“We have a quarterback.”
Those were the first words from Detroit Lions team president Rod Wood after he was asked why the Lions didn’t pursue Deshaun Watson. It wasn’t that the price was likely too high for a rebuilding team. It wasn’t the off-field concerns—a topic Wood specifically said he didn’t want to discuss—or the bad publicity. Wood, knowingly or not, threw his full support behind Jared Goff in that moment.
Of course, Wood is not the man in charge of personnel decisions. Ever since the Lions shuffled around their front office with the addition of general manager Brad Holmes, assistant general manager Ray Agnew, and do-it-all assistant Chris Spielman, Wood has been moved mostly—if not completely—to the business side of the franchise.
But when Holmes, the man who will be the primary decision-maker on whether the Lions decide to add a quarterback in next month’s draft, stepped in front of the media a day later down at the owners meetings, his tune didn’t sound all that different. When asked a similar question—why did the Lions not get involved in all the quarterback shuffling?—he uttered the exact same words. (emphasis is mine)
“Jared played good football for us late in the year so we have a lot of optimism about Jared going forward, so we have a quarterback,” Holmes said. “If you’re asking like why did not we not kind of hop into that world, we’re happy with where Jared’s at right now. We’re looking forward to him having a productive year for us.”
Of course, this is the part where I remind you and myself that we’ve reached the part of the offseason where general managers cannot be trusted. They have no motive to tell the truth and give away their intentions to the media. Many general managers, in fact, use opportunities like this to purposely throw people off their trail. That could certainly be what’s happening here.
They could also simply be protecting the ego of their current quarterback. Last year, the Lions were over the top in their praise of Goff, seemingly hoping to undo some of the damage done by the messy divorce from Sean McVay and the Rams. Clearly, they want Goff to feel wanted here, and there would be little incentive to jeopardize that in the name of speaking truth to the media.
But Holmes went out of his way to avoid saying directly that quarterback was in play with the second overall pick.
“I would say this at the No. 2 pick, there’s multiple players at multiple positions that if we turn the card in today, we could turn that card in today and sleep well at night,” Holmes said.
When pushed if quarterback was one of those positions, Holmes still wouldn’t budge.
“I said there’s multiple positions.”
Holmes doesn’t say much about the quarterback position, but it doesn’t take much extrapolating from that quote to read it in an entirely different way. If Holmes could “sleep well at night” with multiple game-changing options at Pick No. 2, doesn’t that speak to a desire to trade down? If Detroit is happy with multiple options, surely they could still have one on the board if they slip down a few spots in the draft.
Unlike drafting a quarterback, that was a topic Holmes was more than happy to dive right into. At the Senior Bowl, he said the Lions were open for business, and down at the owners meetings, he said he would even be open to trading away his pick before the Jaguars make their selection with the first overall pick.
“I think definitely we could pull that trade off, if the other team is willing, before the draft,” Holmes said.
If Holmes had a quarterback in mind, it would certainly be odd to act this publicly eager to trade down. Unless their concern is that someone will jump them to the first overall pick to grab a quarterback—which seems unlikely given this draft class—there’s little reason for Holmes to act so evasive.
Eventually, Holmes did admit that there would be an advantage to getting a young quarterback under Goff. He even said he believes Goff would “be very comfortable with that.” But if you look at some of the things the Lions are saying and, more importantly, some of the things they’re doing, it certainly seems like they’re preparing to move forward with Goff for the foreseeable future.
Throughout Holmes’ press conference he made several references to building the roster to support Goff specifically.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Jared, and we’re all about putting him in the best position to succeed,” Holmes. “If we do that, with the confidence we have with him, and like we talked about, the continuity we have coming back with not only the receivers but the coaching staff, offensive line, we’re very confident in Jared and what he can do.”
The Lions are backing that up with actions. They brought back Josh Reynolds, an above-average, but far from electric receiver with a built-in chemistry with Goff, on a two-year deal. They’re already talking about a long-term deal with T.J. Hockenson, one of Goff’s favorite targets. They added DJ Chark, a speedy downfield threat who can separate—something that has unlocked Goff’s deep ball in the past.
They are also bringing back not only all of the starters on the offensive line, but they ensured all the backups on re-signed, too, because they clearly like the direction the offense was taking by the end of the season.
I know just a few months ago, Holmes and company were singing the praises of this year’s draft class, and I know quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell is currently doing the quarterback pro day tour, but as Holmes said last year, there’s value in knowing each year’s quarterback class, especially when you’re in possession of a high draft pick.
“I just think it’s good drafting business always to be very, very thorough on that quarterback class regardless of what your situation is,” Holmes said in 2021. “When I was with the Rams, (we) always said that regardless of what you had at quarterback—and even especially now—it’s the same approach.”
Looking deeper at Holmes’ comments prior to the draft last year, he was much less shy about the possibility of drafting a quarterback. When asked if quarterback was off the table in the draft after acquiring Goff last year, here was his answer.
“Oh no. No. Absolutely not,” Holmes said. “I don’t think when you’re picking this high that you can be out on any position.”
No hesitation. No soft language. No ambiguity.
There’s always a danger of reading too much into a general manager’s words, especially at this time of year. But when combined with the team’s actions thus far, their continued, unwavering praise of Jared Goff, and far too many questions about this year’s draft class, it’s certainly looking like the Lions could pass on quarterback again this year.