Three reasons to be optimistic about Jared Goff becoming a Detroit Lion

Detroit Free Press

After more than six weeks, it’s finally here.

Jared Goff can finally become a member of the Detroit Lions as soon as 4 p.m. Wednesday, when the NFL’s new league year kicks off.

That means the Jan. 30 deal that sent Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Goff and three draft picks can become official, though it may not be announced immediately.

Goff’s arrival should be cause for Lions fans to celebrate. Here are three reasons why:

Something to prove

One of the reasons I think Stafford never reached his full potential was because he never had to compete for his job. And no, I’m not counting his sham competition as a rookie with Daunte Culpepper. How often do we hear athletes say competition makes them better? It’s one thing if a player is undeniably elite at his position. But if he isn’t, then competition is warranted.

Goff could face competition from a rookie draft pick this year or next. But even Goff doesn’t, he has something to prove with the clock ticking on his ability to cash in on a new contract in the next two years — after which his guaranteed money runs out and roster bonuses become an issue.

He doesn’t turn 27 until October, which means if Goff plays well for the Lions, he could set himself up for a long and lucrative (OK, even more lucrative) career in Detroit or elsewhere. If he doesn’t play well, he’ll probably be gone in the next two years and forced to sign somewhere as a free agent nearing 30 who isn’t guaranteed a job.

Goff’s situation is one reason why I hope the Lions pick a quarterback early in the NFL draft this year or next. As much as teams want to believe they’re going to use a bounty of draft picks to find starters and contributors throughout the draft, I think having two really good quarterbacks on the roster is never a bad thing. It creates competition at the most important position. As great as Aaron Rodgers has been, I firmly believe if the Packers hadn’t drafted Jordan Love in the first round last year, then Rodgers wouldn’t have pushed himself to earn a third MVP award at age 37.

He’s a winner

You can try to come up with a list of Goff’s faults and flaws and shortcomings. But the fact is he’s a young quarterback with three playoff victories and a Super Bowl appearance under his belt. And a young quarterback with playoff success is something the Lions haven’t had since a young Bobby Layne won his second NFL title nearly 70 years ago.

I’ve seen a lot of Lions players come and go and I’ve noticed a difference in players who have arrived with winning experience. I remember when the Lions were trying to dig out of the rubble after 2008 and they brought in players like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Nate Burleson and Stephen Tulloch. All three of those players led in different ways, but they all exuded confidence. The offense and defense used to sit on opposite sides of the locker room, but when Jim Schwartz arrived he wisely intermingled the position groups and had an excellent leader like Vanden Bosch sit next to Stafford and Ndamukong Suh.

There’s often something unique about how they carry themselves in the locker room and how they’re viewed by other players, especially younger ones. Winners expect to win and that helps breed a different mentality on a team, especially one that’s rebuilding and trying to establish a culture and an identity.

I don’t know what kind of leader Goff will be. But I hope he shows up in Allen Park believing the Lions are his team and that they’ll only go as far as he can take them. I hope he takes ownership of his role as a leader and has confidence in the experience he’s gained while winning 42 games the past five years, plus three playoff wins.

A new voice

I have no idea what the relationship was like between Goff and Rams coach Sean McVay. But when I watched their interactions on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” last year, I was stunned. The way McVay treated Goff felt like the way a coach treats a rookie, bordering almost on disrespect by the way he barked directions. Heck, Goff was on “Hard Knocks” as a rookie and was treated better then by Jeff Fisher.

To be fair, that’s a small glimpse seen through edited footage for TV. Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn was simultaneously on “Hard Knocks” last year when he was the Los Angeles Chargers’ coach. And when comparing Lynn’s interactions with Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert to those between McVay and Goff, the difference was even more striking. Lynn treated both quarterbacks with a lot more respect.

McVay’s disrespect even continued after the season, when he said something entirely unnecessary after the playoff loss to Green Bay. McVay was asked if Goff was his quarterback and he replied, “Yeah, he’s the quarterback right now.”

Really? That’s your answer after Goff saved your bacon by stepping in for injured John Wolford and beating the Seattle Seahawks less than two weeks after thumb surgery? Ugh.

Maybe McVay is an offensive genius. But maybe he’s more interested in preserving that reputation than he is preserving relationships with his most important players. Even if McVay was frustrated with Goff’s inconsistency, there was no need to add such a passive-aggressive phrase in such a public forum.

I think hearing Lynn’s voice as the Lions’ offensive coordinator should do wonders for Goff. I’d rather have a coach who’s more interested in bringing out the best in his players and sees their failures as his own, rather than a genius who seems bothered by players who don’t help him burnish his image.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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