The Detroit Lions continue to do a good job of concealing their intentions – both in the short and long term – with the quarterback position.
On Thursday, Lions head coach Dan Campbell met with a small group of reporters and, like general manager Brad Holmes said last week at owner meetings, had some serious praise for current quarterback Jared Goff.
“I love Gave,” Campbell said. “I thought he had a strong finish last year. I’m glad we got it this year and I love the prospects in this draft, and so am I.”
Herein lies the mystery. the draft. The last three years of Goff’s career were average at best. The optimism lies in the way Gauff finished the season — scoring 3-1 and rated 103.3 in his last four starts — and the fact that just four years ago, Gauff was a Pro Bowl player who helped lead the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl.
But at some point, the Lions need a little more certainty as a quarterback, and the team has an excellent chance with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft to add the best quarterback in this year’s category. There are serious questions about whether the franchise’s true quarterback is in the 2022 class, but Lyons had the added advantage of figuring this out by training at Senior Ball. There they took a unique look at two of the year’s best quarterbacks: Liberty’s Malik Willis and North Carolina’s Sam Howell.
“I feel like we got a good deal on both, and I love both,” Campbell said. “Look, Malik, he’s explosive now. This guy is an explosive athlete and he’s going to learn to play quarterback, but he’s explosive.”
So what do lions do? Go ahead and see what they’ve got in Goff and come back to the middle well in next year’s draft (or later) – when aren’t they in such a prime position to take one? Or are they taking this year’s quarterback into a class full of serious questions?
If you were to dissect Campbell’s briefing session, there are hints in both directions. When Campbell was asked what they were looking for in pick #2, Campbell mentioned the ability to come in and make an immediate impact.
“You want a guy who can come in and be a starter for a day,” Campbell said. “That’s really what you’re trying to get – the guy that you feel like it can come along and be able to produce a solid production for you.”
Sure enough, that seems to rule out a quarterback, especially a player like Willis, who could take a year or two to develop. But when asked shortly thereafter why a quarterback would be considered if you needed an immediate contributor, Campbell made an interesting case.
“If you really love a guy and you know people are going to get over him, and the only way to get that guy over is by picking them where they are, that’s something worth considering, especially if you think you can develop those,” Campbell said.
Part of the debate, too, is whether you really need an elite-level midfielder to win in this league. At this point in his career, it seems highly unlikely that Goff would develop into that guy. Meanwhile, Willis not only has the physical tools to be an elite passer, but also brings the kind of modern mobility in NFL quarterbacks.
Campbell was asked directly if they needed a star midfielder – particularly a mobile player – to win consistently, and again, the messages were mixed.
“No, I don’t think you need to,” Campbell said. “I think, boy, you would love to have this kind of player, because they can improvise. There are things they can do and they can improvise with their eyes down below, so that they can manage your attack, they will do what they need to, understand it well, know their readings. If it Something’s not right, they have pocket portability so they can break it, but their eyes are almost always down.
“These are the guys who hurt you, not just pure runners. They are the ones who can always look for the next play while I’m away from you. But I think those, like these, are obviously special. They can definitely give you a better chance. But no, I don’t think it’s You have to have one of these guys for continued success.”
To paraphrase: They don’t need a mobile elite quarterback, but it sure would be nice to have one.
If there’s a point in the conversation where Campbell might be tilting his hand, it’s nearing the end. Talking about the importance of the here and now, he seemed to focus on building the roster and then when the time and player are right, do everything you can to add the midfielder.
“What is best for us now?” Campbell said. “Now, Brad must look at it a little further from where I am, but right now, what gives us the best chance? And man, let’s build this list overall. Now, (if) the right man is sitting there at the right choice in This situation, let’s do it. But we love Geoff and I love his place. Finish strong. Keep adding pieces, then man, wherever that is – Is this next year? Is this year? Is it two years from now? And the right person is sitting there, and then you find out Way to get that guy. You discover a way when he’s the right guy.”
If I had to interpret this quote myself, I would come to the same conclusion I did after Holmes last week. The Lions want to build a list around Goff for now. If that doesn’t work, they’ll have a roster strong enough to be aggressive and use every resource they need to add a midfielder they like.