- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Obviously, the ideal scenario for Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions would be for Goff to be playing at a level that would make Sunday’s Lions-Rams game a potential revenge matchup for Goff. The former Rams quarterback, selected first overall in the 2016 draft and cast aside this offseason as his former team traded a king’s ransom (Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick) for Matthew Stafford, would be at least in competition in this quarterback switcheroo.
But that is not the case. While Stafford is redefining what Rams head coach Sean McVay’s offense is supposed to look like, Goff is coming off an awful home outing against the Bengals in which he was booed in the first half, and wound up with 28 completions in 42 attempts for 202 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 67.8. Goff’s stat line against the Vikings the week before was disturbingly similar — 21 completions in 35 attempts for 203 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 64.3 — and on the young season, he has 159 completions in 238 attempts for 1,505 yards, seven touchdowns, four interceptions, a passer rating of 86.9.
Goff’s touchdown rate of 2.9% is the lowest of his career since his rookie season, when he had one of the worst quarterback years in pro football history. As much as McVay’s offense and the players around him elevated Goff as high as he was going to go, it seems that in Detroit, Goff has regressed to his norm. Right now, Stafford ranks first in DVOA and third in DYAR among quarterbacks; Goff ranks 24th in DVOA and 25th in DYAR.
New Lions head coach Dan Campbell isn’t at all happy about the way this is going, and made that abundantly clear after the 34-11 loss to the Bengals.
“I don’t feel like we can accurately judge him one way or another,” Campbell said, when the subject of benching Goff came up. “I don’t feel that way yet. Now, I will say this—I feel like he needs to step up more than he has. And I think he needs to help us just like everybody else. I think he’s going to need to put a little bit of weight on his shoulders here and it’s time to step up, make some throws and do some things. But he needs help. He needs help. And look, I told him out there, he knows this, but some of that stuff. We’re getting these holding calls… well, it’s because he’s drifting back in the pocket 10 yards deep. That’s not fair to those guys either. If you hang on to the ball… it’s like I told you, this is a collective effort now. Everything goes hand-in-hand. But I want to see him step up, I do, I do because I think he can do it.”
The Lions have injury issues and talent deficits on their roster, but at a certain point, you either have a quarterback who can transcend that stuff, or you don’t.
Campbell’s comments following the Vikings loss the week before were perhaps even more damning. When asked about Goff’s turnovers… well, you never want to hear about a sixth-year NFL quarterback that it might be time to scale things back.
(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Yeah, that will certainly be something we look at,” Campbell said of the turnovers. “Because it has, it’s killed us a couple weeks in a row. Whether we’ve got to — you know, it could be as simple as trimming the calls back a little bit to where it’s a little bit more mainstream and to the point. Quick, easy. I see it in my head, we get lined up, it — you know, just a little less moving parts, if you will. Maybe that’s where we can help a little bit. So we’ll look at everything with it. But, you know, it hurts us.”
Goff was asked about the turnovers after the Vikings game, as well.
“I think each one of them, you have to look at individually, right? I think, you know, if I’m making poor decisions, I think that’s one thing. If it’s lack of ball security, that’s another thing. If it’s, you know, they’re making plays on defense, it’s another thing. I think you have to look at them all individually. Obviously, we need to limit them. They need to go away, right? But I need to keep playing aggressively like I always have and not allow, you know, things that may happen my way or their way, whatever it may be affect the way that I play each play.”
In the end, the Rams wanted Goff out of the building because they could only go so far with him, and the Stafford upgrade was worth the cost in their minds. That process took a few years, and McVay exhausting what talent Goff does have. With the Lions, the process has accelerated. Which is not something you can say about Goff’s own process. What shows on the field is a quarterback who is afraid to turn it loose for big plays. A quarterback who doesn’t understand the timing of his own passing game. A quarterback who now finds that the walls are closing in.
You always want to know in these situations if the problems can be fixed. I’m not sure about that, because in Goff’s case, he’s regressed in so many of the categories that are required of good-to-great quarterbacks. Goff is neither right now — not even close — and here’s why.
A frustrating inability to throw deep to open receivers.
(David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports)
Goff’s spray chart against the Bengals tells a lot of the story. Not a lot of deep stuff, and some real mystery meat on short-to-intermediate routes that should be relatively automatic.
But let’s focus on Goff’s shot-play hesitancy. The stats don’t always reflect this — through the first six weeks of the season, per Pro Football Focus, Goff has attempted 26 passes of 20 or more air yards, tied with Jalen Hurts of the Eagles for seventh-most in the league. Goff has completed just six of those passes for 173 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a quarterback rating of 51.6. That’s the fourth-worst deep-ball passer rating in the NFL. He’s been far worse on deep balls in the last two weeks — one deep completion in eight attempts for 33 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 4.7.
More disconcerting are the shots Goff has had and did not take. You’d love for him to be the kind of quarterback who throws his receivers open for explosive plays, but let’s table that until we can find a Jared Goff who takes the open shots when they’re there. Remember what Campbell said about Goff not helping his line out by holding the ball too long? This Trey Hendrickson sack of Goff with 2:21 left in the first quarter was all on Goff, because Goff had receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown wide open up the chute, and he didn’t pull the trigger with a clean pocket and time to make the throw.
This became a sack. Really. pic.twitter.com/xww04oTjba
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) October 19, 2021
*ah what the hell*
*goes home* pic.twitter.com/i0GKqPxvxR
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) October 19, 2021
The end zone angle is even more frustrating.
On the next play, Goff threw an interception to linebacker Logan Wilson — at least, that’s what the play-by-play tells you. In truth, Goff did make the throw to St. Brown here that he should have on the previous play; the ball came out and Wilson was in the right place at the right time. But Goff does not make these throws as often as he needs to, and the hesitancy to make those throws should be a major concern.
Goff doesn't consistently succeed beyond his first read.
(David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports)
Speaking of situational issues in Detroit’s passing game, there’s this third-and-16 play that ended Detroit’s first drive of the day. There’s 13:00 left in the first quarter, people are barely in their seats, and Goff is already having issues with something that’s plagued him for a long time — the inability to re-set and survey the field when his first read either isn’t open, or Goff just doesn’t like what he sees. The NFL’s best quarterbacks are able to throw the bad looks out in a big hurry and move onto the next read… or, they can re-calibrate their unfavorable reads and still make the throw.
With Goff, when his first read isn’t good for him, for whatever reason, the play breaks down. This play is listed as an incompletion to running back D’Andre Swift, but it’s really missed opportunities over the middle when Goff’s first read isn’t to his liking. St. Brown ran the post from the right side, and tight end T.J. Hockenson ran the intermediate crosser from the left. Goff has a tougher throw because the Bengals ran three-deep in the secondary, but if he threw it to St. Brown with anticipation, he had a good shot at it with cornerback Ricardo Allen coming down to take Hockenson out.
Instead, Goff froze on the whole thing.
Again, the end zone angle reveals just how bad things are in the Motor City. Goff’s “throw” to Swift doesn’t stand a chance; it’s a wasted ball on third-and-long when Goff knows he has to take the deep shot.
Confidence seems to be an issue.
(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
The play that really got Lions fans going in the wrong direction happened with 10:49 left in the first half. The Lions had fourth-and-4 at the Cincinnati 38-yard line, in part because Goff had overthrown Hockenson on a simple wheel route on third-and-4.
And then, out of motion to an empty formation in which both Swift and receiver Geronimo Allen were open underneath coverage and Swift especially looked to have enough to get the first down, Goff inexplicably rolled to his left, and threw the ball to… well, nobody. This play was over before it began, and that was all on Goff. He had a good play call, he had open receivers, and he showed no capacity whatsoever to get it done.
When a professional quarterback misses this many open opportunities to this many areas of the field for this many reasons, you start to wonder if it’s a confidence issue. That’s a bold statement to make, but there are times when the tape will tell you what the player won’t… and what the head coach is starting to realize.
If Goff wants a revenge game, he'll have to do better than this.
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
It’s pretty brutal to say that a quarterback isn’t doing anything well, but that’s where Goff seems to be at this point in time. Even the things that used to help him get over league average aren’t working anymore. In 2018, he threw 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions with play-action; he’s thrown 12 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions with play-action from 2019 through Week 6 of this season. In 2018, he threw eight touchdown passes and one interception with the benefit of pre-snap motion; he’s thrown 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with motion since.
The Lions will most likely move on from Goff and his contract in 2022; he presents a $31.15 million cap hit next season, and a $20.5 million dead money expense as a post-June 1 cut in the next league year. Goff’s future is about far more than this one game, but continued performances at this level could have him fighting for a reclamation shot in a different offense, while his L.A. replacement continues to tear up the NFL.