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Sean McVay tiptoes through the minefield of talking about Jared Goff’s improvement

Chris Simms tells Mike Florio how Jared Goff earned his highest spot on the Top 40 QB Countdown at No. 17 and why next season will be the ultimate test for him in Detroit.

The Rams loved quarterback Jared Goff until they didn’t, giving him an ill-advised market-level contract in 2019 before tucking a first-round pick into the Matthew Stafford trade to get Goff off the books after only two seasons of the new deal.

Now, after two years of Goff in Detroit, the Lions have decided they like the first overall pick in the 2016 draft a lot more than the Rams did. Most recently, Lions coach Dan Campbell said he believes Goff is better now than he was with the Rams.

Rams coach Sean McVay was asked by a reporter on Tuesday to try to tiptoe through the minefield of responding to that assessment, balancing the risk of admitting a mistake with the possibility of being accidentally candid about why he decided to treat Goff like a hot ptomaine potato.

“I think Jared’s played at a really high level,” McVay said, via the transcript distributed by the team. “I’ll tell you what though, when you watch what he did last year, he played great. And I think because he’s so conscientious, repetition is the mother of learning. The more you play, the more you learn. You can really see he’s able to get through progressions quickly. They were asking a lot of him. He got a lot of different guys involved, took great care of the football, and so I think he’s only gotten better. He played really good football here for us, really grateful for those things. But I was really impressed with just the way that he led and the way that he ended up demonstrating a lot of the things that we want to embody, that mental toughness. I think he was like 29-7 in terms of touchdowns, interceptions, one of the better ratios, and threw for a bunch of yards and they were one of the top offenses. I was really happy to see how well he did. I think that’s probably a fair assessment because he’s only getting better.”

Then why didn’t you keep him, Sean? That’s the obvious question. The truth is they became exasperated with Goff’s lack of development, believing he had taken the Rams as far as he could.

They were right, insofar as Stafford took the Rams even farther. But look at where the Rams are now, a shell of a Super Bowl contender with a fading franchise quarterback who is an old 35 -- while the Lions benefit from the presence of Goff, who is still only 28.

That doesn’t mean Goff is free from pressure. The expectations are high for the Lions this year, for the first time in a very long time. And the Lions could eventually come to the same conclusion the Rams did, that there’s a ceiling that falls short of Goff getting his small hands on a big silver trophy.