This season, Brad Holmes proved he knows how to draft football players.
On Tuesday, the Detroit Lions general manager proved he should never attempt a career as a poker player.
That was painfully obvious during Holmes’ year-end news conference, when he showed his hand to anybody who wanted to take a peek and essentially announced he has no plans to select a quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick in April’s NFL draft.
Holmes put his cards on the table when he pushed back on a question about the possibility of using the No. 6 overall pick on a quarterback during the NFL draft in April.
“What do you think, Dave?” Holmes asked to Free Press beat writer Dave Birkett. “Do you think quarterback should be in the mix?”
Birkett said he didn’t think you should ever take a quarterback out of the mix, considering the value of the position, but acknowledged Jared Goff was played very well. Holmes gestured at Birkett.
“Right, I agree with you that he’s played really well,” Holmes said with a smile. “I’ll say this, Dave. No, seriously, I think that it’s a easier to get worse at quarterback than to get better at quarterback … in this league. And so, I think what Jared has done this year, he captained of the ship of a top-three offense and I want to say he was top 10 statistically in most of the passing categories.”
To be clear, what Holmes means by getting a lot worse at quarterback means forcing a promising player into the position and discarding a proven player.
After listing Goff’s attributes, Holmes realized a lot of other GMs might be looking as his cards. So he quickly pulled them tight against his chest and said he would “never turn down a good football player.”
“So if there’s a football player we really love,” he said, “I mean we’re going to make sure every stone is unturned. But I do think that Jared has proven everybody that he is the starting quarterback for us.”
At this moment, that might seem obvious because of the way Jared Goff finished the year, playing about as well as he’s ever played, riding a streak of 324 straight pass attempts without an interception and helping the Lions close the season on an 8-2 streak as one of the NFL’s hottest teams. He had 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions — much better numbers than Pro Bowler Kirk Cousins had.
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But Goff was also a big part of the Lions’ 1-6 start, when he didn’t play poorly but clearly wasn’t the difference-maker he needed to be to win close games. Goff sat on a 4-16-1 record with the Lions on October 30. At that point, it was hard to find anyone who wasn’t employed by the Lions who thought Goff was the long-term answer. On Halloween, dressing up as Jared Goff holding a four-year contract extension might have been one of the scariest costumes in Detroit.
Then Goff changed all of our minds. He has earned the right to be the Lions’ quarterback of the future, or at the very least the near future. But there’s my opinion, and then there’s the unabated Goff lovefest going on in Allen Park, especially by team decision-makers whose futures are tied to the quarterback’s performance.
Holmes retraced Goff’s recent difficult career arc that included strong play early in his career with the Rams to his trade, then the lack of offensive weapons last year and the failure of Anthony Lynn’s system.
“That’s why I just kept faith and kept confidence and I respect the hell out of him,” Holmes said, “because I told him look, ‘We’ll hold up our end of the bargain.’ Like, we were being held accountable, we’ve got to put you in the right situation with the right pieces around you, stability on offense.
“And I felt like we did that and he held up his end of the bargain and I think it just worked out. But I didn’t really have any doubt or waver again, like you said. I never really deemed him as a bridge. I think everybody else did. But I think is a little bit of the recency bias from what he had to go through last year.”
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Coach Dan Campbell regularly and vociferously sang Goff’s praises during the hot streak and gave one last encore Monday, when he said “he fits us.”
“Throwing the football, decision-making, and he fits the bill on all of that,” Campbell said. “I mean, it was a hell of a year by him. He’s one of the biggest reasons we even got this turn around, just his decision-making, taking care of the football.
Goff doesn’t turn 29 until October. He has two more years on his contract with the Lions and there’s really no reason to get rid of him. At least this year. Next year, could be a different story, especially if the Lions end up having a high pick or are willing to move up aggressively in the draft, when USC’s Caleb Williams — or perhaps another quarterback the Lions really like — would be eligible.
It wouldn’t be the worst idea to have a good veteran quarterback and let a rookie sit and learn behind him for a season. There are plenty of examples. Even Goff, after he was the No. 1 pick, sat behind Case Keenum at the start of his rookie season. I asked Holmes about his scenario and he even brought up the examples of Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers sitting early in their careers.
“So there’s a lot of proof in the pudding behind taking that approach, and I don’t see anything wrong with it,” he said. “It’s a premium position. They don’t grow on trees. They’re really hard to find. … But I’m not against at all that philosophy of draft one, let them sit and develop and just kind of see what you’ve got down the road.”
If you listened carefully to Holmes on Tuesday, it’s clear that’s a road he has no plans to travel for a while.
Contact Carlos Monarrez: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.