IRVINE, Calif. -- We've seen our share of quarterbacks break in their rookie seasons, the victims of bad teams, bad systems, bad lines, no real weapons of note to go with a young mind that simply gets overloaded with the NFL playbook, not to mention eyes that drop because of the big, bad men that want to take their heads off.
It's easy to understand how that happens, and there are those who will say that Los Angeles Rams second-year quarterback Jared Goff could be another readying for a seat on the train to Bustville.
They would be wrong.
The Rams traded up to get Goff with the first overall pick last year, putting him firmly in the crosshairs of the media and fans, so it's understandable that his seven-game stint as a starter last season has some thinking he might not be the long-term guy, ready to become Mr. Los Angeles in a town known for glitz and glamour. Goff had a few good moments in a bad offense, with little talent, but the bad outweighed the good in 2016.
It was a horrible situation for a rookie quarterback. He was in an offense that was run-heavy -- or at least wanted to be -- with little in terms of help up front and a weapons cache that didn't offer him much help.
That's why there are doubts now, but it really is unfair to judge him on last season. Hell, he just learned to take a snap under center the February before the draft after coming out of an Air Raid offense at the University of California.
"There were a lot of transitions for him," Rams first-year coach Sean McVay said. "When you look at that, and take into consideration how young he was, that he was supposed to still be at Cal, it was a lot to handle. When you are a young quarterback, how you handle the tough stuff says a lot about you, and I think he did a good job. When you play the quarterback position, bad things are going to inevitably happen. How you respond is what separates the good ones from the great ones. He did a nice job with that."
That could be because of how Goff sees himself. He is a confident, almost cocky (in a nice way) passer who doesn't back down from saying he plans to be great.
What's not to like about that?
"You have to believe in yourself," Goff said. "It's the most important thing. I have a tough time losing confidence in myself."
It would have been easy for Goff to blame circumstances last year on his struggles. But every time I threw out the bait, he wouldn't bite. Not even a nibble.
"I am not going to make excuses," Goff said. "It's not ideal when you don't win. But we didn't play well as a team, me included."
In his first sit-down with Goff, McVay noticed that there was no finger pointing at all by the young quarterback.
"He stood out as a guy who wasn't fazed by anything last season," McVay said. "He took full responsibility. He didn't look to blame anybody. That impressed me."
The Rams traded a first-round pick, two second-round picks and a third-round pick in 2016, plus a first and third in 2017, to move up to take Goff. It was the type of move that can define a franchise for a decade. Hit, and you will be relevant for a long time. Miss, and you can continue to be a perennial loser, which the Rams have been for a decade, which, in turn, leads to firings and a team constantly in turmoil.
Based on 2016, the jury is still out on Goff -- but it would be unfair to come to a verdict with so little evidence.
He took a beating in his seven starts, sometimes brutally. Put on any tape from any of his starts and you will see a kid that took a pounding. Some of it was self-inflicted by not getting rid of the football fast enough, but many times it was also the result of bad line play.
"I'm just glad I got the experience," Goff said when asked about getting beat up. "I am glad I went through it."
Goff completed just 54.7 percent of his passes last season with five touchdown passes and seven picks. His rating was 63.8, which is horrible, even for a rookie. But there were moments, like when he threw three touchdown passes in a loss to the Saints.
Under Jeff Fisher, the Rams wanted to pound the football. That led to running back Todd Gurley calling it a "middle school offense." When Fisher got fired after going 4-9 to open the season -- including Goff's first four starts -- that didn't change.
As the Rams new coach, McVay brings a reputation as a quarterback maestro after helping to turn Kick Cousins into a good NFL starter the past two seasons. The 31-year-old McVay is considered one of the bright, young offensive minds in the league.
His offense is predicated on getting the ball out of Goff's hands quickly. There is also more pre-snap movement, which will help the young quarterback decipher defenses better.
"I couldn't ask for a better coach," Goff said. "Some people know how to call plays, and some don't. He definitely does."
At one of the Rams recent practices against the Chargers, the defensive backs were sitting on some of Goff's out routes. A few times, they almost got picks. So after another, McVay came of the sideline to point out where the ball should have gone, which was to a single inside on tight end Tyler Higbee.
"It's just being smart and progressing when the first read isn't there," McVay said.
As for getting the ball out quicker, Goff said he likes the offense, but also quickly added, "We will still get the shots down the field."
With the addition of Sammy Watkins outside to add a deep threat, you can count on it. The offensive line is improved with the additions of veteran center John Sullivan and left tackle Andrew Whitworth. There is no reason the offense, and Goff, can't take big leaps this year.
But remember one thing: He was the youngest starter in the league last year and, even if a few rookies start this season, he would still be close to being the youngest when he turns 23 next month.
"I feel great where I am right now," Goff said. "I am happy with where I am. But I am by no means content. I am going to continue to grow and get better."
As he walked away from out chat, you could tell this truly was a kid who believes in himself. There was no hesitation when he was asked if he thought he would be a star down the road.
"Yes," he said. "Don't you have to believe that?"
That matters at that quarterback position.
So don't judge Goff on what you saw last year. It isn't fair.
I don't think this is a quarterback who will be broken by what happened in his rookie season, even if he took a beating, but how far past it he goes is yet to be determined.