ATLANTA, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Sean McVay says he's not surprised that the confident Los Angeles Rams are at the Super Bowl, even though he's the youngest coach in NFL history and leading a team of young stars against perhaps the NFL's greatest dynasty.
And it all starts with Jared Goff.
The third-year quarterback has several similarities to his Super Bowl LIII counterpart Tom Brady, starting with the fact that both players hail from the Bay Area. But it's his even-keeled demeanor that strikes most who interact with the 24-year-old.
"He's an unfazed quarterback," said McVay, who is in his second season as the Rams' coach. "I think his way to have success and handle adversity the same demonstrates that poise and confidence you want from your quarterback."
Goff says he's at his best when unemotional. No matter the moment, Goff can be seem calmly taking control of the huddle or analyzing a defense.
McVay -- who has been largely credited with turning the Rams around -- calls the team's mental toughness "special." And Goff leads that brain trust.
But while Goff's demeanor influences the team, he says he doesn't take the time to teach and preach it. The soft-spoken, blonde-haired gunslinger doesn't even know where or when the trait developed.
"It's just the way I am," Goff said. "It's just the way I've always been. It's the way my parents raised me. My dad taught me to work hard, play the game and enjoy it. I think I have good respect upon it. Just trying to have fun and not making it bigger than it is."
It's as big as it can be now. The stage is set. Fans are flocking to Atlanta to watch these two styles clash: McVay and Goff's high-octane attack against the greatest offensive muzzle of all-time in Bill Belichick.
The New England Patriots head coach calls Goff "really impressive." That means something coming from the man who helped craft Brady into arguably the best quarterback of all time.
Belichick offered an enlightened scouting report on Goff.
"He makes good decisions," Belichick said. "He handles everything at the line of scrimmage for the team. He is very accurate on the deep ball. They hit a lot of big plays. He's very good at play action. He does a good job of utilizing his second and third receivers on check downs and outlets. He moves out of the pocket well on bootlegs and rollouts. They score a lot of points and it all goes through the quarterback. So he does a lot of things well. He's a good player."
An under-appreciated star?
That wasn't always easy to see. And some NFL critics still judge Goff harshly due to his lackluster rookie performance.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft completed just 54.6 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions during his rookie campaign. He posted a 63.6 quarterback rating in seven starts.
Then the Rams fired Jeff Fisher and brought in McVay.
Goff completed 62.1 percent of his throws for 3,804 yards, 28 scores and seven interceptions in 15 starts during his 2017 campaign, making his first Pro Bowl in McVay's first season. He was even better in 2018, completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 4,688 yards, 32 scores and 12 interceptions. Goff has quarterback ratings eclipsing 100 in each of his past two seasons.
All-Pro running back Todd Gurley has had a front seat for the Goff show. Gurley -- who has led the league in rushing touchdowns in each of the last two seasons -- says he doesn't view Goff as under-appreciated.
"Maybe in someone else's eyes, but not in my eyes," Gurley said. "He's a great guy. He's a gunslinger. He was the No. 1 overall pick. What do you expect out of the guy?
"He's not going to help your team or he is going to help your team. He has been able to help our team the last couple of years. He's a great player."
Thirsting for knowledge
Goff was credited with having a great football mind as a prospect. His NFL.com scouting report compared him to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and said he has the "field demeanor of a franchise quarterback."
Andrew Whitworth would know what that looks like. The All-Pro tackle has been around the NFL for 13 seasons, a majority of them with the Cincinnati Bengals, watching Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton emerge as prolific passers.
He said Goff's special trait is a constant curiosity for all things football.
"He's a question asker, that's his deal," Whitworth said. "There are a lot of things with how people are wired. His ability that he asks questions is funny. You almost sometimes are scared to bring up topics because you know he's going to ask you 7,000 questions. It's cool to see how much it means to him to know everything he can know. If it's about '90s football or 2000s football, he wants to know.
"He's a kid who is thirsting for knowledge."
Rams receiver Brandin Cooks has seen the best in several big-time quarterbacks, including when he played with Brady and the Patriots in 2017. Cooks won't compare the future Hall of Famer with his current teammate, but has noticed Goff's unique gift of serenity -- no matter the moment -- spreading throughout the roster.
"It's absolutely something that rubs off on us," Cooks said. "Especially when you see that coming from your quarterback. For him to be so calm and collected and play with such a quieted mind like that ... If your quarterback can do it, who is going through the most stress throughout the game, then as a receiver or whatever the case may be, you should be able to do it as well."
McVay might say that Goff is "the same" but that doesn't mean he hasn't used his past experiences to grow. Goff completed 53.8 percent of his passes and threw for just one score in the Rams' 2018 first-round exit to the Atlanta Falcons. While he didn't throw a score in the Rams' win against the Dallas Cowboys to start the 2019 postseason, Goff did show plenty of his trademark poise in leading the Rams to a victory in the NFC Championship against the New Orleans Saints on the road.
The 33-year-old Rams coach credited that poise for being a large reason why the Rams are in the Super Bowl for the first time since facing Belichick and the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI back in 2002. McVay says he is confident that Goff is going to have a "great game" Sunday.
"He has gotten better physically and then he has definitely got a better ownership of what we are trying to get done," McVay said. "He uses his experience to really utilize those previous reps to learn from when they do come up in the future. I think that is why he has played better."
Goff's Rams battle the Patriots in the Super Bowl at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Patriots are 2.5 point favorites.