There’s no denying how bad the last two games have been, but if you think Jared Goff was something different than he’s always been you’ve not been paying attention.
Heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, some people preferred Jared Goff to Carson Wentz. When the Los Angeles Rams traded up to the first overall pick, they were subsquently revealed to be among them.
After a wasted rookie season under Jeff Fisher, Goff got a lease on life with the hiring of Sean McVay as Rams’ head coach. Over the following two seasons (2017-18), Goff posted a 100.8 passer rating with 60 touchdowns and 19 interceptions as he earned a Pro Bowl selection in both campaigns. Over that time, there was talk of McVay staying in his quarterback’s helmet communication until it was cut off, essentially reading the defense and making audible calls for Goff.
The shine started to come off Goff at the end of that 2018 season, in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick and Brian Flores exposed Goff’s flaws, scheming to cut off the ground game led by Todd Gurley to making him beat them through the air. He couldn’t get it done.
After that, it surely became clear to McVay he needed a quarterback upgrade if he wanted to win a Super Bowl. It would just be a matter of time before he could get it done.
Detroit Lions: Jared Goff is who he has always been
Early in the 2021 offseason, as the Lions entered another rebuild and after McVay apparently ran into him on a vacation, Detroit sent Matthew Stafford to the Rams for Goff and three draft picks. A second first-round pick was an easy extra price to get the Lions to take on Goff’s contract.
Early last season, with the automatic downgrade in skill talent around him, Goff was dreadful. Changes to the offense and the emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown brought improvement down the stretch (107.1 passer rating over his final five starts), and hope Goff could carry it into this season.
Through four games this year, Goff led the NFL with 11 touchdown passes (99.9 passer rating) as the Lions had the league’s highest-scoring offense. A test came in Week 5 against Belichick and the Patriots, and he failed (19-for-35 for 229 yards with an interception and a sack-fumble that was returned for a touchdown).
After the bye week to regroup, Goff laid another egg in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys. Four of the Lions’ five turnovers second half turnovers came directly from his hands, two interceptions and two fumbles, as he took five sacks and looked more and more flustered as the second half went on.
Goff has a 67.5 passer rating with six turnovers over the last two games, as the Lions have totaled six points.
Goff was never going to sustain his pace from the first four games this season. But the last two games have re-unveiled all his flaws, albeit with excellent defensive schemers on the opposite sideline each time.
Any thought Goff could stick as the Lions’ starting quarterback long-term is now all the way out the window, though he’ll have 11 more games to try to change that narrative. Injuries all around him (D’Andre Swift, DJ Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown) is an easy excuse for the last couple games.
But Goff cannot elevate an offense, which is nothing new going back to his time with the Rams–he needed an offensive play caller at the top of his game and top-end talent all around him to reach his best level. At times he actively suppresses the effectiveness of an offense, with some combination of bad throws, failing to see the whole field and having less pocket presence than a pewee-level signal caller.
When things start to go bad or one bad play happens, since bad plays do happen, Goff is incapable of calmly resetting and doing something to stem the tide. In fact it often goes the other way dramatically, like a hockey goaltender allowing one bad/fluky goal then all of a sudden it’s 4-0. A 6-3 halftime lead for the Lions, and at one point only a 10-6 deficit against the Cowboys, became an unwinnable game in what felt like a blink of an eye–with Goff’s ineptitude on center stage.
Goff occasionally has some aura about him that suggests he is a good quarterback. But then you see him needing to be timed with a sun dial in rare times he is able to escape the pocket, and generally crumbling when things go bad like in the last two games.
The Lions and Lions’ fans knew what they were getting when Goff was acquired, a quarterback who would be replaced when the time was right. So he has delivered as promised, no more and no less. This is who Goff has always been, with ups and downs averaging out to the replacable middle which at times notably lowers his team’s ceiling. But unlike the Rams before, the Lions aren’t a good enough team to regularly overcome his failings.