Something’s been gnawing at me ever since the Detroit Lions introduced quarterback Jared Goff. It’s a feeling I’ve had that I haven’t wanted to admit to myself.
Here it is: I don’t think the Lions will draft a quarterback with the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft.
And I want you to know I’ve been desperately been looking forward to a quarterback battle in training camp ever since the Lions locked up the No. 7 pick. And I mean a real QB battle, not the sham competition the Lions ran between Matthew Stafford and Daunte Culpepper in 2009.
MORE FROM MONARREZ: Dear Jared Goff: Here’s how you can win over Detroiters
But I can’t deny what I heard and felt when coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes heaped effusive praise on Goff when they introduced him last week. It wasn’t just the praise itself, because I’m often not impressed with introductory news conferences for players. There’s usually so much adulation and bloviating by decision-makers justifying their decisions that you’re not sure if the player is headed for Canton or canonization.
But Campbell said something Friday that established the idea that Goff is practically entrenched as the Lions’ quarterback this season.
“You don’t have to be a savior here,” he said. “You just be the quarterback. … What he brings to the table is plenty enough. This guy is going to give us the ability to win games.”
Don’t forget Vince Lombardi’s famous saying: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” It’s the only thing that drives NFL coaches and Goff gives the Lions a better shot at winning more than any other rookie QB not named Trevor Lawrence.
But it was Holmes who drove home the point of what he, and the organization at large, thought of Goff when he emphasized the importance of Goff in the deal that sent Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams.
“Part of the compensation that we received for the trade, and I know a lot of people talk about the picks, but a lot of it was Jared, just the fact that being able to acquire Jared,” Holmes said. “That’s a part that sometimes gets kind of, not I don’t want to say lost, but it’s kind of, ‘OK, we got a third round pick, and two ones,’ but to have Jared — and again, like I said earlier, his resume speaks for itself. He’s a proven winner.”
At first, I took this with a grain of salt because Holmes played a part in drafting Goff and NFL talent evaluators tend to be pigskin Pygmalions who fall in love with their own creations. But Holmes sounded sincere about Goff’s value and this was even after he explained how Goff’s arrival affects his decision to pick a quarterback seventh overall.
“Yeah, seeing him now, I do expect Jared to come in and start, to be our starting quarterback,” Holmes said. “I don’t see anything other than that.”
Holmes added the caveat that nothing’s off the table with a top-10 pick and he would still be open to taking a QB under “heavy consideration if the right player is there and the value is there.”
What Campbell and Holmes were shouting to 31 other NFL teams is this: “We’ve got our quarterback and we love him!”
Then they grabbed a megaphone on Wednesday after they restructured Goff’s contract and shouted this: “And he’s not going anywhere for two years!”
I had given Holmes high marks since he became the GM for driving up the asking price for the No. 7 pick and generally being cagey about what he might do with the selection. But now his stated praise and expectations for the player he helped draft No. 1 overall, plus a contract restructure that would result in a prohibitive dead-money cap hit of $15 million if they get rid of Goff after this season, are clear signs the Lions are riding with Goff for at least two years.
And that creates a problem if you draft a quarterback this year. Because if Goff plays this season as well as Holmes and Campbell hope, then they would face the dilemma of unfairly benching Goff next year or benching the seventh overall pick a second straight year. And if that pick is Trey Lance and he doesn’t start until 2023, that means he will have started in just one regular-season game in nearly four years.
I might be getting carried away with the red yarn on the FBI-style evidence board in my basement. And believe me, I root for the kind of drama that would come with a QB battle. I can still see Martin Mayhew talking to a sulking Culpepper on the bench during pregame warmups before the 2009 Thanksgiving game when Stafford got the start despite not practicing and being listed as doubtful — then threw four interceptions and had with a 30.5 passer rating.
But it just makes too much sense for the Lions to pass on a quarterback in the draft. If Goff stinks it up this year, they’ll be picking in the top 10 next year. If they trade down, they can probably still find a quality player and increase their draft capital to fill the numerous holes that still exist on the roster. If he plays well, the Lions will have enough draft capital to move up and pick in the top 10 next year.
I know. It sounds kind of boring. But maybe that’s what winning football looks like instead of success hinging on the fortunes of one draft pick.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.