Jared Goff has changed my mind. Maybe he’s actually the Detroit Lions’ QB of the future

Detroit Free Press

I’ve had a revelation about Jared Goff. But first, let me offer a peek into how the sausage is made in the press box on deadline.

Here’s how it works. Sports writers are usually writing throughout the game. It picks up after halftime, when we really hunker down and stop watching TikTok cat videos. When the outcome is sealed, especially late in a blowout, we stop watching the game and concentrate on writing.

That was the case Sunday in the Lions’ rout of the Bears. The Lions were leading, 38-10, at Ford Field with 5 minutes left. I was hammering away at my keyboard when I heard a roar. I looked at the field and saw Jamaal Williams sprinting 58 yards.

But that wasn’t what caught my eye. It was another figure running alongside him. It was Goff. The Lions quarterback was out of the game and wearing a baseball cap, yet he matched Williams stride for stride down the sideline, pointing a finger toward the end zone. When Williams was tackled at Chicago’s 12-yard line, Goff helped pick him up.

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In that moment, a lot of my perception changed about Goff. There he was, running and cheering and smiling and literally supporting a teammate who had been on a cold streak and was now suddenly on the brink of tying Barry Sanders’ season rushing-touchdown record for the Lions.

I asked Goff about his sideline run on Wednesday. The same toothy smile he flashed Sunday sprinting down the sideline reappeared in the locker room.

“You know, I wanted him to score because it was the Barry Sanders record,” Goff said, “and I thought he was going to score and I was going to enjoy it, a celebration in the end zone with him.

“But yeah, I was just excited for him, man. He’s been working hard and we all root for each other and he’s a guy it’s impossible not to root for and a great teammate.”

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So here’s the revelation: Not only should the Lions keep Goff as their unquestioned starter next season, but I personally want him to succeed. I want a selfless quarterback who cares this much about his teammates. I want a quarterback who doesn’t have Matthew Stafford’s arm or Justin Fields’ feet but can still win because the team doesn’t require him to be a superhero.

In November, when the Lions beat the Bears and Fields scored two rushing touchdowns to go with 147 yards and two passing TDs, I wrote that the Lions must fined their Fields in this year’s draft if they ever want to take a leap and become a truly elite team.

Goff had not caught fire yet. That November win in Chicago was the start of Goff’s astounding run that has led to 15 touchdowns passes without an interception. After Fields was sacked seven times Sunday, turned over the ball twice and finished with a 40.8 passer rating, one loyal reader emailed me this question the next day: “Still think Lions need to dump Goff and find their Justin Fields?”

Yes. But also no.

In the long term, the Lions need a player with Fields’ ceiling if they’re going to have consistent, elite levels of success for years to come. Fields has a terrible team around him that produced no Pro Bowlers for the first time in five years. He has been sacked 55 times, which means five traffic cones might protect him better than his offensive line.

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But if the Lions want to continue their current success next year and in the near future, their best option is to stick with Goff, find him his new Todd Gurley (perhaps Texas’ Bijan Robinson) and improve the defense significantly.

A major complication will arise when offensive coordinator Ben Johnson gets hired as a head coach in a few weeks. But the Lions’ next O.C. has little excuse for not following Johnson’s roadmap and unlocking the production and potential Goff showed this season.

I doubt I’m alone in my heightened perception of Goff. He has earned a better standing in everyone’s eyes. If he leads the Lions to a playoff-clinching win in Green Bay on Sunday, he will open even more eyes, and shut plenty of mouths by silencing all draft talk about finding his replacement next season and perhaps anytime soon.

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

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