THOUSAND OAKS — It’s audition time for Sean Mannion.
The Rams will rest many of their top players in Sunday’s regular-season finale against San Francisco at the Coliseum, including quarterback Jared Goff, which means Mannion will start his first NFL game.
There’s no competition anymore. That wasn’t certain in training camp, when even a Rams Hall of Fame former player called for Mannion to start over Goff. That was equal parts criticism of Goff and praise of Mannion, the third-year quarterback who often has looked good in preseason games and practices.
Goff, of course, now holds sole dominion over this Rams’ offense and has put together a season so strong that he was named first alternate to the NFC Pro Bowl team.
The Rams (11-4) have clinched the NFC West title and a first-round home playoff game and cannot play their way into a bye, so Coach Sean McVay made the prudent decision to rest Goff, running back Todd Gurley, offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and others.
That means a backup-heavy lineup will face the 49ers (5-10), and most notably, Mannion is scheduled to play the entire game with Goff as his backup.
“I’m super excited,” Mannion said after Wednesday’s practice at Cal Lutheran. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s something I’ve wanted for my whole career, my whole life. To get to do it is a great opportunity for me and a great opportunity for our team. Coach McVay talked about it with everybody. We’re all going out there to try to win the game. I’m just excited to be out there and get a chance to play.”
McVay’s decision to keep Goff on the sideline was pragmatic. Goff, who has started all 15 games, isn’t exactly worn down, but the Rams don’t want to risk injury, particularly with Whitworth and Sullivan out.
Goff said McVay made “a good decision” to rest players against the 49ers, even though Goff feels good.
“I don’t feel banged up or anything,”…