Former Cal Offensive Coordinator Dispels Myths Regarding QB Jared Goff

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystFebruary 25, 2016

Sep 26, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff (16) raises his arms after picking up a first down late in the fourth quarter to seal the 30-24 win over the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Incorrect narratives can completely warp the perception of an NFL draft prospect. Cal Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff serves as this year's primary example. 

Over the course of the last two draft processes, the Minnesota Vikings' Teddy Bridgewater and Tennessee Titans' Marcus Mariota experienced this problem when multiple inane knocks surfaced regarding their respective games and personalities.

Who could forget Bridgewater's skinny knees? Or the fact that Mariota "not having any red flags was a red flag," according to one NFL head coach and general manager, via ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy. 

The predraft process is designed to discover a prospect's problem areas before an organization invests millions into the league's incoming talent. But the same process can go overboard and project things that aren't present. 

Nothing as outrageous as the circumference of a knee or how being so good is actually a bad thing has reared its ugly head regarding Goff (so far), but certain misnomers still exist regarding the general perception of his skill set even after there's been enough time to fully digest his game.  

The primary negative narrative surrounding Goff deals with the system in which he played and how it's viewed as it pertains to translating to the next level.

Concerns regarding Goff extend beyond the Golden Bears' spread system, too. His frame (6'4", 215 lbs) and slight stature continually come into question. Arm strength, or lack thereof, always becomes a talking point. The fact Cal wasn't hugely successful during his three seasons in Berkeley can even be used as a slight. 

All of these things can and will be used against Goff when discussions arise about his viability as the top quarterback in this year's draft class and his potential as a franchise-caliber talent.

In order to build a better understanding of Cal's offense and Goff, Bleacher Report went right to the source and discussed both with the Golden Bears' former offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin. 

Franklin originally recruited the skinny quarterback from Novato, California, in Sonny Dykes' first year as Cal's head coach. 

During their three seasons together, Goff was a three-year starter, set 26 school records, broke the Pac-12 single-season records in passing yardage (4,719 yards) and passing touchdowns (43) and took Cal to its first bowl game since 2011. 

Franklin discussed exactly what was expected of his quarterback in an interview before he left Cal to be closer to home as Middle Tennessee State's new offensive coordinator. 

Bleacher Report: When Goff declared as a junior entrant to the NFL draft, I found it unique that you put out a press statement at the same time. In it you said, "I hope Jared gets lucky and ends up with one of the few coaches in that league who recognize a skill set and develop it, rather than the one who only criticizes his collegiate experiences and attempts to make football a much more complicated game than it really is."

Why did you feel it was necessary to put that out there for everyone to read?

Tony Franklin: As a college coach and former high school teacher for 16 years, I think there is an elitist status in the NFL where they look at their game as something comparable to curing cancer and only a few people can understand it.

When I watch NFL film—and I frequently do—I see a game that is no different than college. The only difference is how you teach it. There are a couple of ways to teach it. I think you teach it in a manner of how someone learns. Or you can try to make something incredibly sophisticated or complicated in a long-winded teaching method.

If you're a good teacher, the goal is to make things simple to the point where your students can be successful.

There's just some form of an elitist attitude. It makes me sick to my stomach when I hear an NFL coach say, "These college coaches don't teach these guys anything anymore. It takes me three years to get all of the bad stuff out of them."

Basically, what they're saying is anything that is wrong or negative can be traced back to college or high school. Anything that is good is because they're such a genius.

I believe in the exact opposite. The best teachers and coaches are high school coaches. The second best are college coaches. And I think the worst are in the NFL.

Every time someone comes out and is productive, the first thing they say in the NFL is he's a product of the system. Why is that bad? Why is it bad to be productive in a system that produces points and moves the ball? As an offensive coach, this is what you're supposed to do.

If you do this, why is it a negative thing? It doesn't mean it makes these young men NFL players.

My understanding is somewhere between 2 and 3 percent of Division I players have a chance at playing in the NFL. Why should you create a system that is only to help the NFL be better when 97 percent never play at the next level?

The objective is win games, have fun, score points and be something people want to come and see.

(Franklin's entire statement regarding Goff declaring early for the NFL draft is below, courtesy of ESPN.com's Kyle Bonagura.)

Kyle Bonagura @BonaguraESPN

Statement from Cal OC Tony Franklin on Jared Goff's decision to declare for the draft https://t.co/XEqONDn7P0

B/R: At its core, the NFL isn't a developmental league. Have you ever had former players come back and say, "I didn't receive a chance because I was considered too much of a project" or anything along those lines?

TF: The NFL is a talent league. If you have enough talent for what they're trying to do, they'll give you an opportunity to be successful.

I think it's interesting in the NFL that a lot of the same franchises are always successful, while other franchises are always unsuccessful.

It falls on having good people. Good teams have good coaches. Bill Belichick has gone through so many offensive coordinators. It doesn't really matter who is there, they're going to be really good, because he's the best coach in the league. You never hear them griping about players coming from certain systems.

All he does is take guys who are good human beings with physical skills, and he develops them into good football players.

I believe this to be true of other franchises that are successful.

Sure, it takes some guys longer to develop than others. This isn't any different from the college level.

B/R: When many look at the Air Raid—or Bear Raid—offense you helped craft over the years, it's often referred to as a check-with-me offense with simple reads and throws. How do you react to those claims?

TF: First of all, I hate when people call our deal the Air Raid. I don't like it. It all goes back to a time when there was an offense called the Air Raid. If you ever coached with anybody in that, people take credit and say, "Yeah, they do what we do."

If you watch our offense, that's not who we are. We want to run the football. We tried to run the football. If we can, we do run the football. We have a tremendous amount of play-action passes and big sets. We have sets with seven offensive linemen in the game at the same time. We have sets with two or three tight ends in the game.

We weren't a check-with-me system. There are times in my career where I did that, because it helped us win games. But our offense now is built upon progression reads.

There are many plays when you watch Jared, he gets to his fifth progression. It's a straight dropback system where he goes through his progression and tries to get to that fifth read within three seconds. If he doesn't, he'll be in trouble, because he'll be sacked.

We do a tremendous amount of run-pass stuff where we have a run play called with a two- or three-route combination on it.

He's taking the snap as the coverages take place, fitting the ball into the running back's stomach and needs to make a decision whether he'll hand the ball off or throw to the first or second read in the progression.

It's all based on post-snap reads.

Another thing we do with him, he was able to change protections at any time. He was allowed to change the play at any time. He probably had to do more than any NFL quarterback does right now.

A lot of what Jared did: I call a play with two or three guys running routes within the play. Pre-snap, he can come up and change everything. He could change the play completely if he wanted to do so. He could just change the protection. Or he could wait until the ball is snapped and make a decision based on what the defense did.

I try to make everything simple for the quarterback, but it doesn't mean it's simple. It's my job to make him believe what he's doing is simple. So, we tried to teach in simplistic terms.

Instead of saying, "when they're in Cover 8 or 6 and the safety does this, you automatically do that," I didn't give him automatics. We talked in theories. Theoretically, this is what they're trying to do, but it doesn't mean it's going to work.

Ninety percent of defensive coordinators after something went wrong with a player say, "We misaligned," or "we didn't get the check," or "the strong safety got the check, but the free safety didn't."

Most of the time, defenses don't know what they're doing.

If I tell Jared as a quarterback, "If the safety does this, you should automatically go to this," I'm not giving him rules that actually work. I'm giving him rules that are supposed to work. It doesn't mean they do.

What I do is teach him what they're trying to do. Therefore, if there is something easy within the progression and you want to take it, great, do that.

Otherwise, let's go through the system and see if one, two, three, four and five are going to work if we're dropping back like we're supposed to.

B/R: It's not always about the system. There are traits that allow an individual to separate himself from everything else. Could you go into more depth of a progression-read offense and what you're teaching quarterbacks?

TF: For example, the play we call is North-Whip-Z. We're in a two-by-two formation. Regardless of how the running back lines up, the quarterback's understanding is we're running a play with a high, medium and low read.

At the beginning of the play, he's going to identify whether he has a one- or two-safety look. We understand a two-safety look prior to the start of the play might not remain the same once the ball is snapped.

Does it look like they're going to be in man or zone coverage? Does it look like they're going to blitz? If they are going to blitz, is it a man or zone blitz?

Having all that information in his brain helps him determine how fast he must get through his progression.

His progression on the aforementioned play is going to start with a corner route. The corner route is going to come opposite of the tag. For example, I called North-Whip-Z. In my brain, I know the Z (receiver) is on the right side. Therefore, the corner route is going to be on the left side.

If they're in a two-safety look, I'm going to catch the ball, start in my drop and take a really long, slow first step. By the time I finish my first step, I'll know whether they stayed in two safeties. If they stayed in two safeties, my eyes are going to stay on that corner route until I hit my last step.

Once I hit my last step, if I have enough grass, the corner hasn't bailed and I'm talented enough to fit the ball there, I'm going to throw the corner route.

If the safety opened his hips and came off the hash mark, I know I have a chance with the sluggo route. In the NFL, they call it a slant-and-go. It means he is coming off the hip of the Y (receiver) on a corner route, and he's going to split the two safeties.

If I didn't throw the first read in the progression, my eyes are now going to go to the second read in the progress. The second read is the post route. If there is enough grass, they're still in Tampa 2 and the "Mike" (linebacker) didn't drop too deep, the quarterback should be able to fit the ball in there.

However, let's say the Z (receiver) got rerouted along the way. I hit my last step. I came off my first and second reads. I immediately must go to the third read.

The third read is by the running back. He runs what we called a hold route. He went and tried to grab the dropping Mike backer to get his attention and pull him back. If the Mike got too deep, the running back is coming to an eight- to 10-yard hook route. If he's open, I'm on it as my third read.

If the running back isn't open, the last thing to get the quarterback out of the play is a whip route by the outside receiver. The outside receiver pushed up the field three steps. He then pushed inside five steps. On the fifth step, he stuck his toe in the ground and went back to the sideline. That's the quarterback's get-out-of-trouble guy.

Anywhere along the way if I noticed they rolled the safety one way, I know I'm likely not going to get the corner or post routes, but I'll have the hold or whip routes.

However, your guy, Jared Goff, tells you the safety got too much depth and he's good enough to throw a skinny post between the corner and the safety. If his talent allows him to do that, I'm going to throw that wrinkle into the play. 

There's an example of it against the Texans Longhorns. Jared hit his last step. They rolled to a single safety. He threw a perfect back-hip toss. If he threw it to his receiver's front hip, the safety could have made a big hit. It turned into a 20-yard pickup.

That's why he's an NFL player versus other quarterbacks I've had. They may have been the best player in the league, but they can't make that throw.

Credit: DraftBreakdown.com

B/R: When some argue Goff needed another year in school to develop, what exactly does that mean? It seems so cliche simply because he only played three years as a true junior. Did you feel the same way—other than for selfish reasons?

TF: When Aaron Rodgers went to the NFL, was he ready to play in the first year? Nobody knows, because he didn't need to play.

He sat there three years behind a Hall of Fame player in Brett Favre. Everyone says that's the ideal situation.

Andrew Luck then comes in and plays from the beginning, and he's a great player. Everyone says, "Well, the system prepared him to be great."

Luck didn't have the best year this past season before getting hurt. So what happened? Did he get worse? Was he coached to the point he was coached out of him? Did the talent around him get worse?

Nobody really knows, but everyone has an opinion on the subject.

With Jared—first of all—any time a young player has an opportunity to be a first-round pick, he should take it. It's easy for all of those sitting behind a desk to say he isn't ready and should stay another year.

Why? Why should he stay another year?

If you have an opportunity to obtain a life-changing income that most of us work 50 years and never make, why would you do that?

Second, the only time you ever get truly ready is to go somewhere and play. Nobody is ready until he gets a chance to go out there and do it.

Jared will physically get bigger and stronger. He did so over the years during his time at Cal. Whether or not he's successful will depend on the team he goes to, the talent around him and how good of coaching he gets.

B/R: You mentioned both Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck, but let's take this to a more personal level. You were on Kentucky's staff when Tim Couch was the Wildcats quarterback before being selected No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 1999 NFL draft.

What similarities and differences do you see between him and Goff?

TF: There are a lot of similarities in the fact they both had phenomenal feet. That's the one thing we worked incredibly hard at with Jared. We wanted him to have Peyton Manning feet. Manning is the one guy in the NFL who consistently gets more accurate throws because of his footwork.

We want them to be incredibly hot, like a typewriter. He's always ready to throw the ball. He finds throwing lanes by moving his feet into proper position without taking steps. That's what we teach.

The one thing everyone seems to be in consensus about Jared is he has a great feel for the rush, finds throwing lanes and his footwork.

26 Sep 1998:  Quarterback Tim Couch #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats in action during the game against the Florida Gators at Florida Field in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators defeated the Wildcats 51-35. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

That's the one thing about him: He doesn't get rattled. Tim was the same way. Tim didn't get rattled. He found throwing lanes. And he was incredibly accurate.

The difference with Jared, he has a much better arm than Tim had. Tim had an average arm at best. Jared has a far livelier arm.

People call Tim a huge bust. I don't think he was a huge bust. If you go back to what he did, the franchise was a huge bust. Tim eventually had some shoulder issues and couldn't throw the ball very well at all by the end of his career.

They both love playing football. Jared would go out and play even if nobody watched. Tim was the same way. Jared wants to study the game.

My advice to him was to get a really good coach to prepare for the NFL draft process and listen to all the advice you can get. Ultimately, be who you are and what got you to this point while developing his own style.

If you watch the great ones, they all have something that's their own.

During his career, he'll likely have eight to 10 quarterback coaches. If he listens to every one of them, he'll be completely screwed up.

B/R: Couch suffered greatly in the NFL due to a shoddy offensive line. Constant pressure can ruin a career. Goff was under duress quite a bit during his Cal career as well. Has there ever been any question about having to deal with constant pressure and how he responded?

TF: Jared got hit a lot. A lot of it was due to our run-pass options. We would have a run play called and the offensive line is blocking for that play, and he has three- or four-receiver routes off the run play.

Jared understood he was going to take one right in the mouth on some of those plays, but he had a potential touchdown by making the pass. He threw it and got hit in the mouth.

To me, this is one thing I saw in him: Jared Goff never flinched in three years of taking brutal hits.

He handles pressure as well as any quarterback who will ever play. He understands it. He shows zero fear. He has a great natural feel in the pocket. That's something you're born with.

He's been trained incredibly well to work really hard in finding throwing lanes. He does a great job of doing so.

He doesn't panic when a free blitzer comes through the line. He doesn't panic when an O-lineman loses a D-lineman. He'll wait until the last second before making his throw, and he'll take shots because of it.

B/R: His ability to take punishment obviously leads into the next question. Goff is 21 years old, a true junior and listed at 215 pounds. He's viewed as having a slight frame. Can you tell us how much weight he's actually put on during his three years at Cal and how sturdy he can be as an NFL quarterback?

TF: I don't know the actual number, and I'm guessing a bit here, but he's put on at least 30 pounds. He came in as a pencil. He worked really hard to do so through his nutrition and the strength program.

He's like most young men. When you're 21 or 22 years old, they haven't reached their full strength or muscle structure. It's one of the reasons why I think he'll continue getting better.

The product you have right now is good enough if surrounded by the right players. He's good enough to be a successful quarterback tomorrow.

If he's not surrounded by good players, he'll be the same as every other quarterback who entered the NFL, and he'll take a beating. It then comes down to luck whether he holds up or not.

I think his body structure and strength will continue to get better, and it's good enough now to survive for a team that can protect him.

(Goff's official measurements at the NFL combine came in at 6'4"and 215 pounds with nine-inch hands, per ESPN.com's Louis Riddick.)

B/R: One thing often undersold during the draft process is a player's off-the-field stuff. If I asked about his work ethic, study habits, how his teammates view him and overall intangibles, could you tell us about the person you saw every day on and off the field?

TF: The No. 1 quality he has that separated him from any great player: He showed zero selfishness. He never cared about stats.

When he broke Marcus Mariota's (Pac-12 Conference) record for most passing touchdowns in a season, I would bet you any amount of money that he didn't have any idea what the record was. The same thing for yardage records. 

At the end of ballgames—whether they were close or blowouts—he would come to me and tell me to run the football if we needed to do so. He didn't care if we pounded the ball. He wanted to win the game.

Teammates could have easily been jealous due to all of the recognition he received. But he always took the criticism on himself. He always praised his teammates.

When you have that type of personal leadership and the understanding of it, teammates never get jealous. That's what he had: teammates who supported him, weren't jealous and knew all he wanted to do was win.

The other thing that was amazing to me is we had six guys catch 40 or more balls. I believe it's only the second time in college football history. We also had three running backs run for over 500 yards. Jared did a phenomenal job of distributing the ball to the open guy.

He also realized if one of his targets didn't have a catch, he needed to get him the ball.

As for his work ethic, my office was right next to the film room. I believe in meetings being short—only 30 to 45 minutes. A lot of film work for a quarterback who plays for me is done on their own. I'm not making you do it. I just know if you're doing it, you'll be great. If not, you're probably not the starter.

He was one of those guys in the film room who studied, constantly asked questions and wanted to learn all of the time.

And he's not a guy you're going to read in the papers doing something he shouldn't be doing. He's a good guy. A fun guy. He goes out with his teammates, and they appreciate it.

He also understands he needs to train his body to be the best he can be, and he's being watched all of the time. 

All quotes obtained firsthand by Brent Sobleski, who covers the NFL draft for Bleacher Report, unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.


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