Justin Rogers | The Detroit News
If Jared Goff is going to be successful in Detroit, NFL Network analyst and Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner believes the Lions are going to need to commit to building a system around Goff similar to the one the Rams had that translated to his best seasons, in 2017 and 2018.
“There are definitely some deficiencies with Jared Goff,” Warner said. “If you go back and look at him in L.A., when they do what they do, in terms of they run the football, they play-action and they stay in that wheelhouse, when they’re able to play games that way, Jared Goff is really, really good. When they’re forced to play different ways and they’re forced to play more drop-back football, Jared Goff isn’t as good. And I will just say, I don’t believe that the Rams system is great in the drop-back game, either. So that could be some of the reasons that Jared hasn’t been as good in that part of that game.
“This relates to a lot of quarterbacks in this business. You don’t have a bunch of Tom Bradys that can just pick-and-choose and throw them in any system and they’ll be great. There are not very many guys (like Brady), so you have to build around your quarterback. It’s been shown in L.A., when you can build around Jared Goff and what he does, you can have a lot of success. That will be the challenge, for me, for the Detroit Lions.”
Before offering that opinion, Warner made sure to point out the need to build around a quarterback’s skill set isn’t unique, stating approximately 25 of the league’s 32 starters need that level of support to succeed.
As for the Lions replicating what the Rams have put around Goff, that’s a tall order. During the quarterback’s two Pro Bowl seasons, he had the support of an elite running game. Between 2017-18, Todd Gurley averaged 4.8 yards per carry, rushed for 2,556 yards and 30 touchdowns, and earned first-team All-Pro honors each year.
The Lions, on the other hand, have had a historically difficult time moving the ball on the ground since the retirement of Barry Sanders more than two decades ago. During Matthew Stafford’s 12 years with the franchise, the team never finished in the top half of the league in rushing yards, while ranking among the bottom three four times.
And those Rams teams, while not among the league’s elite, were still far superior defensively than the Lions in recent years. The unit is coming off its worst defensive performance in franchise history, in terms of yards and points allowed.
That’s why Warner looks to the draft picks the Lions picked up along with Goff — a pair of future first-round selections, as well as a third-rounder this year — to help facilitate the roster rebuild.
“They’ve got this draft collateral,” Warner said. “They have to build this team if they’re going to keep Jared Goff and make him their guy. They’ve got to build this team around what he does well and make sure that they stay in that as much as they possibly can, or have the talent to live in that world as much as they possibly can. Because when they get out of that, Jared has shown he’s not as good in those other areas. But he’s a winner, he’s done well in this league, and I think he can continue to do well as long as you build a system around him that plays to his strengths.”
Additionally, as part of the NFL Network’s Super Bowl access this week, former Lions coach Steve Mariucci and Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin drew comparisons from Detroit’s deal to acquire Goff, along with that trio of draft picks, to the storied Herschel Walker trade that helped transform the Dallas Cowboys from one of the league’s worst teams to a three-time Super Bowl champion.
“This is the time for Detroit,” Mariucci said. “It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but when we start drafting these guys, you’ve got to hit on these guys. You’ve got to find starters that show up in the Pro Bowl once in a while. But, man, I think they can start turning the corner. This is a good deal for Detroit.”
Irvin, Dallas’ first-round pick the year before they traded Walker to the Vikings for a player and pick haul that included three first-round and three second-round selections, said it will be important for Detroit to remember to use their picks not just on pure talent, but on prospects committed to being part of the franchise’s cultural overhaul.
“That’s one of the things I do remember us talking about and talking about, OK, let’s make sure we get the right kind of guys in here,” Irvin said. “Sometimes, if I’m in that situation, I’m going in looking for guys that kind of want to make their own mark and try to bring them in. I’ll take a guy a little less talented but has the right attitude because I know I’m building something. I want a guy that’s going to be vibrant, always on the practice field, always lifting everybody up because you’re trying to turn something around.
“And it can work out a great way in Detroit if they know how to go out and find those guys, like (Mariucci) was talking about. Not just physically gifted guys, but the right mentality guys.”