In 2015, the then St. Louis Rams were a middle-of-the-road franchise going nowhere. The team was coming off a 7-9 season — the fourth straight campaign they’d finished with either six or seven wins — leaving them with the No. 15 pick in that year’s draft.
During that four-year stretch, the team had a different starting quarterback each season. And the middle of the first round isn’t the spot where you typically find a solution at the position. Relocating to Los Angeles the next year, the team needed to be aggressive and bold if they wanted to solve the problem.
General manager Les Snead approached college scouting director Brad Holmes and floated a hypothetical. Paraphrased, Snead asked Holmes his thoughts about moving up to No. 1 overall and who he would take at that spot.
Holmes thought back through all the prospects he’d scouted and said, “Yeah, I’d do it for Goff.”
Holmes doesn’t know if his answer factored into Snead’s decision, but the Rams did exactly what had been suggested, sending a package of picks to the Tennessee Titans to move up and take California quarterback Jared Goff.
Five years later, Holmes, now the Detroit Lions general manager, is once again pushing his chips all in for Goff, acquiring the quarterback in a blockbuster trade also involving Matthew Stafford and a trio of early-round draft picks.
“We were very excited then, and we’re still excited now after this most recent trade,” Holmes said Friday, immediately after Goff was introduced by the Lions.
Heading into the 2016 draft, Goff wasn’t necessarily viewed as the best overall prospect by analysts, but was generally considered the top quarterback in the class, just ahead of Carson Wentz, who went No. 2 to the Eagles that year.
Holmes recalled the moment he was convinced Goff was the best choice for the Rams.
“I’ll never forget, I saw Jared play at Stanford,” Holmes said. “I think after like the second series I said, ‘Wow. This is the guy.’
Cal lost that game, 35-22, to a better team ranked No. 11 in the country at the time, but Goff put up monster numbers in one of his final auditions for the NFL. He attempted 54 passes, completing 37 for 386 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Goff would go on to post a 42-27 record as the Rams starter, taking the team to the playoffs three times in five years.
Something to prove
In Goff’s case, the trade to the Lions was the equivalent of being fired. Despite two Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl appearance, the franchise no longer believed he was the best option to be the starting quarterback.
As you might imagine, that decision stung, at least momentarily
“I was disappointed for two minutes,” Goff said. “And then I spoke to these guys on the phone (Holmes and coach Dan Campbell), and it was like a breath of fresh air. Being able to hear from Dan, being able to hear from Brad, being able to hear from (offensive coordinator Anthony) Lynn, people around the organization, Rod (Wood), Sheila (Ford Hamp), everyone. it was immediate, ‘OK, this is where I’m supposed to be.’
From there, it didn’t take long for disappointment to turn into motivation.
“I think it builds that chip on your shoulder a little bit,” Goff said. “I won’t lie about that. There is that little extra motivation and chip that you do feel. Again, I am so thankful for all my time there, but yeah, you do feel that. You do feel a little bit of, ‘OK, let’s see what we can do now.'”
Hitting new targets
Goff will hardly be the only new piece in Detroit this season. The team is also in the process of overhauling its receiving corps.
Detroit lost Marvin Jones and Jamal Agnew in free agency, with Kenny Golladay expected to follow suit in the coming days. To replenish the corps, the team has signed Tyrell Williams and reached an agreement with Breshad Perriman.
Goff has been scouting the situation and is looking forward to getting some work in with his new teammates this offseason.
“Yeah, I’ve texted with both of them,” Goff said. “Excited about both of them, I think they’re both great pieces. I’ve seen them from afar around this league, making plays and excited about both of them for sure. I will be working out with them at some point. We’re still waiting to hear what the NFL will do for offseason programming. Whenever that may be, we’ll get together and we’ll get some work in and I know they’re excited for it as well as I am.”