Jared Goff needs to just win football games, am I right? Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let me get the whole “quarterback wins are not a real stat” thing out of the way, too. Everyone good now? Let’s get to the story.
Goff is going into the most important year of his career in 2022. The Detroit Lions have their finger on the “draft a new quarterback” button, and they’re threatening to push it if Goff doesn’t have a big year and prove himself to be their guy. On top of that, Goff is essentially playing a contract year since the Lions have a relatively painles out in his contract after the 2022 season.
What does Goff have to do to keep the gig? After going back and watching Goff’s 2021 season again, I’ve come up with five answers to that question. Let’s get right into them.
I don’t know if Goff’s troubles early in the 2021 season was him having trouble being on a new team with a new offensive line and a new playbook, but early on you could see that he was very erratic. This caused Goff to speed up his game too much. Urgency can be great on the field, but when you’re going through your progressions so fast and being crazy with your footwork, it doesn’t give you chance to really assess. Even worse, there were a lot of times that Goff would just go with his first look right away and more often than not it was bad.
Goff needs to trust his guys and settle in. Get comfortable. You could see that later in the season Goff did settle in and he did begin to trust that his offensive line could protect him. He began to flourish right away. Goff needs to bring this attitude into 2022 right away.
Spread the ball, trust your receivers
You can forgive Goff a bit for his lack of trust in his receivers last season, because the weapons just weren’t there. There were only a couple of players he trusted, and you pretty much knew when he was going to grasp those security blankets. He was going to try to force the ball to T.J. Hockenson a lot. Sometimes it worked, but defenses quickly adjusted as Goff became increasingly predictable. Eventually Goff found Amon-Ra St. Brown and the offense began to open up, but even then, he was hyper focusing on just St. Brown.
Goff is surrounded by options now with DJ Chark, Jameson Williams and James Mitchell joining the team. Goff should be able sit back behind his line and find just about anyone to throw the ball to.
There should also be a natural improvement from Goff do to comfortability. Everything happened so fast in 2021. Goff got traded to Detroit, and the Lions had to build a brand new receiving corps at the same exact time. This year, Goff has had time to get acclimated to the guys who are already on the team and the guys that have been coming in. Goff has already spent time throwing to his group this offseason, and he’ll have more time to do so in OTAs, training camp and the preseason.
Throw the deep ball again
There was a time that Jared Goff was Mr. Deep Ball in the NFL. He used to do stuff like this all the time. In 2018, he ranked eighth in the league in deep ball accuracy. In 2018, he ranked fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt with 8.4. Last year with Detroit, he was near the bottom of the league in that figure at just 6.6 yards per attempt.
At least in 2021 you could say that the Lions really didn’t have any receiver on the team that could take the top off a defense and burn his way down the field. The Lions have that in Jameson Williams and DJ Chark now. Goff needs to bring back his long ball again and take advantage of the gifts he’s been given via the draft and free agency. It’ll only make the Lions more dangerous. The presence of downfield weapons is one thing. Goff will have to trust himself again, and stop defaulting to checkdowns.
Stop doing the spin out of the pocket thing and stop deepening the pocket
When it comes to this particular mistake, Goff did not learn anything last year. He kept doing it over and over again. Goff just did not realize that he is not Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes. He needs to stay in that pocket and step up.
Speaking of stepping up, Goff took 35 sacks in 2021 and more than a few of them were his fault (PFF credits him with 8—only 11 quarterbacks had more last year). The spinning out of the pocket thing caused a lot of them and that was a problem, but the bigger problem for Goff was his tendency to move backwards when the rush was coming his way from the edges. There were many times that Goff could have just stepped up in the pocket to extend the play. Instead he backed up and got sacked 5 yards farther than he needed to.
Be confident, Jared
This last one is all me and my speculation. I’ve long thought that something happened in Los Angeles. Maybe it was something between Goff and Rams head coach Sean McVay, I don’t know. But I think something happened to Goff that affected his confidence, and his play began to suffer because of it.
I think it suffered all the way until the Lions’ win over the Vikings. My belief is that the moment he connected with St. Brown in the end zone, he realized that he could play this game well again. After that, Goff went out there and started to play a lot better. You could really see that confidence start to come back when he did stuff like this:
I think this play more than any other shows what Goff can be when he’s confident. No way he was trying this early on in the year. pic.twitter.com/z34G60QuMy
— Mike Payton (@POD_Payton) May 22, 2022
That is a pass October Jared Goff simply wouldn’t have even tried.
If Goff can continue to grow his confidence, he’ll continue to play to the best of his ability. The fact that the Lions have surrounded him with talent should only help that. If Goff continues to be confident and fixes the rest of these things, he has a real shot to be the Lions’ guy going forward into the future.