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Jared Goff is not Jared Goff

After nine games, do the Lions have an alternative to their beleaguered quarterback?

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Jared Goff is the quarterback of the Detroit Lions. He has played nine games.

There are those who claim that Goff took the Los Angeles Rams to Super Bowl LIII. They tell us that Goff won a NFC Championship. He has wins in playoff games. This is not right.

Goff didn’t win a NFC Championship. Not because of some sop to QB wins or whatever snickity-ass football blogger snark we could concoct. No, I mean this quite literally, in a cosmic sense. There was no NFC Championship that Goff won. It never happened.

This never happened because it never happened. Temporally. In this dimension. Something terrible happened, you see. There was a great conflagration of space and time, that happened long ago, not long ago and has yet to happen—time isn’t straight, it never was—that transplanted one Goff with another.

Perhaps that Goff never existed. Or perhaps there was a Goff in another dimension, another world, another time, another wonder, elsewhere, elsewhere. I admit I am not a big fan of multiverse theory even as it becomes more and more trendy; I dislike it possibly because of the stink of scientific approval, and the penchant for base desire fulfillment. But back to Goff: he was exchanged, and with that exchange went his accolades.

This Goff that goes under center against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he is not the same Goff. He wears Detroit Lions colors, but he is different deeper than that. That is inarguable. In this moment, his back muddled, his arm kept in check (for the best, perhaps), there is no light that emanates from his performance. Fears have been fulfilled, reservations have been ripped away.

Where is the winning quarterback, o those who believe? The crown of flowers has withered. Sweat pours from the armpits, and he no longer delights in his celestial station.

There is a less fantastical answer, for the rational boors that deny our cosmos, but it would require just as cataclysmic a change. The swap between Los Angeles and Detroit, of Matthew Stafford and Goff represented two axioms of the quarterback position.

In Los Angeles, Goff was the quarterback who won; but to another weirding crowd he was but a puppet for Rams head coach Sean McVay, a fleshy sock puppet he used to deploy the football to Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, his weaknesses hidden at every turn, his shortcomings desperately kept from light.

Whereas in Detroit, Stafford was the quarterback who “did everything but win,” according to talking heads across major sports media tastemakers. But this opinion, this axiom as the quarterback who just won, fell against the opinion of NFL front office sorts and former players, who admired his raw positional ability—the very thing that was derided as being a stat-padding fool by the former talking heads.

It is amazing what has happened, nine games after this transplant. Winning powers did not follow Goff. The bitter Rams fan was vindicated. Stafford, in turn, has been elevated to the national stage, even though that great sharp sword hangs above his head, its inscription: “you better win a damn Super Bowl.”

The Steelers game, then is the final damning argument against those who consider a quarterback the end-all-be-all of a football offense. There is no past glory, no winning glow that can be brought to this gloomy field. The quarterback is a key component to the engine, but it cannot operate by itself. No man can subsist on loneliness.

That is one Jared Goff that Jared Goff is not. But Jared Goff is also not Jared Goff.

To a snarling city, all Goff can do is fail. There is no victory condition that will be extended to him. I look back to the Steelers game, I watch those plays and there is but wonder: would it actually have been better if he had tried to throw down the field? This is what damned Mason Rudolph after all; his mistakes and failures are what put the Lions back into this game, time and time again. If Goff had made the same mistakes Rudolph had made, forcing the ball out, he’d be lambasted worse than he is for posting a mere 77 net yards.

Some is quite real, very real. I will die, I will die if I have to watch Goff turn around and flee pressure, turning a sack into an even worse sack. It is infuriating, and I could only hope that given the chance to play football that I wouldn’t do the same damn thing. I can’t say that for certain—fight or flight is a powerful, powerful thing—but it can’t be that hard, can it?

But some of his sins, past being a bad quarterback, are but envisioned by the same fans and media obsessed with narrative. He is not, contrary to some, losing the locker room by his play. There’s no one behind him. There is a void. It might have a name, a sound like “David Blough” or a squeak like “Tim Boyle” but let that not fool you. The most popular man in town is the backup quarterback, but that doesn’t make all dreams real. And while fans might have the attitude of, “what is there to lose?” it is not an attitude shared by the team.

After all, Blough fumbled the moment he saw the field last time. Boyle spent the preseason searing the ball into unspeakable places. With a real, tangible defense against him, Boyle’s laser light show would look not unlike Rudolph’s performance for Pittsburgh.

But this is why I reject the rational so much in football: the fans simply don’t care about these truths. There is only a burning need to replace Goff; thus, someone invented the notion that Goff is “losing the locker room.”

If anything, it was commendable to see him pushing through injury; what looks to be a strained oblique. Was that not what Lions fans always lauded Stafford for? The physical toughness, the annunciation of pain and anguish, so that you might hand off the ball a few more times and maybe get closer to this Sisyphean draw? That should amount for something for Goff, no?

Why is the toughness commendable for Stafford but a liability for Goff? If it’s only just a matter of his quality of play, then toughness playing through injury is just an excuse for whatever you want. You cannot laud Stafford for playing through a bad hand but then demand Goff get benched because he’s on a strained oblique.

But this is what I mean by Jared Goff is not Jared Goff. What he is in reality, what he is on the field, is irrelevant. Just as he is the NFC Champion to the talking heads, he is the trash to be taken out to Lions fans, who don’t want to hear any excuse at this point.

That frustration is deep, and we understand why it is so deep. Every bad game Goff has, every failure, every pittance of yardage only reinforces his inevitable role - a sacrifice, an icon of loathing for past sins. A reminder of what the Lions once had, what bleak past laid back even further. He exists to be slaughtered, mentally, by fans, the failures of this team heaped upon him. He’s well compensated for it.

But can the Lions win without Goff? This season? I don’t believe so. This is what they have, and they must operate with the Goff before them.

So what is Jared Goff? He is the quarterback of the Detroit Lions. He is bound to this fate. He is a man, and we define a man by what he is not.

(Miserable little piles of secrets)

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