With all the gushing over Jared Goff, there’s no way Detroit Lions draft a QB

Detroit Free Press

Everything has a cost in sports.

Losing obviously costs people their jobs. Winning does, too, as we’re about to find out when Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson lasts about as long as a discounted PlayStation 5 on Black Friday during this NFL hiring cycle.

But there’s an even bigger cost that’s coming due for Lions fans. It’s their hopes and dreams of drafting the next franchise quarterback.

So bid good-bye to your delusions of seeing the Honolulu Blue and Silver donned by Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud or Will Levis or Hendon Hooker — or any promising, exciting prospect who would be available should the Lions have one of the top picks in the 2023 NFL draft.

And it’s all Jared Goff’s fault.

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Part of the reason is Goff’s excellent play, which has been a major reason the Lions have won five of their past six games and have improved their odds of making the playoffs. Goff isn’t exactly Patrick Mahomes, but he also isn’t, well, early 2021 Jared Goff. He has 10 touchdown passes and one interception since the start of September, and he has eliminated a lot of poor decisions.

The other reason is Goff’s bosses, namely coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes. You see, I study Lions coaches and executives the way Yoda studies the Force — I pore over the meaning and intentions of everything they say and do.

And I’m now convinced, after back-to-back major victories, that Campbell and Holmes firmly believe they have their quarterback of the future in Goff and don’t need to search for his replacement any time soon.

Look, most NFL teams don’t like to make a change at quarterback. It’s such an outsized position of importance that changing the QB creates a lot of problems for the offense and even in the team’s leadership structure.

Goff had the advantage of built-in buy-in from Holmes because of their time together with the Rams, resulting in his being included in the Matthew Stafford trade. He struggled mightily in the first half of last year (eight touchdowns and six picks) — seemingly validating Rams coach Sean McVay’s low opinion of him — before Anthony Lynn was removed as the play-caller and Goff rebounded under Campbell’s play-calling.

With major questions about Goff, and the Lions holding two first-round picks in April, they still opted to bypass a weak quarterback draft class and keep him as the unchallenged incumbent. This despite a 3-13-1 season as Detroit collectively facepalmed itself after hearing Holmes’ defense of Goff during the draft.

“Yeah, obviously we talked about Jared at length all spring,” Holmes said. “We think that he’s a quarterback we can win with.”

Holmes explained that better weapons — such as adding D.J. Chark, re-signing Josh Reynolds and further development from Amon-Ra St. Brown — would give Goff few reasons not to play better in 2022.

“I don’t want to say, ‘No excuses,’ ” Holmes said in April, “but I do think the more weapons and the better resources that you surround your quarterback with is just better and it helps them out more. You could say that for any quarterback. He will obviously have more coming into this year.”

Then Holmes added an extra little pat on the back.

“I really admire and appreciate what he did with what he worked with last year,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s no excuses, but we just expect him to be set up for success, which Dan and I said we were going to do for Jared.”

The backslaps continued Monday, when I asked Campbell if his confidence in Goff was always high, or if it had grown throughout this season. He admitted it had grown but that there were times earlier this season when Goff took risks that Campbell understood but still left him holding his breath.

“That’s kind of where we were at, and I don’t feel that way (now),” he said. “I’ve lost that feeling. It’s been a long time, man. I have complete faith in the guy. He’s done an unbelievable job just getting us in the right play: Decision-making, his ball accuracy, he made about three or four throws yesterday with pressure right in his face.”

Complete faith. Tell me how you replace a player who inspires that? Tell me how you distill what Holmes and Campbell have said, what they’ve watched Goff do and where he’s taken this team, and how they find a path of reasoning that leads them to switch horses when the guy they’re riding has transformed himself from a glue-factory candidate into Rich Strike.

Holmes’ declaration in April — “he’s a quarterback we can win with” — has proved correct. And you have to give Goff credit for working within the system, despite incredible upheaval the past two years, and finding ways to improve.

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To be clear, I believe the Lions should use one of their two first-round picks next year to draft a quarterback from a deep class that should yield four or five QBs in the first round. Goff turns 29 next year, he’s only under contract though 2024 and, let’s be real, as much credit as he gets for raising his floor, it’s clear he doesn’t have a ceiling to match elite quarterbacks who are the unquestioned cornerstones of their franchises.

Since we’ve all lived through 12 years of Matthew Stafford playing on a Ford Family Scholarship, wouldn’t it be nice if the Lions had the guts to look for a better option and draft a potential future starter — y’know, the way elite teams like the Patriots, Packers and Chiefs have?

But I’m not a GM or coach. I don’t have to worry about team politics and allocating resources to areas of need and possibly blowing a choice on a high draft pick that leads to my firing. Let’s face it: Playing it safe with a known, proven player is less likely to cost anyone his job than drafting the wrong quarterback.

Contact Carlos Monarrez: cmonarrez@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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