It’s going to be quite a bit different watching the Detroit Lions offense take the field next fall. After over a decade of watching Matthew Stafford lead the team out of the huddle, seeing a new number, a new swagger, a new style taking snaps at Ford Field is going to take some getting used to.
With Matthew Stafford soon on his way to Los Angeles and Jared Goff penciled in as the new man under center for the Lions, I figured to get myself better acquainted with Goff.
After doing some homework and watching some highlights and lowlights from Goff’s time with the Rams, I’ve put together my outlook on what he brings to the table, how he compares to Stafford, and most importantly, how Jared Goff can succeed as the quarterback of the Lions. The following is a mix of analysis, opinion, and speculation on what we can expect from the QB transition in Detroit.
What skills does Goff bring to the Detroit Lions offense?
There’s no way around comparisons of Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford. After growing accustomed to Stafford for the last dozen years, I’m perfectly fine steering into the skid in this case and stacking up Goff’s attributes as a QB relative to Stafford’s.
Stafford’s legendary arm strength and clutch performances are areas where Goff lags quite a bit behind and likely won’t catch up. However, he has a good enough arm, throws a little more accurately, and turns the ball over a little bit less–compared to young Stafford. In his best season, Goff threw 28 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Stafford has never thrown less than ten in a season.
Perhaps the biggest thing Goff has going for him is that he’s still young. At just 26 years old, he is far from a finished product; remember how maddeningly inconsistent Stafford was at that age.
Goff can hardly be considered a dual-threat quarterback, but strategically using his legs is one area where he has a clear advantage over his predecessor. He finds running space in rollouts from time to time, and every once in a while will get his number called for a designed run. Stafford with his already moderate mobility getting more and more slowed by the toll of injuries is less of a threat to run now than at any point in his career to date. Goff rushed for four touchdowns in 2020, while Stafford hasn’t had a single TD on the ground since 2016.
Watching some film from Goff’s 2017 and 2018 season (the top form that he’s looking to regain), there were a few things that stood out. Goff frequently had success working the sidelines on short and medium-range passes, and seemed comfortable working out of slow-developing play action with rollouts. While he doesn’t have Stafford’s raw arm strength, Goff still throws a capable deep ball when he finds single coverage.
What seems to have been a huge piece of Goff’s success was having prime Todd Gurley in the backfield, giving a lot more bite to play action and creating a lot more one-on-one opportunities for receivers. Gurley was a very capable receiver as well, with six receiving TDs in 2017, many turning up short passes in the flat into big gains. When Gurley’s production fell off in 2019, Goff’s consistency fell off as well.
Part of Stafford’s underratedness has been his almost supernatural ability to fit the ball into tight spaces, especially considering the defense usually isn’t concerned whatsoever about the run. Gone are the days of searing an absolute rifle twenty yards into the one small pocket of zone coverage at the hash marks–Goff doesn’t have that type of arm.
However, if D’Andre Swift develops into the type of back that many people think he can be, Goff’s abilities in play-action will be much more potent again. Swift has the potential to be a solid receiver out of the backfield as well, which looks like another big factor in Goff’s success (ex. Todd Gurley).
Maybe he can’t single-handedly carry a team the way Stafford needed to, but given the threat of a run game and chances to move around and survey the field, there’s no reason to think Goff can’t regain his previous form.