The Detroit Lions will look very different in 2021. And while there’s a new regime in charge following the recent hiring of general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell leading the latest rebuilding (or retooling, if you prefer) effort, the biggest change will come under center.
For the first time since 2009, someone other than Matthew Stafford will be the starting quarterback for the Lions in Week One of the upcoming regular season. That after Detroit has agreed to trade their longtime franchise passer to the Los Angeles Rams.
In exchange for Stafford, the Lions will receive a bounty of high draft selections including two future first-rounders and a third-round pick in April. Also part of the deal is quarterback Jared Goff. And his addition as part of the trade seems to be a sticking point for some fans.
On paper, the Lions appear to be getting a steal of a deal. Not only do they part ways with a 33-year old coming off a couple injury-plagued seasons (and someone who requested to be traded in the first place), but they potentially replace him with a 26-year old two-time Pro Bowl passer who took the Rams to the Super Bowl a mere two years ago.
Yet, the thought of Goff leading the charge in the Motor City has some fans sour. But why? Here’s how Justin Rogers of The Detroit News recently answered a mailbag question where he was asked why people seem so down on Goff …
"“If you’re looking for a logical starting point for the negative opinions of fans, it’s likely rooted in how easily the Rams gave up on Goff. Not only were they willing to trade him 16 months after signing him to a massive extension, eating a significant cap hit to do so, but they also packaged a trio of draft picks, including two first-rounders, to upgrade to Matthew Stafford.”"
There’s certainly a sense the Rams know something the Lions don’t about Goff. That’s despite Detroit’s new GM, Holmes, being the former longtime director of college scouting for Los Angeles. He undoubtedly had a major hand in drafting Goff number one overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The head coach of the Rams, Sean McVay, recently went on record saying it’s unfair to blame the team’s decrease in production solely on Goff’s play. McVay confessed his coaching had a big hand in the team underperforming and that he himself needed to evolve and improve.
The passing offense in Los Angeles ranked 13th in the NFL in 2020, averaging 250.9 yards through the air per game. The Rams posted a passer rating of 88.4, 22nd in the league, while their scoring offense ranked the same (tie) averaging 23.3 points per contest.
As a 15-game starter for Los Angeles last season, Goff threw for 3,952 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He completed 67.0% of his passes, which was a career-high.
Goff led the Rams to a 10-6 record in 2020, earning his team another trip to the playoffs. Los Angeles has made the postseason three of the last four years with Jared under center.
The Rams defeated their divisional rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. But they lost to the NFC North’s own Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round.
The way the trade has been portrayed, it’s easy to judge the addition of Goff in Detroit as a significant downgrade from Stafford. After all, the Rams were willing to give up two future first-rounders plus pay a $22.2 million dead-money cap charge this year on top of sending Goff to Motown. That was the largest dead-money charge in NFL history before the Philadelphia Eagles traded quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts earlier this week.
But those facts don’t take away from Jared Goff’s successes in the NFL. And while playing in Sean McVay’s system could be the main reason for that early success in Los Angeles, no one knows what the sixth-year passer can be under Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. We’ve certainly seen plenty of examples of players who thrive in a new environment. Fans should give this move a chance to succeed before judging it too harshly.