THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Carson Palmer can appreciate Jared Goff’s current predicament better than just about anybody.
Palmer spent his entire first NFL season holding a clipboard and watching Jon Kitna lead the 2003 Cincinnati Bengals. The No. 1 draft pick out of Southern California couldn’t get on the field even with a Heisman Trophy pedigree.
Goff, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, will watch from the sidelines again when the Los Angeles Rams (2-1) visit Palmer’s Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, and the veteran quarterback says that’s not a bad spot for a young quarterback — particularly with Goff’s lack of experience in a pro-style offense.
“If you’re not ready, it’s tough,” Palmer said. “If you’re not ready and you get thrown in there, if you struggle, it can linger.”
Goff still hasn’t taken a regular-season snap for the Rams, who are off to their best start in a decade — admittedly not a high bar to clear for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004.
While several rookie quarterbacks around the league have already begun their careers, Los Angeles is taking a gradual approach with its top choice while Case Keenum runs the offense. Coach Jeff Fisher repeatedly has said the Rams have no timetable on Goff’s development.
“I’m happy for young quarterbacks when they have success, but we have our own sense of timing here with him,” Fisher said.
Palmer was 23 years old with four seasons of college experience during his rookie NFL season, while Goff only turns 22 next month after three years at California. Palmer sees the benefit in buying developmental time for a team’s quarterback of the future when the team is doing well with its quarterback of the present.
“The Rams are different,” Palmer said. “That’s a very good team. They don’t need to throw a rookie in there and (make) him learn on the run and the team suffer. They’ve got a veteran that has their team at the top of the division.”
The Rams have back-to-back wins, but their offense is the NFL’s least productive — the same spot it held last season — and only scored its first touchdowns of the season last week at Tampa Bay. Keenum’s passer rating is 66.1, the NFL’s second-lowest among regular players after the New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw six interceptions last week.
Meanwhile, Carson Wentz — picked second last spring by Philadelphia — is off to a roaring start as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. Dallas’ Dak Prescott, New England’s Jacoby Brissett and Cleveland’s Cody Kessler have all stepped on the field as rookies.
None of it has budged the Rams on their plan to develop Goff with deliberation.
“The (rookie) quarterbacks are having success because of injuries,” Fisher said. “Had we not had the injuries that we did in the league, probably all four of those quarterbacks either would be inactive or backups.”
Fisher isn’t wrong: Injuries to Teddy Bridgewater, Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo, Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown — and Tom Brady’s suspension — cleared a path for those rookie quarterbacks. Yet Wentz in particular has seized the opportunity provided to him, making Rams fans wonder when Goff will get the same chance.
The Rams quickly realized Goff would need time to learn the intricacies of a pro-style offense after playing in California’s spread scheme. Keenum gets most of the practice time with the Rams’ first-string offense, leaving Goff to learn by observation and in film sessions.
Palmer became the Bengals’ starter in 2004 and was one of the league’s top passers by 2005. Now a three-time Pro Bowler, the 36-year-old veteran is eager to see what the Cardinals’ division rivals do with their prize pick.
“You either throw the guy in there, or you let him sit back and rest, and only the coach can make that decision,” Palmer said. “The head coach makes the decision what’s best for the team, and obviously he thinks it’s best for the team for Jared to sit and watch and learn.”
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