Despite their 1-3 start, the Detroit Lions have the best offense in the NFL through the first quarter of the season. Young players such as Amon-Ra St.Brown and D’andre swift have taken a step up from last year, and the offensive line has continued their elite play. The real catalyst for the revamped offense is none other than Jared Goff. The 7th year quarterback was less than stellar last year, with his worst QBR since his rookie year in Los Angeles. Although he made 2 straight pro bowls(2017, 2018), many attribute that success to the protective scheming of head coach Sean McVay. While Goff certainly played at the level of a competent starting quarterback in 2021, it was evident that he would not be able to take Detroit to the next level of their rebuild.
However, with the weak 2022 quarterback class and bigger needs at other positions for Detroit, Goff remained the starter for another year as a stop gap. At least, that’s what the consensus was. Detroit does not have the talent surrounding the 27 year old to be a competitive football club. But Jared Goff in the first 4 games of the Lions season has put on some of the best performances of his career, bookended by his 378 yards passing and 4 touchdowns last week against Seattle. Although the team is not winning, the last person to blame would be Goff.
Obviously, seeing a quarterback play this well is fantastic. Goff was drafted #1 overall by the Rams in 2016 for good reason. He has above average arm talent, and makes accurate throws out of a clean pocket. But if he continues this good play; especially if the Lions continue to lose and get a high draft pick, Brad Holmes has a decision on his hands. The clear top 2 QB prospects in the 2023 are considered by many scouts as generational talents. If either Bryce Young from Alabama or CJ Stroud are available when Detroit comes on the clock in the draft, it would’ve been a no brainer to draft one of them just a month ago.
Goff, who is a unrestricted free agent after the 2024 season, may not keep up this high level of play for the rest of the season. If that is the case, the Lions have the option to get out of the large contract with a minimal dead cap penalty. But it seems they have bigger needs to address on the other side of the ball. In the aforementioned near-flawless week 4 performance by Jared Goff, the Lions defense gave up 41 points to Geno Smith and the lowly Seattle Seahawks(final score was 48-45, but Seattle had a pick-six). Through four weeks the Lions have let up the most points in the league, with the next closest team having nearly 30 less points scored against them.
So is the answer really replacing Jared Goff after the 2022 season? Maybe it is. It is very early in the season, but Goff seems extremely comfortable in Ben Johnson’s offense, and he is playing with a confidence similar to his 2 Pro Bowl seasons under McVay. He is capable of playing at a high level in the right conditions, and there is no signs of regression this year. Then again, Bryce Young and CJ Stroud are both players that can change the course of a franchise immediately. But Jared Goff has been one of the best QBs in the NFL in the young season, and it seems like he enjoys playing in Detroit. The decision will make itself more clear come April, but until then, don’t give up on Jared Goff quite yet.