Lions’ Holmes on Goff: ‘It’s a lot easier to get worse at quarterback than to get better’

Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions aren’t making it difficult to read between the lines regarding the future of the team’s quarterback position.

Following a stellar second season with the Lions, with Jared Goff posting a passer rating of 99.3 while conducting one of the league’s top offenses, general manager Brad Holmes was asked if the performance was enough to commit to building around Goff as the long-term starter. And while Holmes didn’t go as far as to make a declarative statement — something he always tries to avoid in his position — it’s easy to interpret the intent of his response.

“I agree I think he’s played really well,” Holmes said. “I’ll say this, I think it’s a lot easier to get worse at quarterback than to get better at quarterback in this league. I think what Jared has done this year, he captained the ship of a top-3 offense, and I want to say he was top-10 statistically in most of the passing categories. Again, you know how we approach the draft, we’re never going to turn down a good football player. If there’s a good football player that we really love, we’re going to make sure every stone is (overturned). But I do think Jared has proven to everybody that he is a starting quarterback for us.”

Again, not definitive, but Holmes has long been vocal in his support of Goff, ever since acquiring him in the trade that sent Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams. And even though Goff predictably struggled through his first season in Detroit, as the general manager stripped the roster down to the studs to begin a rebuild, the quarterback’s second-year success was what Holmes always envisioned when making the deal.

“I was always confident in him because I’ve been with him from the get-go, when he was drafted and I was with L.A.,” Holmes said. “I just knew how resilient and mentally tough he is. And I think a lot of it was knowing all the success he had in LA, I think that was kinda forgotten a little bit when he got here, and I think he was put in a very tough situation.

“…I’ve talked to you guys about this at length, but knowing what he’s made of, that’s why I kept faith, kept confidence,” Holmes continued. “I respect the hell out of him because I told him, ‘Look, we’ll hold up our end of our bargain. We’re being held accountable. We’ll put you in the right situation with the right pieces around you, stability on offense.’ I felt like we did that and he held up his end of the bargain. I think it just worked out. I didn’t really have any doubt. I never really deemed him as a bridge. I think everybody else did, but I think there’s a little bit of a recency bias with what he had to go through last year.”

The questions continue to come up about Goff’s future, despite having two years remaining on his contract following this season, because the Lions own a top-10 draft pick, putting them in position to potentially add a younger, cheaper passer.

But Holmes is clearly wary of the step back the franchise could take trying to replace the level of production Goff had this season. Still, the GM was careful not to rule it out, even going as far as to praise the strategy of drafting a QB early and developing them on the bench behind a capable starter like Goff.

“I think there’s a lot of merit and a lot of proof behind that,” Holmes said. “You can see that with countless examples of guys who drafted high. Obviously, Patrick Mahomes comes up right off the bat, (the Chiefs) trading up, taking him high, then sitting him. Then you go back to the guy that we just got done playing in Aaron Rodgers. So there’s a lot of proof in the pudding in taking that approach.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s a premium position,” Holmes said. “They don’t grow on trees. They’re really hard to find. Like I said earlier, it’s easier to get worse at that position than to get better, because there’s so few (great ones). I’m not against, at all, that philosophy of drafting one and letting them sit and develop and kind of see what you’ve got down the road.”

The Lions are only in position to consider a QB in the first round because they’re getting that No. 6 pick from the Rams as the final piece of that Stafford for Goff swap. The Lions had multiple offers for Stafford, but took the Rams’ package that included Goff, two first-rounders and an additional third-round round selection.

When making the deal, the final value ultimately hinged on both Goff’s ability to adjust to a new setting and where those choices landed in the draft order. Last year’s first-rounder bottomed out at No. 32 after the Rams won the Super Bowl, so the franchise’s sudden decline this year proved to be an unexpected bonus for Holmes and company.

“Every single year is different for every single team,” Holmes said. “So yeah, I guess you could say it’s fair to say it’s best-case scenario. But the success that Jared had, again, I’m not surprised about that. But obviously, the pick, it’s definitely nice to have that.”

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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