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NFL Draft

Is Jared Goff More Than A Bridge QB For Lions?

  • The Draft Network
  • September 22, 2021
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The Detroit Lions made the decision to move on from Matthew Stafford this past offseason with the blockbuster trade that sent Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for the former first-overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, Jared Goff, and two future first-round picks (and a third-rounder in 2021).

The trade was lauded as a win for the Rams because of Stafford’s standing as a franchise quarterback, while the Lions’ returns fit the narrative of a team focusing on future assets as it goes through Year 1 of a rebuild.

But Goff was part of this trade, too. And he’s still a young quarterback—26 years old—who once upon a time looked like he’d be one of the NFL’s most prolific passers under Sean McVay’s tutelage. He had back-to-back seasons of more than 4,600 yards in 2018 and 2019.

The Goff-McVay marriage came undone in 2020 when Goff regressed by 700 passing yards and totaled just 20 touchdown passes. The Rams’ once potent offense vanished in what felt like a blink of the eye.

Goff maxed out his potential with McVay, and the Rams coach knew it. Hence, the trade and hype around Stafford—who by any measure is at least one or more tiers above Goff as a quarterback—in McVay’s offense. 

Still, it’s not like Goff is a journeyman latching onto a starting job toward the twilight of his career. His scouting report reads like a player who a team can build around, from both an age and pedigree standpoint.

Did the Lions back into their quarterback of the future?

After two weeks of the 2021 NFL season, the answer is a pretty clear ‘no.’

I watched all of Goff’s 93 pass attempts so far this season to prepare for this piece, and while that isn’t a large enough sample size to draw any firm conclusions, it was a painful and tiresome exercise. Goff is a boring player; there’s nothing about his game or his approach to the position that makes you want to watch him play. And while that may seem petty, it matters. His teammates and offensive coaches know it, too. He isn’t the kind of quarterback a team will rally around. And you can bet that played a big part in McVay’s decision to move on.

Goff is a timid quarterback. He doesn’t push the ball downfield… at all. According to Pro Football Focus, 67 of Goff’s 90 graded pass attempts have traveled nine yards or less. That’s… not great. His average depth of target ranks 28th in the NFL at 6.7 yards, and the analytics match the film; every pass feels like a five-yard dump off to a tight end or a running back. It’s excruciating.

Now, it wouldn’t be fair to crucify Goff without making reference to the wide receivers he’s throwing to. It’s an inexperienced group that can fairly be called the worst collection in the league. It’s not that they’re devoid of talent, but there’s no true No. 1 or even No. 2 guy in the lineup. 

Maybe things would be different for Goff if he had a player like Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp in addition to T.J. Hockenson, one of the best young tight ends in the NFL. But that’s not the situation he’s in, and he’s proving in a limited sample size that he’s not dynamic enough to make it work. At least, he can’t make it work well enough to threaten opposing defenses.

Goff has completed 64-of-93 passes for 584 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions (68.8% completion rate) in what can best be described as stats that are inflated by back-to-back weeks of come-from-behind games against soft coverage and yards after the catch. He isn’t mobile, his arm is average at best, and his pocket presence is shaky.

He’s just not the guy.

The Lions are armed with two first-round picks in the 2022 NFL draft and it’d be a surprise if they aren’t one of the handful of teams that are aggressive in next year’s quarterback market, whether it’s via the draft, free agency, or a trade. Detroit is rarely mentioned as a potential suitor for Houston Texans disgruntled quarterback Deshaun Watson, but they should be. 

The problem facing the Lions is that they’ll be stuck with Goff, barring a trade, through the 2022 season. He carries a $30.5M cap hit if they release him at season’s end, per Spotrac. Goff’s cap hit drops to $10M if they cut ties at the end of 2022.

There’s also the 2022 draft class that could pose a problem for Detroit’s rebuilding plans. Assuming the Lions continue losing games, they’re a good bet to be a top-five pick (or higher) next April. That would be a good thing if the quarterback prospects are similar to 2021’s group when five passers were selected in the first 15 picks.

Spencer Rattler? Sam Howell? Desmond Ridder? No thanks.

Maybe Goff is nothing more than a classic bridge quarterback to whoever the next face of the franchise will be in Detroit. But he’s probably going to hang around a little longer than Lions fans would like, and if that’s the case, it’s going to be a long couple of seasons in the Motor City.

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