Lions' Dan Campbell likes Jared Goff at QB, but won't rule out upgrading in future

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Asked about the Detroit Lions' long-term vision at the quarterback position, coach Dan Campbell walked a tightrope between the present and the future, between practicality and ambitious aspirations. 

Campbell isn't in denial about the ongoing arms race going on around the league, and that there exists another caliber of talent at the position. But while every team, including the Lions, would love to have a Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen type leading their franchises for the foreseeable future, Campbell believes the Lions are capable of achieving sustainable success with current starter Jared Goff. 

Lions quarterback Jared Goff and head coach Dan Campbell exchange a few words and a hug in the final minute of the victory over Arizona, 30-12.

"I think, boy, you’d love to have that, that type of player, because they can improvise," Campbell said when asked if the Lions needed to eventually procure a superstar quarterback. "There’s things that they can do and they can improvise with their eyes downfield, so they can run your offense, they’re going to do what they need to do, they understand it well, they know their reads. But if something just kind of isn’t right, they’ve got pocket mobility and then they can break it but their eyes are always downfield. Those are guys that hurt you.

"...I think that those, guys like that are obviously, they’re special. And they certainly can give you a better chance, but no, I don’t believe you have to have one of those guys to have sustained success."

Campbell twice reiterated he likes Goff and particularly liked the way the quarterback finished his first year with the franchise. In his final five starts last season, he completed 69.6% of his passes with 11 touchdowns to two interceptions and a passer rating of 107.1. 

And while he might not possess that rare, dual-threat skill set akin to Mahomes or Allen, Goff proved during his time with the Rams that he's capable of winning games, divisions and postseason contests, even leading the team to the Super Bowl three years ago.

More: Lions mailbag: How can Jared Goff keep his starting job heading into 2023?

Still, like the Rams did when they traded Goff to the Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford last offseason, Campbell isn't ruling out continued exploration of upgrading his team's quarterback situation in the near future, if the right opportunity presents itself.  

"(General manager) Brad (Holmes) has got to look at it a little bit farther off than I am, but right now, what gives us the best chance?," Campbell said. "Man, let’s build this roster, in general. Now, (if) the right guy is sitting there at the right pick at that position, then let’s do it. But we like Goff and I like where he’s at. He finished strong. Keep adding pieces and then, man, whenever that is — is it next year? Is it this year? Is it two years from now? And the right guy is sitting there, then you figure out a way to get that guy. You figure out a way when it’s the right guy."

In reality, drafting a challenger to Goff this offseason seems increasingly unlikely. That would typically come in the earliest stages of the draft, and Campbell made it clear he desires a Day 1 starter with the team's No. 2 overall pick. 

Lions quarterback Jared Goff is all smiles after a touchdown by wide receiver Kalif Raymond from wide receiver Tom Kennedy in the first quarter.

That would essentially rule out Malik Willis, the Liberty quarterback who is the consensus best prospect at the position. The Lions coached him at the Senior Bowl, and Campbell loves the potential, but also noted he didn't see the player as an immediate starter. 

"This guy’s an explosive athlete and he’ll learn to play the quarterback position," Campbell said. 

If the Lions don't draft Willis, or another one of the top prospects in this class with one of their two picks at the tail end of the first round and top of the second, it pushes the conversation about Goff another year into the future. With that extra time, he'll be given the opportunity to erase lingering doubts he can be the franchise's long-term solution.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers