Jared Goff was introduced as the Detroit Lions’ new quarterback Friday and said something few, if any, Lions quarterbacks could say for the past 60 years.
He knows how to win because he has actually, you know, won. And won big.
Goff arrives with a 42-27 regular season record, three playoff wins, and a Super Bowl appearance. He spoke about what winning experience means to him.
“I think from my standpoint, it’s knowing how to win and knowing what it takes and being there and doing it,” he said. “I think that is important. I think I’ve won playoff games and know what it feels like to be in those moments, and I’m so excited to hopefully bring that to Detroit.”
That’s it, isn’t? Winning. Isn’t that what every Lions fan wants? Forget all the talk about toughness and grit. How about if we just get a quarterback who knows what winning looks like and knows how to lead his team to victory?
“There’s three things that I think about with Jared Goff,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said Friday. “He’s tough, he’s durable and most importantly he’s a winner. He’s won in this league. He knows how to win.”
It’s harder than ever these days to get a sense of who people are over Zoom calls. One of the arts of sports writing is learning how to navigate a locker room, learning who to trust and getting them to trust you. So who knows when Detroit sports writers will get to know Goff better?
But the early impression I got as he spoke with reporters in a quiet and careful tone was of a young person who had essentially been fired from his first job and was trying to communicate how much a second chance means to him, while trying to get a handle on what he means to his new city.
“I went downtown for dinner twice this week and seeing – I didn’t know much about Detroit until recently,” he said. “And being down there and seeing the stadiums are all on the same block and everything’s really close and it is a sports town. And being able to play in a sports town is special. It’s something that I’m excited about, and I know football is king here and I plan to make it a winner.”
I’m not big on rah-rah speeches. But I believe Goff and I’m impressed by his perception about Detroit being a sports town desperate for a winner. Goff is coming from playing college football at California in a town dominated by pro sports and then playing in a pro landscape as sprawled out and disconnected as its vast suburbs. And he already senses the difference.
“What I feel every day being here so far,” he said, “is how badly this city wants and needs to win, and wants and needs their football team to win. I’m now the quarterback here and I’m excited to provide that.”
Of course, that’s the big question. Can Goff win with the Lions without an Aaron Donald-led defense and an established Pro Bowl running back? It’s also the big bet by general manager Brad Holmes, who took on Goff’s huge contract of $43 million guaranteed — and $54.3 million total — over the next two seasons.
Holmes didn’t explicitly say he turned down the Carolina Panthers’ reported offer for Matthew Stafford of the No. 8 overall pick, a fifth-rounder and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He only mentioned “aggressive offers.” And while Holmes still robbed the Los Angeles Rams with two first-rounders and a third-rounder for Stafford, he emphasized the importance of getting Goff in the trade.
“I did think that out of all the aggressive offers,” Holmes said, “and competitive offers that we were weighing, that to be able to acquire a quarterback at the status level of what Jared has accomplished I thought that was very, very intriguing from a compensation standpoint.”
While having the No. 7 and No. 8 pick this year might have been tempting, the haul from the Rams was better. Goff, 26, gives the Lions more hope and a realistic chance to win, while being a younger player who has a history with Holmes.
That history is going to be the key to Goff’s success. His performance and production sagged over the past two seasons, and with it so did his relationship with the Rams and coach Sean McVay. Holmes must be able to identify what the problem was in L.A. that led to Goff’s struggles and precipitated his departure.
Was it coaching? Was it scheme? Goff’s college offensive coordinator recently told the Free Press he thought Goff was better suited to playing out of the shotgun instead of the Rams’ heavy use of play-action. Or was it something else that led to him going from 60 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 2017-18 to throwing 42 touchdowns and 29 interceptions the next two seasons?
I asked Holmes if he had a sense of what could help Goff get back to achieving his earlier success. Unfortunately, his answer smacked of denial and was a little worrisome.
“I’m not sure if I’m following where he actually dropped off,” Holmes said. “So I’m not sure about the ‘get back.’ Again, he’s won a lot of games throughout his tenure with the Rams. So, you know, Jared just has to be Jared. The talent and the arm talent and everything is easy to see.”
Holmes instead chose to emphasize his impressive winning record since 2017.
“So not really sure about him getting back,” he said, “but we will make sure that he is surrounded with the right pieces in place, the right structure in place. We have a phenomenal coaching staff. We don’t have any doubts that he can still be the winner that he’s already proven to be going forward.”
I’m all for having a history of winning and Goff certainly checks that box. That’s a great place to start. But transferring success from one team to another is never a sure thing.
The Lions need to be honest with themselves about Goff’s strengths and weaknesses, if they don’t want to find themselves introducing another new quarterback to his new city in a few years.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.