If the NFL Draft goes as expected on Thursday night, quarterback Jared Goff will be the first player taken when the Los Angeles Rams make their selection. While Goff may still be a bit of a mystery to most NFL fans, former NFL head coach Jon Gruden says he made one of the great throws ever in college football and it is a sign that he could be better in the NFL than he was in college.
Goff was recently a guest on “Gruden’s QB Camp,” an ESPN special in which the coach-turned-analyst works out the top quarterback prospects, both on the field and while watching video.
During the film session, one play in particular stood out to Gruden, and it wasn’t even a touchdown. In fact, to the untrained eye, it was a simple 20-yard pass for a first down that didn’t even make the highlight shows.
But as Gruden explains, this pass is special for a couple of reasons. The first is that while this is an NFL pass, nobody throws it in college football anymore. The route run by the receiver is what Gruden calls “a seam-post.” That is, the receiver runs straight for seven strides (~13-15 yards) and then cuts in towards the goal posts.
“I haven’t seen a college seam-post since 1997,” Gruden said. “Nobody does this.”
Most college football offenses these days are built on getting the ball out of the hands of the quarterback quickly, so there is no time for a route 20 yards downfield to develop.
But more importantly on this play, Goff is able to throw a pass on a slow-developing play with almost no blocking.
In this case, the play is a run-pass option. That is, Goff has the choice to hand the ball off or keep it and pass to one of four receivers, depending on what the defence does. But the problem with that is, the offensive linemen don’t know what Goff is going to do, so they have to assume it is a running play.
At this point, of the linemen on the right side, one is on the ground and two are already moving downfield to block the run to the left. Two defensive linemen are making a bee-line to Goff and his receiver is still five yards away from making his cut.
If Goff is going to keep the ball and the defence sniffs it out quickly enough, they are going to have a free run in the backfield. And that means a huge hit on Goff and he knows it is coming.
Goff knew the defence was coming, had to wait for the slow-developing route, and still delivered an NFL-level throw for a first down.
“Bro, you can’t throw seam-posts with nobody blocking, but you just did,” Gruden told Goff. “That’s the greatest throw in the history of throws. I see stuff like this, I’m saying ‘What could this guy do if he had protection?'”
Part of this is hyperbole, of course, and some of this is a not-too-veiled shot at the offence being run at Cal. But Gruden’s point still stands: Goff may have been held back in college, and if so, he is one of those rare QBs who could actually be better at the next level.