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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jared Goff went around the locker room, the rookie quarterback offering the same message to his teammates. A 44-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals was not the end of a miserable first season as the Los Angeles Rams once again, but the beginning of the process to build a winning team, program and culture.

Goff the leader seems more than ready to oversee that transformation. Whether Goff the quarterback can deliver it on the field still isn’t clear after making and losing seven starts after being drafted No. 1 overall.

Goff was 13 of 20 passing for 120 yards, the fifth time he failed to top 200 yards this season. He did not throw a touchdown pass for the fourth time this season. Goff was sacked seven times, a season high after taking just one in his debut against Miami seven weeks earlier.

“He probably got hit more than me, actually,” running back Todd Gurley said.

The Rams went three-and-out on five of 11 possessions and picked up just five first downs before Sean Mannion replaced Goff with 11:35 left in the fourth quarter, producing one of the afternoon’s biggest cheers.

But Goff and, perhaps more importantly, his teammates believe he has shown enough to justify the heavy price the Rams paid in their trade with the Tennessee Titans last April, including the No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

“I’ve seen him grow and that kid’s future is going to be real sharp,” defensive end Williams Hayes said. “Two years from now, next year from now, we won’t be having this discussion. He’ll be one of the best to play the game, that’s my personal opinion.”

Said offensive lineman Rodger Saffold: “I don’t think he ever wavered.”

The statistics and tape don’t necessarily match those assessments. The Rams scored just 85 points in Goff’s starts. Against a determined Cardinals pass rush, Goff was jittery in the pocket and held onto the ball too long, exacerbating the struggles of an offensive line down two starters because of injury.

When Goff did make a play, such as his 13-yard completion to tight end Lance Kendricks after a blocked punt started a second-quarter drive at Arizona’s 19-yard line, it was negated by a holding penalty. When the Rams made a play — wide receiver Tavon Austin taking a direct snap off left tackle for a 38-yard touchdown — it was negated by an illegal motion penalty on Goff for not being set after stepping out from under center.

One of the most productive contributions Goff provided was his frustration coming off the field on a fourth-and-one midway through the third quarter, inadvertently helping set up a completion by punter Johnny Hekker to move the chains.

Interim coach and special teams coordinator John Fassel didn’t know Goff was upset.

“He obviously didn’t know we were going to run the fake punt, so I’m sure he wanted to go for it,” Fassel said. “I’m glad he was mad.”

Goff’s demeanor seems to be ideal for what the Rams are now facing, having gone through a 1-11 season as a freshman starter at California. After taking his lumps and growing with a core of players around him, Goff took the Golden Bears to a bowl game in his third season and set a then-Pac-12 record for touchdown passes in a season.

“That was a hard time and feels just about the same. It’s pretty identical,” Goff said.

Goff was already planning workouts with his receivers and preparing to study the playbook as soon as a new head coach is hired, the future of the franchise preparing for the franchise’s future.

“At the end of the day, the thing is running through Jared,” Austin said. “That’s how it is going to be next year. Hopefully we’ll be better next year.”

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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