Is anyone else as tired of having this conversation as I am? This has become the new norm for the Detroit Lions. People trying with all their might to jam a quarterback into the Lions roster. It goes back farther than just the last couple years with Jared Goff. People were doing this during the Matthew Stafford years too.
The thing is, I actually felt it made more sense in the Stafford years than it does now. No, I’m not trying to say that Jared Goff is better than Matthew Stafford. What I’m saying is that the Lions’ compass was pointed towards a rebuild for a while and having a guy back up Stafford until he was ready to take his place looks like something that would have been a pretty good idea with the benefit of hindsight. Right now it seems foolish.
Here’s the thing—actually, I think there’s two things. The first is that everyone sees these teams that are having success with a quarterback on a rookie deal and they want that pretty bad. If you’re not paying a high price and the highest priced position in football, you have more money to build around your quarterback.
The problem you’re going to run into is what the Baltimore Ravens are about to run into. They’re going to have to reset the quarterback market and make Lamar Jackson the highest-paid player in the league, and they really have nothing to show for it despite having that time to build around a really good quarterback on a rookie deal. It worked with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow, but there’s a much longer list of teams trying to do this and failing—the Bears with Justin Fields, the Patriots and Mac Jones, the Cardinals and Kyler Murray, the Giants and Daniel Jones, Washington and Dwayne Haskins, Cleveland and Baker Mayfield, Jets and Sam Darnold, Cardinals (again) and Josh Rosen. I could keep going and going.
The other thing is the fallacy that the only way to rebuild a team is by building through the quarterback situation. The Lions are living proof that there are different ways to rebuild and their way is working. The Lions have rebuilt their team through the draft without even looking quarterback and they’ve been very successful so far.
When you don’t focus on one position, you can focus on all the other positions and build a strong team. If the Lions would have started off their rebuild with a young quarterback, the entire rebuild would have shifted to building around one player and hoping it works. Let’s play a game. If the Lions started their rebuild with Justin Fields or Mac Jones, do you think you’d find this rebuild successful today? Some might say yes because of Justin Fields ability to run, but he has still yet to show that he can use his arm at a high level in this league. And without someone like Penei Sewell protecting the right side of the line, any quarterback would have a tougher time.
Instead, the Lions stuck to their guns with Jared Goff and they got one of the best passing offenses in the NFL because of it. I know there’s worry that Goff might regress, but I just have a hard time seeing that with Ben Johnson staying around, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams getting better and the offensive line he has protecting him. He’s only 28 years old. Keep building around him.
So why would drafting a quarterback this year be a problem, even if it’s just to stash that guy until Goff’s contract is up or it’s time to move on? There are multiple problems with it. The first is that you’re using one of your top picks on a player that can’t immediately contribute to a team that is expected to compete for a division title or at least be a playoff team in 2023 and beyond. The Lions could easily bolster their secondary, offensive line, defensive line or linebacking corps with their first round picks instead.
For the other problem, I’m going to have use an old action movie trope. You ever see “Lethal Weapon 3”? In the beginning of the movie, Riggs and Murtaugh are investigating a bomb in a parking garage. Riggs thinks he can defuse it despite Murtaugh's pleas for him to just wait for the bomb squad. Riggs cuts the wrong wire and the bombs timer cuts half of the time of the timer.
Picture the Lions rebuild is that bomb. Right now they have time to wait for the bomb squad to show up and defuse the bomb. They draft some more great players and build a complete roster with a perfectly good quarterback. Everyone goes home happy. If the Lions draft a quarterback this year, they’ve cut the wrong wire and half the timer is missing now.
What I’m saying is this entire rebuild now becomes about whether or not that guy on the bench will ever be good. If he is, awesome. Now you get to wonder how long before you move him into the starting spot. Then, of course, once he gets there, you have to take another year off the window for the growing pains he’ll inevitably have. Again, Mahomes is the exception to the rule here.
The other—far more common—outcome is much worse: he’s not the quarterback you thought you drafted. Now you have a general manager who wasted one of the top picks in the draft. Now we’re looking at the possibility of Brad Holmes and company not being around for much longer. Most GMs only get one shot at this quarterback thing. The Lions have a good quarterback right now. Drafting another one with a high pick possibly uses up that one chance.
I’m not saying the Lions should ignore quarterback altogether. They should draft a backup on day three. Frankly, I would trust the guy that found guys like Amon-Ra St. Brown, James Houston and Malcolm Rodriguez on the final day of the draft to find a diamond in the rough at quarterback instead of shooting for the stars on day one.
Just stay the course, Lions.