With quarterback questions, Rams head to chilly Green Bay
By Don Wanlass
The NFL playoffs, like the postseasons for most professional sports, is often a battle of attrition. The team with the healthiest bodies at the end of a long season quite often prevails against a team that has more talent, but has injuries at key positions.
And in the NFL, the most key position on any roster is the quarterback.
Thus, it is not a good omen for the Rams, as they prepare for their second-round playoff game in a freezing cold Lambeau Stadium in Green Bay Jan. 16 to not know three days before the game who will start at quarterback.
Normal starter Jared Goff played just well enough to defeat the Seattle Seahawks Jan. 9 behind a stellar effort by the Rams defense.
Goff replaced former backup John Wolford early in the first quarter against Seattle after Wolford left with a neck injury.
Wolford was the surprise starter over Goff after leading the Rams into the playoffs with an 18-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals in the last game of the season after Goff broke his right thumb the previous week.
But Wolford only lasted two series before leaving the game after getting hit in the head at the end of a run. Wolford’s legs, the reason he started the game over Goff, took him out of the game early.
On a day that the defense was not going to give up much, Goff, bad thumb at all, was more than capable of leading the Rams past the Seahawks.
Defeating Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers on a cold, late January afternoon in Green Bay, will be something else.
Rams coach Sean McVay will use the health of his quarterbacks to keep the Packers guessing this week. They will have to prepare for both Goff and Wolford, because they are two distinct quarterback types.
Meanwhile Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and the rest of the Rams defense will have to keep Rodgers off the scoreboard, something much easier said than done.
If Goff starts, it will be the 10th time since 1970 that an NFL playoff game has featured starting quarterbacks from the same university.
Rodgers and Goff both played at California. The similarities end there.
Rodgers is a former most valuable player and Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Goff is an average NFL quarterback who rode the wheels of Todd Gurley and a solid defense to the Super Bowl two years ago in his second year in the league.
Dan Marino took the Miami Dolphins to the Super Bowl in his second season and never got back there. Goff is not Dan Marino.
If both quarterbacks are healthy, I would start Wolford. His ability to run adds a dimension to the Rams offense that Goff can’t match. Simply speaking, the Packers have more to worry about defensively if Wolford plays than if Goff plays.
The Rams can win behind either quarterback if their defense plays the way it did against the Seahawks.
The Rams gave up only 278 yards to the Seahawks and sacked Russell Wilson five times. They also put points on the board with Darious Williams jumping a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage and racing 42 yards to the end zone in the second quarter to give the Rams a 20-10 halftime lead.
The Packers have more offensive weapons than Seattle, plus they are used to playing in Lambeau in the winter. The Rams will go from practicing in 75 degree weather in Thousand Oaks this week to playing in the low 30s or high 20s.
The cold of Green Bay or Minnesota has stopped more than one Rams playoff team in the past.
We will see what the chill does to this year’s team.
DEATH OF A LEGEND: The baseball world is mourning the death of former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda Jan. 7.
Lasorda’s career in baseball lasted 72 years as he went from a solid minor league pitcher, to a mediocre major league pitcher, to scout, minor league manager, third-base coach, major league manager, general manager and assistant to the president and team (and league) ambassador.
He managed the Dodgers for 20 years, taking them to four World Series and winning two World Series championships. He also won an Olympic gold medal for the United States by guiding the 2000 U.S. baseball team to the championship.
As a Dodger scout in 1964, he signed Willie Crawford, a Fremont High School standout, to a $100,000 contract a year before the Major Leagues instituted the draft.
Crawford, a three-sport star at Fremont, never became the star everybody predicted by the played 14 years in the majors, the first 12 with the Dodgers.
“He was big and powerful, and he could hit a ball as far as anybody,” Lasorda said of Crawford, a career .268 hitter who collected most of his 86 homers and 419 RBIs with the Dodgers from 1964-75. “He could have gone on to college and been one of the true great football players.”
In the Dodgers organization, Lasorda made his biggest impression as a minor league manager, taking the 1968 draft class of Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopez, Ron Cey, Tom Paciorek, Bobby Valentine, Geoff Zahn and Joe Ferguson and guiding them to the major leagues.
By the time they got there, Lasorda was coaching third base for the Dodgers.
He replaced Walt Alston, who had managed the team since their Brooklyn days in 1954, for the last four games of the 1976 season and then took the Dodgers to the World Series in his first two full seasons as manager in 1977 and 1978.
Unfortunately, the Dodgers fell to the Yankees in the World Series both years. That changed in 1981, when Lasorda led the Dodgers through a strike-shortened season back to the series, where they beat the Yankees in six games.
It took them seven more seasons to get back to the series in 1988, when the Dodgers, thanks to Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in game one, surprised the heavily favored Oakland A’s in five games.
Lasorda never got back to the series as a manager, retiring during the 1996 season after being sidelined by a heart attack.
He was in the stadium in Arlington, Texas this past October when the Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to win the team’s first World Series in 32 years.
He will be remembered as long as the game of baseball itself.
ODDS AND ENDS: The Genesis Invitational, Los Angeles’ signature professional golf tournament, will be played without spectators this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizers have announced.
The tournament — formerly known as the Los Angeles Open — will be held Feb. 15-21 at Riviera Country Club and will be broadcast on GOLF Channel and CBS.
“The health and well-being of the community, our players and everyone at the Genesis Invitational remains our top priority,” tournament director Mike Antolini said.
He said games and activities to keep fans engaged with the tournament while watching the broadcast are planned, and the tournament’s family village will be taken virtual with digital activities, challenges and education resources designed for kids ages 5-12 available on GenesisInvitational.com in the coming weeks.
For more information, see https://genesisinvitational.com/. …
The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the sports world in different ways. The Lakers announced Jan. 9 that they would not be fielding a G-League team this season.
The South Bay Lakers were supposed to join 17 other NBD development teams in an Orlando, Florida, bubble similar to the one the league operated for the end of the season and the playoffs beginning last August.
“While we appreciate the G League’s efforts in putting together this model to accommodate all member teams, we have determined this is the best course of action for the Lakers organization,” the South Bay Lakers said in a statement. “We look forward to our eventual return to G League basketball.”
Meanwhile, the Agua Caliente Clippers — the affiliate of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers — will be one of the 18 teams participating in the G League season.
“While we continue working towards our ultimate goal of returning to the market and playing in front of our fans when it’s deemed safe to do so, we’re excited to be taking part in the 2021 NBA G League season in Orlando,” Agua Caliente President Justin Kemp said.
The G League season will begin in February. Eight of the 18 teams will qualify for the playoffs.
A sadder note from the coronavirus, Montebello High School assistant football coach Gabriel Arellano died Jan. 5 from coronavirus complications.
Arellano, 39, leaves behind a wife and two children.
The family has created a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/f/gabriel-arellano-and-family?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet.
“Gabriel’s number one priority was always his family and during these unprecedented times his family will need help with finances and anything they need,” the page says.
Arellano was a graduate of Schurr High School in Montebello and played football at East Los Angeles College before starting his coaching career at Rosemead High.
“The Montebello Oilers football program lost a family member today!” the team tweeted. “We extend our deepest condolences to his family!! … You will be with us forever Coach!”
Montebello football coach Pete Gonzalez said, “I had so much respect for him, and this was so devastating for everyone that knew him.”
City News Service contributed to this story.