Justin Rogers | The Detroit News
The Detroit Lions’ quarterback swap, Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff, won’t be official until the middle of March. Until then, no one employed by either team is allowed to publicly acknowledge it, per league protocols.
And while Goff is considered a downgrade from Stafford, illustrated by the trio of draft picks, including two future first-rounders, the Los Angeles Rams are including in the return package, there’s no reason to believe Goff won’t be Detroit’s starter in 2021.
“Oh, it’s possible. It’s very possible,” Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said. “I think everyone knows what the rumors are and what’s been said and everything. I can’t talk about that because he’s not on our team, but I was in LA with the young man. I know he’s a winning quarterback, he’s the No.1 pick for a reason, so, good player.”
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Beyond this season, well, that’s still to be determined. Even though the addition of Goff decreases the urgency to address the quarterback position in the draft, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility, even with the No. 7 pick in the first round, where the Lions are slated to pick.
It’s still too early to have a sense how the top of the draft will play out, but the only quarterback certain to be off the board is Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. He is projected to be the first player selected. That leaves the possibility of BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance making it to the Lions at No. 7.
For subscribers: Justin Rogers’ 2021 NFL mock draft 1.0
If they do, general manager Brad Holmes will have the difficult decision of snagging a long-term solution at quarterback or addressing a different position and building around Goff.
As the head coach of the Chargers last season, Lynn just went through this process, although the situation was slightly different. The team’s starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, was entering the final year of his contract and didn’t have as strong a resume as Goff, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft who led the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2019 and has a career record of 42-27 as a starter.
The Chargers opted to take Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 6 pick with the plan to sit him behind Taylor for an undetermined amount of time.
“Well the plan all along was, yeah, we were going to play the best football player,” Lynn said. “But we didn’t have a preseason, we didn’t have an offseason, so Tyrod Taylor was our Day One starter. He earned the right to be the Day One starter. Every man on that team voted him team captain. That was the only time that happened since I’d been there. They knew what type of leader he was. And I’ve had Tyrod before. He was my starting quarterback the last time I was an OC, and we had a top-10 offense. He’s one of the best guys in the league at taking care of the football, and he has a winning record.”
That plan lasted all of two games after Taylor’s lung was punctured by a team doctor administering an injection. Herbert made the most of the early-than-expected opportunity, throwing for a rookie record 31 touchdowns en route to winning the league’s Rookie of the Year award.
Still, despite Herbert’s success, Lynn would prefer a rookie quarterback sits at least a half season while they learn the ropes. That further cements the idea Goff will be Detroit’s Week 1 starter, regardless of which way the team decides to go in the draft this year.
“I’d love to see that rookie sit and watch for a little while,” Lynn said. “If he could go watch for half a season, or watch for the first year like Patrick Mahomes did, I think you can learn so much from the right veteran quarterback because a lot of rookies come into this league and they’re not ready. The speed of the game is twice as fast as it was in college. And if they don’t have success in today’s environment, with social media, things get out of whack and some of these guys lose the confidence and, hell, they never get it back. If I can sit a rookie, I will. If I can.”
Lynn did state even though that’s his preference, he also won’t deny a rookie who has outperformed a veteran throughout the offseason.
“If he wins the battle in camp, you’ve gotta play the best player,” Lynn said. “If you don’t you’re going to have a riot in the locker room, if you don’t put the best people on the field.”
That’s an unlikely scenario. You probably should plan on seeing plenty of Goff this year, and if the Lions don’t draft a quarterback in 2021, you can probably pencil in the incoming quarterback as the starter to begin the 2022 season, as well.