A closer look at McVay's play calling with Goff

There has been a bit of talk on this forum about the Rams’ struggles on offense and how much of the blame was directed towards Goff for those issues. I have been reading quite a few articles and watching video, and here are a few articles that caught my eye.

2020 play-calling tendencies

Los Angeles Rams: Looking at Sean McVay’s 2020 play-calling tendencies

5 months ago Blaine Grisak

The only individual criticized more for the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive struggles last season other than Jared Goff was head coach Sean McVay. Goff should take a lot of the blame last season. However, McVay’s play calling shouldn’t be swept under the rug either.

Two things can be true at the same time. Jared Goff played terribly and turned the ball over AND Sean McVay made mistakes in play-calling and occasionally put his quarterback in position to fail.

Los Angeles Rams Snap-Rates – Under Center vs. Shotgun

The Los Angeles Rams were among the leaders in the league last season in snaps from under center. McVay called 59% of snaps under center compared to 41% of plays in shotgun. That 59% rate under center ranked tied for second in the league behind only Minnesota and tied with Tennessee.

The play calls from under center is where this gets interesting. It’s also where McVay gets incredibly predictable. The Rams ran the ball 67% of the time from under center. However, compared to shotgun, the Rams ran the ball only 9% of the time in that formation. That 9% ranked dead last in the NFL.

The question then becomes if that 9% is enough to keep defenses honest. Most likely not.

The discrepancy is seen again in passing plays. The Rams throw the ball 33% of the time under center and 93% of the time from shot gun.

Going off of those numbers, it’s pretty easy for defenses to know what the Rams are going to do when. Under center it’s more 50-50 and the run-pass discrepancy is more in line with the rest of the league. However, in shotgun, it’s pretty clear that the Rams are going to be throwing the ball.

This is pretty in-line with past seasons under McVay as well. In 2019, the Rams ran the ball just 5% of the time from shotgun and in 2018 it was 4%.

Here is another article detailing the Rams shotgun tendencies:

Rams’ predictability out of shotgun is becoming a huge flaw

For two years, Sean McVay was one of the toughest coaches to figure out. His offense was dynamic and difficult to stop, helping elevate the play of everyone from Todd Gurley to Robert Woods to Jared Goff.

The basis of his offense is utilizing 11 personnel, pre-snap motion and play-action passes to deceive the defense. After all, common says having the same 11 players on the field for nearly every play makes it difficult to predict whether it’s a pass or run coming.

For two years, his scheme worked to perfection. This season has not been so kind to McVay with many suggesting he’s been exposed by opposing defenses. To an extent, that assessment isn’t necessarily wrong. But at the same time, the offensive line is decimated and Goff has regressed as a result.

But if there’s one thing McVay can control, it’s tendencies and tells. One in particular sticks out like a sore thumb when you watch the Rams play – and it’s probably something you’ve noticed yourself.

The Rams never run the ball out of shotgun formations.

According to Inside Edge, running backs have only gotten 12 carries out of the gun this year, picking up 45 yards on such plays. Both numbers are the lowest in the NFL by a wide margin. When the Rams go into shotgun formations, they throw the ball 96% of the time, according to Sharp Football Stats. Of course, that’s the widest differential in the league, with the next-closest team being the Buccaneers (91% pass).

And there is 1 more article about McVay not trusting Goff… becoming overly conservative.

How much does Sean McVay really trust Jared Goff?

Publicly, Sean McVay has been one of Jared Goff’s biggest supporters. He frequently credits the job his quarterback does week in and week out, even saying at one point there’s no quarterback he’d rather have. The Rams’ commitment to Goff with a $134 million contract showed their faith in him, but how much does McVay really trust his quarterback?

Watching the Rams this season, it’s hard to feel completely sold on the fact that McVay has 100% trust in Goff. It shows up in situations where coaches often give their quarterbacks a chance to make a big play. But not McVay – not with Goff.

Take third-and-long, for instance. How many times have we seen McVay call a screen to a running back or wide receiver on third-and-15, essentially giving up and waving the white flag? Ask any Rams fan and they’ll tell you, “Way too many times.”

This season, the Rams have faced 16 third downs where they needed at least 15 yards. On 10 of those plays, they threw it. Six times, they ran it. Based on Stathead’s play tracking, not a single one of those 10 passes was a deep throw, and all of them were classified as “short.”
Of Goff’s eight completions on third down needing at least 15, only three went to Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds or Robert Woods. The others went to Gerald Everett, Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown – running backs and a tight end.
>As you might’ve suspected, the Rams haven’t converted once on third-and-15 or more. Only seven other teams have failed to convert a single time on third-and-15-plus.

If you compare the Rams’ play selection to that of the Chiefs’, there’s a massive difference. Kansas City hasn’t run the ball with a running back a single time in 18 such situations. Patrick Mahomes has thrown 14 passes, was sacked once, kneeled it down once and scrambled twice. Of his 14 pass attempts, Stathead classified five as deep throws.

Need I remind you, Goff has zero deep pass attempts on third-and-15-plus and the Rams have run the ball six times on those plays – tied for second-most in the NFL, behind only the Seahawks.

Even on second down when the Rams need at least 15 yards, McVay favors short passes and runs. On 19 plays where the Rams needed 15-25 yards, they ran it six times, which is tied for fifth-most, and only one of Goff’s 13 passes was classified as “deep.”

McVay simply doesn’t give Goff the chance to take shots on second- or third-and-long. He’d rather throw a quick screen to avoid disaster, which is an obvious sign of distrust in his quarterback.

He admitted he wanted to play it safe and avoid a turnover after the Rams’ win over the Giants when he called back-to-back screens in the red zone, which infuriated fans.

With the Rams leading 7-3, they faced second-and-goal from the Giants’ 12-yard line after Goff took an 8-yard sack on first down. McVay proceeded to call a screen to Malcolm Brown on second down, which lost 2 yards. Then on third down, McVay called another screen, this one going to the right for Woods, gaining no yardage.

After the game, McVay gave a candid answer to a question about why he got so conservative in the red zone. He admitted he just wanted to avoid disaster.

Those are situations that I’m not worried about being predictable there. I just wanted to take the points,” he said. “Both those situations the last couple of weeks were third-and-long. Didn’t want to do anything where you’ve got a chance for a good reward and a low risk in those situations. It’s kind of like a two-minute drive-starter. That’s a big alert for the screen. I’m OK with that because in those two specific situations you’re referring to, it was more about, ‘All right, let’s not turn the ball over or go backwards at all, we’ll take the three.’ A little bit more of a conservative approach in both of those situations, but sometimes those are decisions we have to make as coaches.”

Do you really think Andy Reid would have second-and-goal from the 12 and force Mahomes to throw back-to-back screens? Do you think Matt LaFleur would call consecutive screens for Aaron Rodgers in that situation?

It comes down to trusting your quarterback to not make a colossal mistake, and McVay simply doesn’t trust Goff to take care of the ball. He acknowledged Goff’s penchant for giving the ball away after the Rams’ second loss to the 49ers, saying very flatly, “our quarterback has got to take better care of the football.”

If you expand the sample size beyond just third-and-long, there’s an obvious lack of deep passes overall. Here are Goff’s stats on passes that traveled at least 20 yards since the Rams’ Week 9 bye.

  • Week 10: 3/6
  • Week 11: 0/1
  • Week 12: 1/5, 1 INT
  • Week 13: 0/1
  • Week 14: 0 attempts
  • Week 15: 0/2
  • TOTAL : 4/15, 1 INT

Not only is Goff failing to connect on deep passes, but McVay isn’t even calling them. The majority of Goff’s throws come within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, taking easier completions and hoping his receivers gain yards after the catch – which Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp typically do.

That worked early in the season when defenses were still figuring out the Rams, but teams have been more aggressive lately. They’re stacking the line of scrimmage, daring Goff to beat them. And in recent weeks, he hasn’t.

Look at Goff’s passing charts this season from Next Gen Stats, which illustrates a severe lack of deep pass attempts, especially since the bye.

Some of this comes down to McVay not trusting the Rams offensive line, either. It takes time for deep shots to develop, and if Goff can’t get time in the pocket, those plays don’t work. So rather than straining the offensive line with deep drops and long-developing plays, McVay has opted for shorter, quicker passes to make life easier for the linemen.

That’s understandable, but at some point, he has to open up the offense and take some shots deep. They may not work all the time, and Goff will face pressure, but the offense has become so condensed that defenses are sitting on short passes without any threat of throws being made over their heads.

Until McVay begins to trust his quarterback in crucial situations – like in the red zone, or on second- and third-and-long – the Rams offense is going to rely on quick passes and yards after the catch. Against smart defensive coaches, like Brian Flores and Robert Saleh, that won’t get it done.

This final article was pretty critical of the offensive genius that few members of the national media have criticized while jumping on the Rams’ bandwagon this offseason.
Will be interesting to see how the season plays out for Goff and McVay!!!


It was bad… Still wonder why Goff was getting all the blame even though his completion % was high and he moved the offense well most of the time.

Considering the Rams Oline and Stafford’s inconsistency at times, I have a feeling we will see this McVay again at some point in the season. He hasn’t learned that you have to take deep shots to loosen the defense. A 40 yard throw on 3rd and 15 at the 50 yard line that gets intercepted on the 10 is not a terrible thing. Several of Brady’s picks last year were exactly that.


Stafford will take deep shots even if McVay is trying to dink and dunk.


If he has time and if he has a jumpball WR , he won’t have either.


And not if he can’t count to 3.


I’m not sure mcvay can handle a qb not doing what he calls…

He’s sat WRs and TEs for less


Patrick Stewart Cheers GIF by Blunt Talk

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He’s going to have to deal with it now. Its not something Stafford is going to change. If the guys in LA can catch 50/50 balls like Golladay, Jones, etc its going to look brilliant. If they can’t win those situations, it’s going to be trouble.


Good thing they got Tutu… at 5’9" tall and with 33 inch vertical.
29 inch arms won’t help the catch radius.

Robert Woods brings more height… not much more leaping ability.

Cooper Kupp… almost 6’2" tall… not much elevation though with 31 inch vertical.


Van Jefferson didn’t have any workouts before the draft.
The scouting reports I read don’t indicate he is much of a downfield threat though.

D-Jax has played 8 games in past 2 years.
They may need a lot out of the 35 year old.

If McVay takes the ball out of his hands Matt will let him hear about it on the sideline.

I have no idea what the point of getting Matt Stafford would be if you were going to have him throw 3rd and 15 screen passes all the time.


Now there’s a good look. Dumping Goff 17 months after paying him, then benching Stafford after dumping Goff, 2 first rounders and a 3rd. I’d love to hear McVain ‘splainin’ that…

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Tutu’s dad played at Minnesota and you pulled up his draft profile.

Here’s the Rams Tutu’s draft profile which is a little better.
Tutu Atwell Draft and Combine Prospect Profile | NFL.com

Nice catch… I’ll edit my post to show his numbers.

But now he has a gunslinger veteran QB who will take those deep shots…

For all McVay’s criticism of Goff, why did the Rams lose the playoff game to the Packers on the road?

It wasn’t Goff, who had zero turnovers. In fact, the team had zero turnovers. Goff was 21-27 for 174 yards with 1 TD, a QBR of 83.8, and QB rating of 103.8.

The Packers had 188 yards rushing and 296 yards passing for 484 yards of total offense against a defense that was supposed to be one of the best, if not the best, in the NFL. Aaron Donald had exactly one assist. No solo tackles; no sacks; no QB hits. [In contrast, Brockers had 8 total tackles with 4 solos.]

McVay complains about Goff’s fumbles, but the one that really grated on his nerves, which resulted in a 78 yard return for a TD by Miami, doesn’t appear to have been Goff’s fault.

Miami brought 6 pass rushers with one on a slight delay. There was a crossing WR (not sure if he was supposed to chip block the guy or not, but he didn’t). Goff’s looking to his left and the rusher, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, was coming from the right.

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of similar plays with Stafford and the same result–a fumble.


Did you count to 3?

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I think Donald was injured in that game but I’m not sure. And I know the stats say the Rams had the best defense last year, but that Bucc’s defense in the playoffs was far and away the best defense I saw last year. I know everyone gives Brady a lot of credit and deservedly so, but to me the playoffs mvp was that Bucc’s defense.


The announcer blames Goff for this fumble. Like you said, the WR probably should have chipped or even tried to block the DE, I don’t know if there was a mix-up on the play or someone missed an assignment or the wrong blocking call was made…or Goff just missed that there were 6 defenders on the line and only 5 blockers but Ogbah came in untouched and Goff wasn’t expecting that.

The Rams defense was definitely the reason they lost that game. Donald was hurt in the previous Seahawks game. He shouldn’t have played at all but how do you tell the best defender in the league not to play? The Packers OL pushed him around and once the running game was going, it was over for the defense. Donald didn’t play the 2nd half. The DC Staley may have been interviewing already for HC roles (Chargers) so who knows if his head was into the game.

BTW, the Rams have a Top Pass D but the secret to beating them was always on the ground first. They were down to their 3rd string MLB and SAF (hence why they have so much depth to poach there).

What was most interesting was McVay after the game. For the 2nd week in a row, he very grudgingly gave Goff credit for playing a good game. He looked sick to his stomach to have to say so. In the moment, it seemed like maybe McVay was just pissed/frustrated/sad to have lost the game (which I’m sure was part of it). Now having the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that he was mentally over Goff from before the playoffs and was ready to make a change.


Everybody else was able to hang 20+ points on them except for Mahomes.

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