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Warren Buffett played role in Rams' Jared Goff selection

·NFL columnist
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LOS ANGELES – There was never one pivotal moment that illuminated the path between Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams. He didn't have some magical answer in an interview that separated him from Carson Wentz. There was no epiphany on film that left everything else falling away. It wasn't some scientific discovery, with a coach or personnel man poking his head into a hallway to shout "eureka!"

No, Jared Goff's arrival as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft was accomplished at an intersection of philosophies. One about talent, another about opportunity.

To have witnessed the talent analysis, you had to be in the film room with Rams head coach Jeff Fisher for the past three years, grinding over college tape that always began as a showcase for someone else. Maybe Fisher was supposed to be looking at a running back. Or an offensive lineman. Maybe multiple defensive players facing Cal. Whatever the assignment, Fisher would turn on the film and begin watching someone else, only to have his eye drawn away.

Jared Goff went from 1-11 to No. 1 draft pick. (AFP)
Jared Goff went from 1-11 to No. 1 draft pick. (AFP)

Three years ago, it was Cal's rail-thin freshman quarterback, whose quick release immediately raised an eyebrow. Two years ago, he was a sophomore who was processing some decisions as quickly as NFL quarterbacks. Finally, last season, it was a junior who was getting shelled, but kept picking himself up and pressing forward. With each annual progression, a note was filed in the folds of Fisher's brain. And when this year's draft process started, they all poured out.

"You start studying and see these things consistently," Fisher said. "And you go, 'Wait, I saw that a couple years ago in this player. And he hasn't changed.'"

This is how the Rams knew Jared Goff was special. Through some serendipity, witnessing uncommon traits that kept expanding over time. For Fisher, this was an important part of the equation.

To know the other part, you had to be with general manager Les Snead, motoring along the personnel trail when he worked for the Atlanta Falcons years ago. Goff wasn't even a glint in the NFL's eye at that point. But to Snead, the idea of him was already taking shape in the form of an ideology. A Warren Buffett ideology, no less.

Snead has long been a Buffett guy, a believer in value investing and understanding the sweet spot of opportunity. He'd read about Buffett, and when Snead was in Atlanta, he'd pop in books on tape, looking for fundamental maxims that he believed translated to the world of NFL talent investment. For miles and miles, they'd burrow into his ears.

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."

"Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."

"Predicting rain doesn't count. Building arks does."

For Snead, words like that speak to the preparation and foresight that wins on draft day. It's not enough to know you like a player. You have to have laid the foundation long beforehand. And you have to know when it's necessary to seize on that preparation.

"Every draft is that year's mutual fund," Snead said. "One really bad stock or investment can bring an entire portfolio down."

Snead is quick to point out the flipside, too. One great stock can take a portfolio over the top. That's what the Rams believe Goff will eventually be – the guy who gets them to the next level. And it wasn't so much about liking Wentz less, either.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead (AP)
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead (AP)

That doesn't mean there wasn't disparity between the two. On film, Goff mastered his offense. He made decisions quickly. He was accurate. He got the football out of his hand. He was tough and serious, almost to the point of having a little edge to him. And he started from the bottom 1-11 as a freshman at Cal, and played the pivotal role in making the program respectable again. For a Rams team that entered a nightmarish logistical marathon (every day between now and the opening of the Inglewood stadium in 2019), that's important.

And, well, there is also something about turning on three years of tape and seeing defenses filled with NFL players. Fisher and Snead may not admit that publicly, but that was always going to be a problem for Wentz. It was always going to make him a risk of being a longer development project. At the very least, Goff isn't that. His NFL developmental process is ready to begin on the field now. And by training camp, it will. That certainly helps.

The idea in all of this? To get Goff integrated into a young roster that got a wealth of experience last season and managed to hover around the middle of the pack with a rotation of backup quarterbacks. That, and to use running back Todd Gurley a lot, maybe as much as any running back in the NFL next season.

As much as Goff will be sold as the star-in-waiting on this Rams team, the truth is he'll be taking a back seat to Gurley for a while. In the interim, the team will be built around the running back and defense, and winning games through sheer brute force. Those looking for a blueprint might go back to the development of the Seattle Seahawks when Russell Wilson was a rookie. This Rams team could be very similar to that NFC West power.

What it won't be – what Fisher and Snead can't let it be – is a gimmick geared toward capturing the Los Angeles market. It won't be about promoting Goff for the sake of a sellable commodity, or making Gurley a marketing icon. It won't be about simply bridging the gap between stadiums and holding on for dear life. It will be about winning football games in spite of the transition to Inglewood.

"The key motivating factor to me – the other 31 teams don't care about the move," Fisher said. "They don't care. As a matter of fact, they're probably glad we're going through it. Maybe they hope it cripples us, but we can't let it."

Moving up for Goff was part of that realization. Years of analysis and investment ideology that brought the Rams to one conclusion over a month ago: Either the franchise was going to go for the big landscape-changing piece, or it was going to crumble in conservative mediocrity.

As Snead put it, "Life's a river. There is a turn here. The river's going in another direction."

How that turn arrived, and why it went toward Goff and not Wentz, can't be pinned on any one thing. But it represents years of work for the Rams, finding a sweet spot of talent and opportunity that could change everything from this point forward.