At times in 2020, it seemed like quarterback Jared Goff and head coach Sean McVay were on different pages, and a new report sheds light on how bad things got behind the scenes for the Los Angeles Rams over the past two seasons.
Per ESPN's Lindsey Thiry, a postgame locker-room incident in front of other Rams players and coaches after a Week 12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers stood out:
"McVay glared in Goff's direction, shouting that he needed to play better and couldn't continue to turn the ball over. McVay didn't say the quarterback's name, but those who were there said they knew to whom McVay was talking.
"Minutes later, a heated McVay continued to call out Goff, but this time to reporters, the first time in four seasons as coach he took aim at a player rather than putting the blame on himself after a loss."
McVay said during his postgame press conference that Goff "has to take better care of the football."
According to Thiry, who spoke with "more than two dozen sources, including Rams players, coaches and front-office personnel," the issues between Goff and McVay began in 2019.
The Rams were coming off a 2018 Super Bowl appearance, and Goff made his second straight Pro Bowl. Expectations were high for the organization, but a series of issues caused the team to miss the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
Goff threw for 4,638 yards in 2019 but also threw just 22 touchdowns with 16 interceptions on an NFL-high 626 attempts.
One issue was his inability to recognize certain coverages and take advantage of openings down the field:
"Goff struggled to recognize coverage disguises and didn't consistently identify coverage post snap as the play developed. When a defense ran Cover 0 with no safeties deep, his decision-making process often didn't happen quickly enough to hit the big play.
"'As a quarterback, you can't lose games,' a team source said. 'We just needed him to manage it and do his part.'"
Thiry also pointed to the Rams' Week 8 loss last season against the Miami Dolphins when Goff went 35-of-61 for 355 yards and one touchdown but committed four turnovers:
"In the aftermath, McVay remained convinced the game plan should have worked, while Goff thought differently, a team source said.
"Throughout the building, tension rose in regard to McVay's handling of Goff, whom some thought the coach did not hold accountable like others.
"'We get our ass chewed out for f--kups,' a team source said. 'But the stuff with the quarterback gets swept under the rug.'"
Thiry noted that McVay "would routinely yell" at Goff, "but some noticed there came a point when McVay wouldn't circle back to apologize."
One source told Thiry that McVay seemed to become "unaware or disinterested in protecting Jared's confidence" at some point in 2020.
When Goff had to miss the final game of the regular season after breaking his thumb in a Week 16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, McVay inserted undrafted free agent John Wolford as his quarterback.
Wolford didn't play great in Week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals—he finished 22-of-38 for 231 yards with one interception and ran for 56 yards on six carries—but "the energy around the practice facility shifted when Wolford took over."
A source told Thiry that Wolford gave the Rams a chance to "breathe some life into the offense with his athleticism, intelligence."
Wolford was injured early in the Rams' game in the Wild Card Round against the Seattle Seahawks. Goff took over and finished 9-of-19 for 155 yards and one touchdown just two weeks after having surgery on his thumb.
The Rams beat their NFC West rival 30-20 in large part because the defense sacked Russell Wilson five times and forced two turnovers.
Goff didn't fare much better in the NFC Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers. He threw for 174 yards and one touchdown, and Los Angeles' season ended with a 32-18 loss.
Two weeks after that defeat, the Rams acquired Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions for Goff, a 2021 third-round draft pick and first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023.
After the deal was agreed upon, Goff seemed to throw shade at the Rams when asked about the move to Detroit by NFL.com's Michael Silver.
"I'm just excited to be somewhere that I know wants me and appreciates me," Goff said. "I'm moving forward and couldn't be more excited to build a winner there. I'm excited about Dan [Campbell] and the whole staff."
The Rams and Lions announced the trade March 18. It ended a relationship between Goff and McVay that had tremendous success over the past four seasons. They made three playoff appearances, won the NFC West twice and played in Super Bowl LIII.
Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, will attempt to reestablish himself with a rebuilding Lions organization.
Based on the price the Rams paid to get Stafford, McVay should be able to run the offense he wants at the level he expects in 2021.