Quarterbacks are super important. That’s what we’re told, and that’s what we tell ourselves all the time. It’s a theory that definitely holds water, but I often wonder if we place too much emphasis on not only the need for a good quarterback, but the fact that having a good quarterback is the only way to be successful.
It makes you really think. The Detroit Lions have spent all this time with what many of us feel to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and they have nothing to show for it but more heartbreak and more thoughts of “maybe next year” and “all he needs is a team around him.” It sucks. Because while Matthew Stafford was good and he deserves so much credit for everything he’s done, don’t you just feel empty now? It’s like eating a bowl of cereal. Yeah it’s good, but it’s not going to make you feel full and you’ll just be hungry again in an hour.
But some Lions fans are eager to jump right back into the same situation. I’m talking about the scenario where the Lions draft a quarterback and hinge the entire team's success or failure on one player as if that’s the only way to build an NFL team. It just doesn’t feel right anymore.
NFL Network show Good Morning Football had a segment early Monday morning about whether or not Jared Goff needs to be the Lions’ savior. In that moment it just felt like enough is enough. It shouldn’t take a savior to win in this league. The Lions shouldn’t be looking for one.
For as much as we deservedly praised Matthew Stafford over the years and considered him to be the thing that kept the Lions in games, wouldn’t it have felt so much better to praise a head coach, general manager, or both all that time? Wouldn’t it feel better to win instead of see great plays?
Remember the 2014 season? The Lions were 11-5 and were one of the best teams in the league. Matthew Stafford had probably the most blah season of his career that year. While it was fun to see him make incredible throws in games the team lost, it was so much more fun to see the team win games. Why is that not good enough?
That’s what the Lions can do with Jared Goff. The fact of the matter is that he will never be as good as Matthew Stafford. But does he have to be? Look at his time with the Rams. In his four years as a full-time starter, the Rams had a winning season every year and even made the Super Bowl once. He wasn’t good enough to carry that team to the Super Bowl on his own, but he certainly didn’t stand in their way.
Wouldn’t you love to see a run like that as a Lions fan? Even without the Super Bowl appearance, it’s a pretty good run that I would trade all the SportsCenter highlights and amazing comebacks for any day of the week. It all means nothing at the end of the season if the team is sitting at home and you’re watching other teams in the playoffs.
Drafting a quarterback more than likely does that to the Lions again. It’s like playing baseball. If you try to hit a homerun every time you step up to the plate, you’re going to strike out a lot more than others. That’s what happens every time a team drafts a quarterback. As we’ve seen over time, teams are striking out all the time. Why waste the swing at this point?
To keep with the baseball theme, the Lions have a man on second with Jared Goff. All they need to do is get on base and advance the runner. Build around the guy! The Rams just did that and it worked. The Lions literally have the guys on staff that just built a perennial playoff team around this guy. Why not just let them do that again?
The Lions have so many holes on this team right now. They need to plug those holes. Drafting a quarterback, while it seems like the thing to do, doesn’t do anything to advance the Lions right now. It stalls their advancement and makes everything about a guy that maybe never works out.
Building around Goff gives the Lions a chance with a guy who’s going to help enough to win games. That’s all anyone should want. Just win some games and go to the playoffs. With the slate of draft picks the Lions have over the course of the next few years, they can take all their swings on guys that can get on base and build an actual team.
Goff does present some issues. The contract is the big one. Goff’s cap hit will be north of $25 million for each of the next four seasons, and that’s going to eat up the Lions chances of bringing in pricey free agents. But if you look at the way the Rams built, you’ll see that they focused building through the draft early on and signing utility players. The 2014 Lions did the same thing. Look how many players on that team came in through the draft. Don’t worry about the money right now. The money will come down the road. Build up a base with a young quarterback already in tow.
Of course this is always easier said than done. Brad Holmes and the Lions front office have to bet on themselves in this situation. They have to be thorough in scouting and development of talent, and they have to be on the money with their decisions. If it works, they deserve the glory. If it doesn’t, well then we’re right back in this situation again. Only this time, the Lions have an out with Goff in 2023.