Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay knows offense. And that’s why his decision to trade quarterback Jared Goff last offseason was a massive indictment against the quarterback’s ability to lead an NFL team to consistent production year over year. In Sunday’s tie to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Goff was as bad as he’s been as a pro, and his days as a starter in the league appear numbered.
To be fair, Goff did suffer a rib/oblique injury during the game, which Lions coach Dan Campbell said contributed to the team’s conservative play-calling. But do you really believe that? Goff hasn’t pushed the ball downfield all season, even when healthy.
“We all felt like he was good—he was good enough to go,” Campbell said of Goff. “We all felt like he was good enough to stay in there, so that’s why we stuck with him.”
According to Campbell, the Lions’ training staff, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, and quarterback coach Mark Brunell were all part of the decision to keep Goff in the lineup. So, yeah, maybe Goff wasn’t 100%, but he wasn’t hurt enough to be replaced either. Instead, the simple truth is this: Goff isn’t a good starting quarterback, and any success he enjoyed during his time under McVay was more because of McVay’s system than Goff’s ability.
Goff’s final stat line looked like something you’d read in the NFL history books, and not because it was record-setting. Instead, it was the kind of game your grandfather or great grandfather may have seen during their prime years. He completed 14-of-25 passes for 114 yards. He averaged 4.6 yards per attempt, which believe it or not was almost two yards worse than his 6.5 yards per attempt on the season entering the game. He was already in the bottom three of that category entering Week 10.
When Goff tried to push the ball downfield, the results were… ugly.
Sunday’s performance makes it three of the last four games that Goff hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass, and this was with the added benefit of an extra period of playing time against the Steelers. He’s thrown only eight touchdowns this year and remains one of the least productive starting quarterbacks who’s played every game for their team in 2021.
It would be easy to pile on Goff after such a pitiful game. But that’s getting a little old, isn’t it? The case against the former No. 1 overall pick is closed. There’s nothing left to learn about his standing among the NFL’s starting quarterbacks. He isn’t the long-term answer for the Lions and it’s time for Detroit to end any debate about whether he’ll hang around as QB1 in the Motor City in 2022. Sure, there’s little upside in promoting backup David Blough, but there’s little to no downside, either.
The Lions remain winless despite a game on Sunday that they very easily could’ve won if they had even an average quarterback behind center. They field an offense that poses no threat—at all—of a passing attack that can make plays beyond a handful of yards. They’re proving that’s a recipe for disaster.
The success of second-year running back D’Andre Swift in spite of Detroit’s one-sided offense is remarkable, but it’s also being wasted. Swift set a career-high in rushing against Pittsburgh and shouldered the kind of workload (33 carries) that can shorten a running back’s career. It’d be a shame if Goff not only handicaps the Lions’ passing game but also exposes Swift to higher injury risk and, potentially, shortens his prime along the way.
What makes the Goff situation even more problematic for the Lions is the financial burden he poses to the salary cap. His dead cap figure in 2022 is $30.5M, per Spotrac, which means barring a trade, he’s more than likely to remain in Detroit for another year. But that shouldn’t dissuade general manager Brad Holmes from prioritizing quarterback in the offseason, whether it be via trade or in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Aaron Rodgers? Russell Wilson? Nah. Neither veteran superstar will accept a trade to a team as bad as the Lions. And if Detroit can’t land either of those big names in a trade, the only logical place to find their QB-next is the draft.
The Lions are tracking for the No. 1 pick overall, and while there isn’t a quarterback worthy of that pick as of now, the NFL draft process never ceases to surprise. A prospect like Pitt’s Kenny Picket or Ole Miss’ Matt Corral could impress enough in the post-season all-star circuit, at the NFL Scouting Combine, or during their pro days to vault their names into consideration. And while reaching on a quarterback with the first overall pick is an extremely dangerous proposition, beggars can’t be choosers, right?
The Lions, with Goff, are doomed. They’re doomed in 2021, and they’ll be doomed in 2022 if he remains the starter. He has the potential to doom the franchise beyond 2022 as well. Detroit traded Matthew Stafford for a boatload of picks and settled on Goff as a satisfactory replacement for the best quarterback in their franchise’s history. It’s proven to be a massive on-field mistake and will be magnified beyond that if they can’t land a young quarterback this offseason to build around.