Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson outlines ideal skills for a backup quarterback

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson watches warmups before the game vs. the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022.
Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson watches warmups before the game vs. the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. /

The Detroit Lions are clearly prioritizing the situation behind Jared Goff, and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has outlined the skills he’s looking for.

Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes has acknowledged his failure to put enough emphasis on the team’s backup quarterback situation. Every time he has spoken publicly this offseason, right after last season and at the NFL Combine, he has noted the priority that will be placed on who will backup Jared Goff next season.

It’s fair to assume offensive coordinator Ben Johnson will have some input into which quarterbacks the Lions may pursue in free agency to backup Goff, and/or potentially draft as Goff’s future replacement in April.

Via Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required), Johnson has emphasized some key areas in identifying good backup quarterbacks.


"When I look at a backup quarterback, the two areas that I start with are third down and two-minute offense, because that’s where they really have the most impact. Base downs, you normally, I think you can mask them to a degree with the running game or the play-action pass,”  “But if you want to see the true character, the true identity of a backup quarterback, it’s those third downs and the two-minutes, to know if the game’s on the line, do they have that ability to ultimately win it for you?”There’s a number of backups out there that — I think that’s probably the majority of the backups out there, they’re just more just, keep the train on the tracks, let’s just manage this thing,” said Johnson. “The really good ones, the best backups, are the ones that can still win a ballgame for you. I think if you look at the record, the win-loss record for backups in the league, it’s hard to find ones that are over .500."

Detroit Lions rumors: Will Ben Johnson’s preferences drive who is pursued to backup Jared Goff?

Birkett offering Teddy Bridgewater as the possible best fit for the Lions to backup Goff makes me nauseous, even if makes some level of sense.

Yes, Bridgewater’s been good in the areas Johnson noted, as his believers have always liked to lean into his “clutch gene”. And it’s not even that the Lions should shoot for the moon for who will backup Goff.

But they can do better than a quarterback who lacked upside when he was young with the cache’ attached to being a first-round pick. He is now a 30-year old journeyman, headed for his fourth team in as many years. Take away his name, or any lingering residue of having been a first-round pick…and tell me what you really see. I’ll tell you what I’ve always seen–a limited quarterback who will squash the ceiling of the offense he runs.

The Lions will clearly leave no realistic stone unturned in their pursuit of backup quarterback who can keep things rolling if Goff should miss time. Johnson should be trusted with great input in the decision, but here’s to hoping it doesn’t wind up being Bridgewater.

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