Jared Goff comes home again — older, wiser, better

Former Cal golden boy Jared Goff will play in the first nationally televised game of his NFL career on Thursday, and Balls bets that a few Faithless wish he would be in Santa Clara scarlet — not Los Angeles Rams white — when it happens. 

Not to be critical or anything.

Like any 22-year-old quarterback, Goff remains a work in progress. He’s still prone to mistakes like the one last week, when he stared down fave receiver Cooper Kupp on a crucial interception late in the game.

But rest assured that this isn’t the same beaten rookie we saw a year ago. Not close, really.

The new management team has made a point to surround Goff with better personnel this time around. Coupled with a hellish year of experience, the result is a more confident, efficient pocket passer who has barely scratched the surface of his potential.

“He has made steps in the right direction,” said new Rams boss Sean McVay, the youngest coach in the league at 31 years old. “You know, there are always gonna be a couple plays here and there you would like to have back in the course of a game. But he is making progress and he’s also very coachable, which is what you love about him, too.”

There’s enormous pressure on Goff to make good as a No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. More yet in a hoity-toity town that spits out losers like a Pez dispenser. Early returns suggest the Rams got fleeced when they gave up a small ransom to the Tennessee Titans to move up 15 spots in the order.

Yet let’s not forget that Goff is a lot tougher than he looks. He inherited an awful Cal team that won one game in his first season. By the time the kid left school, the Bears were 8-5 and bowl winners. Nobody should be surprised if he survives El-Eh, too.

If Goff turns out to be a cross between Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan — as some talent evaluators project — he’ll be worth it. Top 10 quarterbacks are hard to come by, if you haven’t noticed around here.

JUST ASKIN’: Better for Santa Clara to have drafted a younger version of Cousins in a rebuild mode two years ago or sign the near 30-year-old original to a monster contract in a rebuild mode after this one?

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE: Since the Warriors’ Kevin Durant became an NBA champion, he has dissed everything — from teammate Stephen Curry’s shoes to Billy Donovan, his one-time Oklahoma City Thunder coach.

C’mon, KD, stop it already. You’re better than this.

Seems that Durant can’t get over his insecurity complex, which makes no sense at all. He’s the star of the best NBA team in decades, no worse than the second-best basketball player on the planet, for goshsakes. He’s the reigning NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, not to mention a certain Hall of Famer. He’ll be paid $25 million next season. He’s 28, otherwise healthy and in the prime of his career …

Durant has since deleted his admittedly “childish” tweets about Donovan, and here’s hopin’ that it’s a lesson learned.

JUST SAYIN’: The L.A. Chargers can’t sell out a 27,000-seat soccer stadium, so yeah, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis wins again. Offenses have struggled in the first two weeks of the NFL season, but don’t blame it all on quarterback play. As long as teams treat the preseason like a Fabio workout, they won’t be prepared for the real one.

The Raiders’ Michael Crabtree nearly beat one of Balls’ fantasy league teams single-handedly last weekend. No problem, King Crab. Just don’t let it happen again, OK?

Glad to report that 82-year-old Giants ball retriever Vince Gomez is alive and well after his header at AT&T Park the other night. Hey, when you sit that close to Hunter Pence all season, you’re bound to go all out along the way.

YOUR TURN: “The Giants can learn from their mistake and sign Jay Bruce as a free agent. Then general manager Bobby Evans can address Brandon Belt, his other big mistake. Evans signed him in mid-year of 2016, and since then, the Giants have been in a downhill spin. Belt is way overpaid and overrated as a player. Evans dug this hole, now he needs eat his losses and trade him. I would give him another year to right this ship. ” Lou (Turn Two) Tulipano, Santa Rosa

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