The Jared Goff era is upon us in Detroit. And while most Detroit Lions fans are still working through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief over the loss of Matthew Stafford, Goff’s experiences throughout his career and current mental state illustrate that he may be the best quarterback for the Lions right now.
Last week Goff spoke to the media for the first time as the Lions quarterback, and he touched on a variety of topics, including the fact that he is familiar with taking over at quarterback for a losing team.
Goff started as a true freshman at California, taking over a team that hadn’t had a winning record since 2011, and in his first season, they finished with a 1-11 record. In year two, they went 5-7, and by his junior season, Goff led them to a 7-5 record and he was drafted first overall in the subsequent draft.
As a rookie, Goff sat the first half of the 2016 season, eventually taking over down the stretch, but going 0-7 to begin his career. The following season, Goff led the Rams to the playoffs, earned a Pro Bowl nod, and was the Pro Football Writer’s comeback player of the year.
“Tough times kind of test who you are as a man,” Goff said at his press conference. “I think looking back on those times, I’m so happy I went through them. I learned a lot about myself, was able to grow a lot, and was able to draw on that for motivation as time went on, and I still do. I still think back to that 1-11 year and how that felt, and like you mentioned, my rookie year, losing all seven games that I played in and how that felt and what it took to get out of that and all that I learned from those games. It’s so important, I think, through a career to kind of hit rock bottom at times and be able to climb back up.”
With the Lions in the first year of a rebuild, this is the third time in eight years Goff has been in this situation, and in both previous occurrences, he helped facilitate the transition towards becoming a winning organization. Both general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell referred to this when describing Goff, each calling him a “winner”.
“There’s three things that I think about with Jared Goff,” Campbell said, “he’s tough, he’s durable and most importantly, he’s a winner. He has won in this league. He knows how to win.”
Goff is also highly motivated to win and views this opportunity to do it with the Lions—who have long struggled in this aspect—as a unique opportunity.
“Oh, motivation,” Goff continued. “I believe it’s really the opportunity, ultimately. To be in a place that has wanted that for so long and has been so close but hasn’t been able to get over the top for a variety of reasons, again, I plan to put us over the top. I plan on that to be my job, is to be the quarterback of this team and put us over the top and get to the playoffs and win multiple playoff games and win a championship.”
While that may sound like standard quarterback speak, he was very honest and open when talking about his feelings after being traded.
“I think it builds that chip on your shoulder a little bit,” Goff said. “I won’t lie about that. There is that little extra motivation and chip that you do feel. Again, I am so thankful for all my time there, but yeah, you do feel that. You do feel a little bit of, ‘OK, let’s see what we can do now.’”
Goff was very much the scapegoat in Los Angeles last season, but the Lions staff has worked hard to make him feel wanted in Detroit. Goff praised Holmes and Campbell—among others—for their welcomeness, calling it “a breath of fresh air”, and saying “OK, this is where I’m supposed to be. This is how it’s supposed to go down.”
Goff isn’t Stafford, and as much as that will be disappointing for some fans, he’s the type of quarterback they need right now. His past experiences as a player will aid him in handling losing. His motivation to prove others wrong will drive him to win. And if he doesn't win, his contract won’t prevent the Lions from finding a replacement.