Here’s the truth about Jared Goff, since an honest assessment seems hard to come by around these parts of late: the Rams were right to trade him and won a Super Bowl because of it. The Lions have surrounded Goff with one of the best offensive minds in football and, perhaps, the second-best offensive line in the sport behind the Eagles’.
So, yes, he’s improved because, God willing, we all get a little bit better as we put the hours into our craft, especially if there are good people around us. It’s difficult to determine exactly how much better because, in order to do that, we’d need to see Goff without Ben Johnson, who will be the first head coach hired in next January’s cycle should he choose to leave, and a slew of Pro Bowl-caliber blockers.
We can say all this without it being a slight to Goff, or handing a resounding “win” to Dan Campbell or Sean McVay.
Let’s backtrack for a moment and review the path that got us here. Earlier in the week, Campbell told reporters that Goff was “a better quarterback than he was in Los Angeles, because he can do more things. He’s mentally in it.”
He added: “I mean, we’ve come light years from where he was two years ago when he walked in and just started teaching him protections and really dove into that. And he’s got a real good grasp of what we’re doing, where the issues are, where the problems are.”
Campbell was obviously alluding to what many of us observed and could reasonably believe about Goff under McVay: he was something of an enhanced puppet. McVay liked to have total control over the offense and wanted the young quarterback to follow his precise instructions. Because of that, sure, Goff’s development could have been hampered a bit, and could have simultaneously made McVay desire a quarterback who could process faster and expand on McVay’s instructions instead of merely following them.
Enter Stafford, and the rest is history. McVay got a mature operator who offered something of a short-term guarantee, instead of hoping that under the right set of circumstances (like the ones currently presented in Detroit) Goff could get there. The Rams dealing with the other side of Stafford’s athletic prime has little to do with the ultimate decision, because I think we can all agree that there were certain throws Goff could not make with regularity that won the Rams a Super Bowl.
While we can appreciate Campbell for taking the victory lap (and perhaps some of this is just good theater, beefing his quarterback’s confidence heading into a pivotal season for the coaching staff in which Goff needs to play like a star), the credit really belongs to Brad Holmes, the Lions’ general manager, and Campbell for his administrative work behind the scenes. Holmes has put together a functional, powerhouse team that both suits Campbell’s image and protects the psyche and body of a developing quarterback. Campbell cleared the decks on his coaching staff and saw fit to promote Johnson, who had never held a playcalling role in the NFL before.
Johnson, I feel, could have had a head coaching job this past cycle if he wanted.
With this situation, it’s kind of impossible for Goff not to get better. If the Lions want to put more on his plate and allow him to round himself out during the process, that’s great. It seems this is the path that they have chosen. It’s a different path than McVay chose with the Rams. The Rams won a Super Bowl. The Lions have not yet made the playoffs under Campbell. If the Lions do win a Super Bowl this year, and then enjoy a longer competitive tail with Goff after that? Sure, they are the winners here.
Goff, in my estimation, will end up signing a massive extension the next time he is available to do so. In a league with eight undeniably great quarterbacks who can alter the course of a game and dictate an opponent’s scheme, and about a half-dozen others who can vacillate between great and very good, he is worth as much money, if not a little more, than someone like Daniel Jones (another player whose “breakout” has been intimately tied to coaching and personnel).
Until any of those moments actually arrive, though, there is no way to definitively say the Rams made the wrong decision or the Lions made the right one. Goff is in a good place right now. A year prior, so was McVay. We used to call that a win-win situation before it became necessary to declare winners and losers so definitively.