Reports trickled out during offseason workouts that the rookie quarterback had been slow to pick up the Rams' offense. Training camp and preseason games would later confirm those whispers as fact. There were times when Goff looked proficient, but other moments he looked tentative or utterly lost. Having Hard Knocks cameras on hand to document the steep learning curve did him no favors.
"OK, who's 2 against the 49ers?" asked Jeff Fisher during a coaches-only meeting just days before the season opener. Maybe there was some editing magic over at NFL Films, but the blank stares and ensuing silence plays like a "Can you believe this s---?" indictment of Goff's sluggish development.
So while one can understand why some Rams fans would view their golden boy with a level of consternation -- a No. 1 pick entering his first season as the third quarterback is virtually unheard of these days -- an optimist can look at Goff's tape with a measure of hope.
I don't refer to his game tape, which was flawed-to-grisly. I refer to that Hard Knocks tape, which captured a rookie who always seemed to keep his situation in the proper perspective.
"It's been a really good progression and I'm happy with the strides I've made so far," Goff said late in Tuesday's season finale. "There's obviously stuff I'd like to have done better in preseason and camp, but there's more things that I'm happy with what I did, I'm able to build on.
"It's whenever I'm ready, whenever that is I don't know, that's up to them, but I feel like I'm getting closer to being ready every day."
Goff could have publicly destroyed all Jeff Fisher's beloved breakaway reading glasses and still made the team. Free rides aren't available for others. Part of the fun on Hard Knocks is watching fringe guys beat the odds to make the team. Problem is, the show's producers can't look into the future.
In a typical Hard Knocks season, we get to witness the joy that comes with one of these underdogs making the team. (Think Tyler Starr's phone call from Mike Smith in Season 9). This year, we had to settle for more modest victories, like McRoberts landing on the practice squad and Kush quickly finding another gig with the Bears.
Hill -- whose scenes with his girlfriend and adorable daughter made him an easy guy to root for -- is less fortunate, back on the street and left to wait for another chance that may not come. One can only imagine what was going through his head as he sat in that empty meeting room after learning of his fate.
Goff has the benefit of time and organizational patience that comes with his lofty draft status. Hill and others like him are left to wonder if their star moment as a pro has already played out in a five-art arc on premium cable.
There's a reason they call it Hard Knocks.
Odds & Ends:
» Jeff Fisher's Hard Knocks star turn had two high points. One was his "That's 7-9 bulls---" speech that will likely be the scene by which we'll remember this season. The other came in the finale, when Fisher evoked a touching personal memory of Steve McNair while attempting to convince a conflicted Lamarcus Joyner to remain with the team. Great stuff.
» When McRoberts makes the fateful decision to eschew a fair-catch signal on a punt return, he knows what the ensuing turnover means for his future. "I'm done, bro. That's a wrap. I'm off the team, bro. I know I am." The pressure these guys face is unreal.
» Todd Gurley knows who he is and I respect that. The star running back doesn't want to hear your snark about his decision to purchase an Adrian Peterson jersey he hopes to have signed by the Vikings great. "What's wrong with buying another man's jersey, bro? See, that's what's wrong with y'all. People got too much pride these days."
» I was legitimately bummed this weekend when I heard Kush didn't make it. I'm giving him my 2016 Hard Knocks MVP anyway. Anybody that can organize Fat Arm Fridays and inspire teammates with lines like, "Block your f------ d--- off!" can be on my team any day.
» Les Snead is alive! Maybe. We got a quick glimpse of the curiously M.I.A. general manager via a fuzzy wide shot during a goodbye conversation with Kush. My theory stands that a potential SNEAD DOPPELGANGER is in play here. But why?!? HBO could use this as the basis of its next season of True Detective.
» The 2016 Hard Knocks soundtrack is now complete. A nice mix of workout bangers and ethereal jams. Enjoy, and thank you for following my *Hard Knocks* recaps for another season. You guys are not 7-9 bulls---.