ATLANTA — One of the hardest parts of having a quarterback as young as Jared Goff is the inability to communicate in the same language. There will be times when a coach or a teammate makes a reference to something that is ingrained as part of the NFL’s culture, something that most fans would know and recognize instantly, and the 24-year-old Rams quarterback will meet it with a blank stare.
“I get asked about stuff all the time,” Goff said on Monday at the Super Bowl Opening Night. “I mean, I was born in 1994. If it’s from the ’90s, I probably don’t remember it.”
Welcome the NFL’s first millennial starting quarterback in a Super Bowl.
Goff is the fourth-youngest quarterback to start in this game, and he’s made the jump from first overall pick to Super Bowl in three years, faster than any other quarterback ever has.
Luckily for him, the generation gap isn’t too wide with his head coach, Sean McVay, who just turned 33 last week. But there are plenty of times when conversations with other coaches or even other players have that gulf between them.
“There have been a lot of green moments with Jared,” said offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, 37. “It’s fun to kind of teach him things you realize he just has no idea about and you sometimes take for granted that he would know about it.”
Fortunately for Goff and the Rams, they coexist in a world in which finding information is as easy as pulling a phone out of your pocket. But some things require a human touch, and Whitworth said he’s happy to oblige by sharing his base of knowledge.
“He’s a tremendous kid and he’s a question-asker,” Whitworth said. “That’s his deal. He asks a lot of questions and that’s how he learns. Honestly, he asks questions and sometimes you’re scared to bring up topics because you know that he’s gonna ask you 7,000 questions.”
Whitworth said he really doesn’t mind. When something he says about a song or a play or a technique or a game goes over Goff’s head, he tries not to roll his eyes and tell him to just Google it.
Whitworth said it reminds him of coming home from work and answering questions from his kids about school or life or anything they found interesting that day. In truth, Goff and Whitworth’s kids probably have more in common generationally.
Goff is trying to catch up when it comes to the library of knowledge that exists before his football consciousness came online. So no, he has no recollection of the last Rams Super Bowl win here in Atlanta in 2000. He doesn’t remember watching Tom Brady and the Patriots win their first title over the Rams two years later. But he’s gone back and watched them.
The first Super Bowl he remembers watching, he said, was New England’s win over the Panthers in 2004. But now he’s familiar with the play of guys such as Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk from the Rams’ championship teams just before that.
Goff wears the No. 16 jersey in honor of Joe Montana, who retired the same year he was born. He was 7 years old, playing in a youth league, and couldn’t decide which number to pick. His father suggested Montana’s. Goff had never heard of him but went along with it. He then came to appreciate the Hall of Famer.
“You can tell he’s a kid thirsty for knowledge and it means a lot to him to know as much as he can as quickly as he can,” Whitworth said. “It’s fun. He has such a young spirit about him. You can tell it’s genuine, that he genuinely cares and genuinely wants to know.”
So while Goff is trying to carve out his place in the present and future of the NFL and Super Bowl lore, he’s accumulating facts from its past.
Even if that past doesn’t seem as if it should feel so long ago.
Youngest quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl:
Player, Team Age (Years-Days) SB Result
Dan Marino. Miami 23-127 XIX SF 38, Miami 16
Ben Roethlisberger, Pitt. 23-340 XL Pitt. 21, Sea. 10
David Woodley, Miami 24-97 XVII Wash. 27, Miami 17
Jared Goff, LAR 24-112 LIII TBD
Tom Brady, NE 24-184 XXXVI NE 20, St. Louis 17