Here’s what Jared Goff’s return vs. Seattle Seahawks would mean for Detroit Lions

Detroit Free Press

Poor Jared Goff.

The Detroit Lions quarterback never seems to catch a break, and yet he never complains.

Goff’s stoic nature tells me two things about him.

He could never be a sportswriter, because grumbling about the most trivial things — seriously, no upgrade on my last flight even though I have Double Platinum Horcrux Medallion Elite status? — is almost a prerequisite.

And his stiff-upper-lip nature means Goff is perfectly suited for the job he has.

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Ever since he replaced injured starter John Wolford and led the Los Angeles Rams past the host Seattle Seahawks in a wild-card game in January, Goff hasn’t caught much of a break and has mostly taken it in the teeth.

After the Rams’ season ended the next week in Green Bay, coach Sean McVay gave the most milquetoast answer he could muster when he was asked if Goff was his quarterback.

“Yeah,” McVay said, “he’s the quarterback right now.”

But at least McVay said something at that point. It plain slipped his mind to talk to Goff about his trade to the Lions until it happened.

With the former Rams QB dazed in the middle of the ring, McVay tagged in Michael Brockers, who jumped off the top turnbuckle to pile drive Goff with more disrespect.

When he arrived in Detroit, Goff found a nearly bare cupboard in the receivers’ room and completed just two passes this season to the two receivers who were supposed to be the Lions’ top tandem: Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman.

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And when Goff finally overcame it all and put together his best performance of the season to help trounce the Arizona Cardinals, 30-12, his reward was a trip to the reserve/COVID-19 list so that he had to miss a very winnable game against the Atlanta Falcons.

“You never want to miss any games, regardless of the situation,” Goff said Wednesday. “But I’m not the first guy to miss a game because of COVID and the rules that they’ve placed in place for the last couple of years.

“It’s the way it goes. It was unfortunate. I would’ve loved to be out there, but it’s the way it goes.”

Alas, Goff caught a break Monday when he was cleared from COVID protocols and returned to practice Wednesday. Except he didn’t practice because he’s still healing from a knee injury he suffered during the Cardinals win.

“Yeah, I haven’t been able to be out there yet since the knee injury,” he said. “So it’s something I’m dealing with. (It’s) day-to-day and hopefully can get it right.”

Whenever Goff has spoken about any sleights or misfortunes he has suffered this year, he has spoken with all the frustration and emotion of an elderly librarian who’s about to retire. His calm has been uncanny in these moments and it’s been refreshing to see someone with so much on the line control himself so well.

I have no idea if Goff will play Sunday at Seattle. I would imagine the Lions want him to since he’s their best option and has had success against this former NFC West rival.

Normally, I would advocate that Goff sit for the final two meaningless games of this season in order to risk further injury. Initially, I wasn’t happy to hear coach Dan Campbell say Wednesday he wants running back D’Andre Swift to return for the final two games because “it’s an opportunity for him to grow.”

The simple fact of life in the NFL is coaches have to win. Even if the season has been rendered almost entirely moot. And in most cases even star players feel compelled to play, either through a sense of loyalty to their teammates or as a test of commitment to their coaches.

But I felt differently about all of this Wednesday because of Goff and Campbell. Goff has often been without some of the best players on offense, whether it has been Swift or left tackle Taylor Decker or center Frank Ragnow or tight end T.J. Hockenson. And when he finally put it all together in the season’s one true shining moment, the plug was pulled on him.

It feels as though Goff deserves to play in the final two games, perhaps as he’s just hitting his stride even this late in the season. The Seahawks (5-10) have struggled all season and it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if Goff led the Lions to victory Sunday. A victory might also serve as a reminder to everyone out west that the Rams’ struggles the past couple of years weren’t entirely Goff’s fault.

But the reason I’m OK with Goff and Swift playing is the bigger cause. It’s about Campbell’s campaign to win hearts and minds in the locker room and in the owner’s office. The consistent effort the Lions have shown all season has been commendable and it’s a credit to Campbell’s guidance, but it’s a lot easier to get that effort — and the benefit of the doubt from the big bosses — with victories.

One game this late in the season isn’t going to do much to change the narrative for Goff or Campbell this year. It also won’t change the trajectory of this franchise. But another win for both of them would sure give everyone a lot less to complain about.

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

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