Rams embarrassed their No. 1 draft pick, who didn't even play in humiliating loss to 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – As the three-and-outs piled up – and the touchdowns didn’t – the focus continued to settle on a Los Angeles Ram who wasn’t even in uniform.

The franchise paid a ransom for the right to draft Jared Goff first overall last spring, yet here in its first game since relocation from St. Louis, he was inactive, standing on the sideline in sweats, watching a brutally inept offense in a 28-0 loss to San Francisco.

Somehow Goff couldn’t beat out starter Case Keenum, who finished 17-of-35 for 130 yards with two interceptions and no offensive spark (just 10 first downs and 185 total yards). Worse, somehow he couldn’t beat out Keenum’s backup, Sean Mannion. Maybe worst of all, the Rams aren’t ready to change plans. Goff will remain on the third string, coach Jeff Fisher announced postgame.

QB Jared Goff was a spectator for Monday night's debacle. (AP)
QB Jared Goff was a spectator for Monday night’s debacle. (AP)

“This doesn’t change anything with the quarterbacks right now,” Fisher said.

What if this level of futility continues?

“We’ll adjust,” Fisher said. “But I don’t expect it to continue.”

Los Angeles has to play better because it can hardly play worse than this, producing a night that only its old fans, turned scorned and bitter enemies back in Missouri, could love.

Punt. Punt. Punt. Interception. Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt. Interception. Punt. Downs. End of Game, taking a knee in whatever is the polar opposite of the victory formation.

That was the Rams’ offense on Monday. Fourteen possessions, zero points.

“Well,” Fisher said, “that wasn’t what we expected. We’ve got some work to do, obviously.”

HBO put these guys on “Hard Knocks” and made them look good. HBO deserves the Emmy for creative editing.

The stats were bad. The reality was worse. Keenum’s second interception, for instance, came when he so telegraphed a throw that Ray-Ray Armstrong was able to make a 5-yard break on the ball, step in and pick it off like a swift cornerback, not a 6-foot-3, 225-pound inside linebacker.

You didn’t think Armstrong Island could be a thing, but then again it’s hard to imagine that Goff couldn’t crack this active roster.

Yes, it’s tough to blame the guy who didn’t play … but why wasn’t he playing? Goff is the first No. 1 draft pick to not start since Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell in 2007. Every quarterback since to go first in the draft was a Week 1 starter. Is Goff really that bad? He certainly didn’t look good in the preseason. He was uncomfortable and unproductive – 22-of-49 passing (44.9 percent) for 232 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and three fumbles.

L.A.'s Aaron Donald got an early exit against San Francisco on Monday. (AP)
L.A.’s Aaron Donald got an early exit against San Francisco on Monday. (AP)

The Cal product must have dreamed of this opener, starting out here in the Bay Area, near both his college and his hometown in Marin County. Instead he stood on the sideline wearing a white warm-up jacket, a Rams hat and an earpiece, presumably to hear the play calls. He carried a clipboard and watched the action intently. About all he could have learned though was what not to do – overthrows, misreads, sacks taken. L.A. never even reached the red zone.

The Rams say they want to bring Goff along slowly, allowing a young player to learn and develop. In theory it’s not the worst idea. It famously worked for Carson Palmer (in Cincinnati) and Aaron Rodgers (in Green Bay). Palmer was a No. 1 pick, so that’s the better comparison. Rodgers was drafted as a project.

Palmer happened a long time ago though (2003), almost a different era. And while the Bengals may have expended a No. 1 overall selection on Palmer, they didn’t trade a slew of picks for the honor to do it.

Rams general manager Les Snead sent L.A.’s first-round pick (No. 15 overall) plus two-second rounders, a third-rounder and the Rams’ 2017 first- and third-round picks to Tennessee for a first (Goff), a fourth- and a sixth-round pick.

That’s not just six guys for three, but a haul of top-100 picks over two years. And, yes, this was just one game but based on what L.A. showed, would anyone doubt that the 2017 first-rounder is a top-five selection? Anything is possible after that. Tennessee no doubt watched Monday with growing excitement.

Maybe the Rams can be patient because their move back to California extends them a honeymoon period. Since their first home game isn’t until Sunday – a visit from the Seattle Seahawks – you could say the marriage hasn’t even really gone down yet. New (renewed) fans will just be happy the NFL is back and don’t possess the built-up anger that would normally generate rage at a potential botched trade and pick. The NFL is a league of overreaction. Fans aren’t known for patience.

Making matters worse in the short-term, of course, is that the No. 2 pick overall, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz started Sunday and delivered an impressive outing, complete with 256 yards and two touchdowns in an Eagles victory.

It was that kind of night, a tractor pull of a game in which San Francisco looked great mainly by comparison.

When a Levi Stadium fan jumped the wall and ran onto the field, he was able to make a couple loops around without a single security guard or cop beginning to pursue. It’s possible they were all asleep. Announcers like to claim fan antics like that ruin the game, but in this case

Later, the Rams’ best defender, lineman Aaron Donald, blew a gasket and ripped the helmet off the Niners’ Quinton Patton, made contact with an official and en route to being ejected from the game, slammed his own helmet violently to the ground, but at least he showed some fire. Announcers like to claim player antics like that ruin the game, but in this case …

“I told the guys, there are 15 other teams that lost [this week] too,” Fisher said. “Some are pretty good. I happen to think these guys are good.”

At least someone is optimistic. Everyone couldn’t avoid noticing the No. 1 pick overall holding a clipboard, unable to win a spot on an offense that just produced about as futile of a performance as you’ll ever see.