The Detroit Lions inducted Chris Spielman into their Pride of Lions during halftime of their Week 8 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. While winning would have been a great way to honor the four-time Pro Bowler, the game wasn’t entirely pointless. One thing became apparent during the 44-6 loss: Jared Goff is not the long-term answer at quarterback.
Goff went 25/34 for 222 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles. He has not been awful this year. But he hasn’t been great either, completing 66.9% of his passes for 1,995 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. That’s not the kind of production that screams franchise quarterback in the making.
Earlier this year, Goff landed in Detroit as a part of the blockbuster trade that sent Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles Rams for two first-round picks and a third-rounder. Keep in mind that the Rams paid such a premium to unload the remaining balance of the four-year, $134 million contract Goff signed in 2019.
Still, the Lions gave Goff a fair chance to prove he was their quarterback of the future, and he couldn’t seize the opportunity. The only reason he will keep the starting job for the rest of the season is that Detroit has nobody else to turn to. However, that will most likely change in 2022.
The Rise and Fall of Jared Goff
Despite his status as the top pick in the 2016 draft, Goff had a hard time cracking the Rams’ starting lineup during his rookie campaign and made his NFL debut until Week 11. Then-head coach Jeff Fisher deserves some of the blame, though. He was notorious for his inability to develop quarterbacks other than Steve McNair throughout his head coaching career in the NFL.
Fisher got canned after clashing with Rams legend Eric Dickerson, and the team hired Sean McVay in 2017. This was one of the best things that could happen to Goff. His numbers surged, and he made two Pro Bowls.
For a moment, it looked like Los Angeles had a franchise quarterback in place. However, Goff was a big beneficiary of McVay’s system. Once teams figured it out, his performance took a significant dip. For context, he logged 31 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in 2018, but he had just 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions the following season. Things didn’t get much better in 2020, and he finished the year with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
In Goff’s defense, his supporting cast in Motown has not been great. The Lions let Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. walk away in free agency, and their wide receiver corps is less than optimal. Free-agency addition Tyrell Williams has been banged up for most of the season, and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown is averaging only 9.8 yards per catch. In fact, the team’s top weapon in the passing game right now is tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Having said that, good quarterbacks make everyone around him better, not the other way around. Tom Brady had a substandard receiving corps at his disposal. Davante Adams notwithstanding, Aaron Rodgers has had to make chicken salad with replacement-level wideouts. Goff has no excuse.
What’s Next for the Detroit Lions?
The Lions don’t have their quarterback of the future on the roster and could use one of their selections in 2022 to land one. The problem with that is next years’ crop of passers is not particularly enticing. The scouting department at Bleacher Report and Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus project Detroit will take Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Oregon Ducks’ edge rusher would give Detroit’s defensive front a boost. He may end up being the best available choice due to the dearth of quality quarterback prospects.
If that’s the route the Lions want to take, they would then need to draft a quarterback with their other first-round pick or early in the second round. Both b/r and PFF see them taking Sam Howell of North Carolina. Detroit could land a young quarterback prospect and groom him behind Goff.
That’s the other thing. Even though Goff might not be the solution, he can be a placeholder for the Lions’ next quarterback. The Cal product is set to make $31.1 million in 2022. Releasing him would only free up $650,000 in cap space while generating a dead cap hit of $30.5 million. Moving on from him wouldn’t save the team much money, so why not keep him for another year? They could also dip their toes in the 2022 free-agent quarterback pool. Then again, none of the options is an upgrade over Goff. You might as well go with the devil you know.
If the Lions find a suitable replacement for Goff next year, they can then cut him in 2023. Releasing him would save him $20 million with a manageable $10 million dead cap hit.