all blond, blue-eyed milk drinkers.”
I don’t know Goff’s favorite choice of beverage, but two of three is pretty good.
And he is cool.
“You are who you are,” he says.
“You do the same things here as you do any week.”
Vow to teammates
Goff was first off the board in the 2016 NFL draft out of California-Berkley. He became the Rams’ starting quarterback after nine games.
Thus, he started the final seven games of 2016 for a squad beset by mediocrity.
The Rams went 0-7 in rookie starts. He threw five touchdown passes compared to seven interceptions.
At the end of the 2016 seasons, he made a vow to his teammates, as related by the Los Angeles media:
“I promise you guys, it will get fixed ... everything in my heart and soul to get it all fixed.”
In two years, he quarterbacked a 2-14, reeling franchise to an appearance in the Super Bowl.
The Rams went 13-3 in the 2018 season. He reversed his statistics – 32 TD passes, only 12 interceptions.
The stats wizards at the NFL Network praised Goff Wednesday as the quickest quarterback ever selected first in the draft to reach the Super Bowl.
Bradshaw required five seasons with the Steelers. Namath was first in the AFL draft in 1965 and his $400,000 plus deal led to the merger with the NFL.
Then he needed five seasons of game play with the Jets to impact pro football in Super Bowl III.
Elway played in his first Super Bowl for the Broncos the end of his fourth season.
And he lost to Washington and Doug Williams, who was spectacular.
Brady yearned as a kid to be like Montana. Montana was passed over by all the NFL teams until late in the third round in 1979.
The stats guys at the NFL Network were over-restrictive in using Goff as an example of quarterbacks quickly reaching the Super Bowl.
They overlooked Montana reached Super Bowl XVI with the 49ers in his third pro seasons. He won it, memorably at the Silverdome.
Joe would be immortalized as winning QB in four Super Bowls.
Brady – as repeated so frequently – became protagonist in an NFL story that outdid his hometown, boyhood idol.
Passed over by all the self-styled brilliant NFL team builders until the sixth round of the 2000 draft, Brady was starting for the Patriots in his second season.
And that season — a virtual rookie — Brady guided the Patriots to the victory in the Super Bowl.
But it was not Brady and it was not Montana, who was Goff’s boyhood model.
“Peyton was the guy growing up,” Goff said, anointing the celebrated Peyton Manning.
Manning was first off the board with the Colts in 1998.
He made it to his first Super Bowl in his ninth season.
Jared Goff is cool as a pro quarterback at 24.
After the widely condemned officiating gaffe, the Rams still had to have savvy and poise at quarterback in the overtime vs. the game-hardened Brees.
Goff, with his cool, advanced the Rams far enough – before Greg Zuerlein’s provided the winning points with a deadeye 57-yard field goal.
A victory drive pretty similar to veteran Brady’s drive later that Sunday 10 days ago to beat the Chiefs and 23-year-old Patrick Mahomes.
The generations clash again at Super Bowl LIII.
Jerry Green, a retired sports writer, has covered every Super Bowl for The Detroit News.