Jared Goff played like one of the NFL's best quarterbacks late last season, after an admittedly ugly start. But if you ask Chris Simms, Goff is one of the worst starters in the business.
In his annual ranking of the top 40 quarterbacks in the NFL, Simms slotted Goff No. 30 entering the 2022 season, calling it a "make-or-break" year for his future in Detroit.
"He’s a guy that you look at and go, 'Can he turn the corner or is he just holding the spot down for us one more year before we find an improvement?' And the way it looks, I feel like it’s going that direction," Simms said this week on his podcast as he unveiled QB's Nos. 30-26 on his top-40 countdown. "He did nothing last year to solidify in their brain, 'You’re the guy of the future for a long, long time here.'"
Goff finished his first season in Detroit with 19 touchdowns to eight picks and a passer rating of 91.5 that ranked 17th in the league. And he ranked 27th in yards per attempt. But he was much better after Dan Campbell took over play-calling from former offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. His passer rating of 107.1 from Week 12 to the end of the season ranked third in the NFL, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Joe Burrow.
But Simms isn't sold. Consider the four quarterbacks he ranked directly ahead of Goff: Miami's Tua Tagovailoa, Atlanta's Marcus Mariota, Pittsburgh's Mitchell Trubisky and New Orleans' Jameis Winston. In other words, Simms views Goff as a backup -- and that's where he thinks Goff is headed in Detroit.
"He can go through spurts where you go, 'How do you miss that throw? How do you miss it that badly?'" said Simms. "There is some systematic help that is needed for Jared Goff. That’s why it’s a big year for him. This is the year that, to me, it’s make or break. He’s going to have to play good football, be consistent and make some plays. We can’t go through every game just going, 'He did pretty good, he didn’t screw it up.' Or, 'When those guys were open, he hit them.' Because that’s really where we’ve gotten a little bit with Jared Goff."
Goff was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Rams who helped the team reach the Super Bowl in 2018. That carries weight with Lions GM Brad Holmes, who was director of college scouting for the Rams when the organization drafted Goff first overall in 2016 and who traded for him last offseason. Holmes, along with Campbell, believes the Lions can win with Goff, but this is likely Goff's last season to prove it.
"He’s going to be on the bench as a backup unless he can make some more plays or make some more high-level throws on a consistent basis going forward," said Simms. "They’ve got everything (on offense) but the QB. But hey, the Rams built everything but the QB and he got them to a Super Bowl. So you can do that. We’ll see where it goes."
Goff carries the NFL's fifth-highest cap hit in 2022, but the Lions can move on from him after this season without prohibitive dead cap hits in 2023 and 2024. They've surrounded him with a wide array of weapons and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. If he delivers another mediocre season, Detroit will likely go searching for his replacement in next year's draft.
Simms did praise Goff for being "battle tested" and "tough," calling him a "pretty good athlete" with a "strong arm." But that was about as far as he went on the positive side.
"Can he push some balls into some tight windows and down the field? Yes. But at times, he can lose control of that and he can also throw a ball that’s not always the most catchable," said Simms, echoing his criticism of Goff last year when he ranked him No. 31 on the top-40 countdown.
Simms added, "He is a pretty good decision-maker, but he’s not going to carry the team through a tough spot or go, 'Get on my back and let me make something happen. I’ll make plays off schedule, I’ll throw lasers down the field and we’ll change the game.' No, that’s not what he is. He is a little bit of a game manager. I’ll say he’s a little plus than that because of his arm strength, but there are some flaws to his game, no question."