It’s been awhile since I’ve written an article about a quarterback that wasn’t Matthew Stafford. When I say it’s been a while, I mean I’ve never done it before. But here we are. Matthew Stafford is heading to Los Angeles to work on his budding film career and hang with his best friend in the whole wide world. I’m of course talking about Dodgers great Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez.
There’s a new guy in town, and his name is Jared Goff. It’s hard to know exactly what the plan is with Goff at the moment. On one side of the spectrum there were multiple teams calling about Goff and the Lions were the team that wanted him the most. On the other side, the Lions taking on Goff and his contract is what allowed them to get more of a draft pick haul from the Rams. Also on this side, Goff is not a long-term plan, but a bridge quarterback to get you to the next starter.
There’s probably some truth to both sides, but the answer is really in the middle. It’s there where you’ll see that the Lions probably did want Goff and will still potentially draft a quarterback either this April or in 2022. The Lions are in a full-on rebuild, and Goff is not a bad guy to have around for that. Either he winds up failing and the Lions get higher draft picks, or he winds up being good and the Lions get wins. Everyone can be happy no matter the outcome.
As for today’s column, I want to focus on the latter side of things and ask this question: have we seen the best of Jared Goff?
The answer is possibly yes. For being a first overall pick in the draft, Goff has just been okay in his first five seasons. I say okay, because it’s not exactly what a team would hope for. He hasn’t been horrible by any stretch, but he can’t help but make you wonder if the team is carrying him to success. If that thought even crosses your mind, you’re not in a good space.
But then again, I found something early Sunday morning that changed my way of thinking about Goff altogether. Check this out.
Matthew Stafford’s first five years:
61 games: 17,457 yards, 109 TDs, 73 INTs, 59.5 completion %, 6.99 Y/A, 83.1 passer rating
Jared Goff’s first five years:
69 games: 18,171 yards, 107 TDs, 55 INTs, 63.4 completion %, 7.5 Y/A, 91.5 passer rating
It’s incredibly important that I tell you right out of the gate here that I am in no way saying Jared Goff is currently or will someday be better than Matthew Stafford. This is thesis here: Perhaps Goff hasn’t blossomed yet.
We’ll get to that in a moment. First, there’s some stuff we have to get into about those stats. There are some big differences here. Matthew Stafford was drafted by the worst team in NFL history. A team that went 0-16 the year prior to his arrival. He did everything listed there with Calvin Johnson and a cavalcade of players way less talented than Calvin Johnson.
Goff was drafted by a 7-9 team on its way up. He had better coaches, a better surrounding cast on offense and one of the best defenses in the league for multiple years. There is no question that Matthew Stafford is the better quarterback and Jared Goff was born on third base.
But with Matthew Stafford there was an ascension in his career that wasn’t totally immediate. Yes he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011, but I think we can all agree that 2011 was a fluke at this point. Stafford was very good in his career, but this was what happens when you let a guy throw the ball 663 times in a season. The ascension I’m referring to was 2014 on. That came with good coaching, age and a willingness to learn. Now he’s the guy that nets his former team multiple draft picks and new quarterback on his way out. Stafford probably wouldn’t have been that guy if the Lions hadn’t given him time to settle him down and rewire him.
So can that happen with Jared Goff? It’s possible. I don’t think the parallels to Stafford end in the stats listed above.
Our own Jeremy Reisman put out an article on Monday that really illustrated that Goff simply wasn’t the right quarterback for Sean McVay and the Rams. The team has made several changes over the years that don’t speak to the current talents of Jared Goff. In essence, there seems to be a growing belief that McVay was more interested in developing his system than developing his quarterback. Mark Schofield of Touchdown Wire highlights this beautifully here.
This leaves Goff, 26, as a still young piece of clay that can be molded. Luckily for him, it would appear the Lions have built a staff of coaches and a front office that wants to reenact that scene from Ghost. I guess that makes Dan Campbell Patrick Swayze and Jared Goff Demi Moore.
Jared Goff is coming to a team with a GM that scouted him and scouted the players he put around him to help him succeed. He’ll also work with a head coach that, by all means, seems to be a player’s coach. He’s a guy that he can buddy up with and bounce ideas off of and get that appreciation he says he didn’t get in LA. He’ll work with an offensive coordinator that has a history of working with young quarterbacks in Anthony Lynn and a former Pro Bowl quarterback in Mark Brunell that can help slow the game down and teach Goff some new things.
I’ll mention Matthew Stafford one last time here because I think this is the key point. When Jim Caldwell showed up in 2014, the big thing was taking Matthew Stafford apart, rewiring him, and then putting him back together. It was working on his footwork, decision making and just slowing things down. This is exactly what Goff needs. The Lions appear to have the guys that can do that for him. Whether he takes to it the way Stafford did is something we’ll have to wait and see on.
The good thing for the Lions here is that the risk is minimal. If Goff doesn’t work out under this tutelage, the Rams are footing enough of the bill here that the Lions have an out after 2022, and everyone can move on with little harm done. Now if this works out, then the Lions may have pulled off one of the biggest fleeces in NFL history by getting a long-term starting quarterback and a bunch of draft picks.
Only time will tell on Goff, but there’s still plenty potential there in the kid. We’ll soon find out if we’ve seen his best work or not.