Former Cal standout Jared Goff got his first NFL start on Sunday. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Goff offers ray of hope amid SoCal gloom

The Jared G​​off era isn’t off to a rousing start in Southern California exactly. But promising? Yeah, Balls says most definitely.

Just think what the Cal product may be able to do when the Los Angeles Rams allow him to remove the straight jacket named coach Jeff Fisher and actually throw the football.

In his long-awaited NFL debut on Sunday, Goff did nothing special in the 14-10 loss — 17 completions in 31 attempts, 134 yards and no touchdowns. Consider that much of the game was played in a steady rain and that the Miami Dolphins have one of the better defense in the league, though, and the kid surpassed expectations.

What mattered was this: Goff didn’t melt under the bright lights. The top pick in the last draft wasn’t guilty of any glaring mistakes, which is to say, no interceptions and no fumbles. On that basis alone, he was a noticeable upgrade over Case Keenum, the scatter-armed backup he replaced.

“Felt good,” Goff said afterward. “We’re obviously disappointed with the result there at the end and how things turned out, and how we felt through the whole game and how in control we were. At the end, six minutes left, we just kind of couldn’t put it away.”

Fisher concocted a game plan that was so ultraconservative, one almost thought Rush Limbaugh had been consulted beforehand. Until the final minute, Goff either handed the ball off to Todd Gurley or threw quick, short passes. In the first half, only two of his throws were longer than 10 yards downfield.

Still, if the usually reliable defense had been able to protect a 10-0 lead in the fourth quarter, Goff would have left a winner in his first game. A botched field goal and dumb penalty helped snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It’s premature to say that the Rams have their franchise quarterback. Like all rookies, Goff has a lot to learn, obviously. Fisher is a defense-minded coach. Young quarterbacks aren’t his specialty. He also hasn’t won a playoff game in 13 years and is in the final year of his contract.

“I think you could see the light,” Fisher said. “There was a light there for [Goff], so we’ll continue to allow him to get ready, continue to progress.”

The Goff era has started, all right, and chances are it’s far from over.

HANDLE WITH CARE: Before the game, Fox Sports broadcaster Chris Myers informed Goff that the Dolphins had knocked three QBs out of games this season. “Have they?” Goff didn’t want to believe it.

Yeah.

“I hope I’m not the next.”

Goff is listed at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, but it’s a tall, lanky 215 pounds. So yeah, the Rams may want to beef up their o-line so their $27.9 million face of the franchise isn’t next.

HEL-LOOO: Every rookie has a Welcome to the NFL Moment, and Goff had his in the second quarter.

Goff moved to the left when he couldn’t spot an open receiver. Then he spun the other way and ran smack dab into four-time Pro Bowl end Cameron Wake, who dropped him rudely.

Wake-up call, indeed.

HELP WANTED: It’s no secret that, if the Rams don’t have the worst group of receivers in the league, then they’re close to it. As if to prove it, tight end Lance Kendricks was guilty of an illegal motion penalty on the first play from scrimmage.

In the fourth quarter, Kendricks was flagged for a another false start that turned a second-and-5 situation into second-and-10. After Gurley ran for no gain, Goff completed a pass that was short of the first down. That led to a punt and the first Dolphins touchdown.

Boys and girls, that’s no way to help a first-year quarterback.

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

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