When the dust settled on Lambeau Field Thursday night, there was a different feeling in the air. The Packers, long the most dominant team in the NFC North, had just been crushed by Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions, 34-20. And while the QB himself didn’t have an earth-shattering performance, he quietly led the Silver & Blue Symphony of success during a crucial early-season victory.
The funny thing is? Nobody thought it was going to turn out this way.
The Jared Goff of 2023 is a far cry from the maligned player who was practically given away by Los Angeles in 2021 – less than three years after he led the team to Super Bowl LIII. Despite his success – right as the Rams re-merged in their new/old West Coast home – Goff found out just how fickle pro football franchises can be.
He was supposed to be the golden boy and the face of the team for years to come. Picked first overall out of Cal, he was a homegrown kid. Fresh-faced and with a big arm, he should probably still be ruling the roost for the Rams right now. Blamed for the loss in The Big Game, he never displayed the same flash he showed in that magical 2018 season, and it wasn’t long before fans and observers were singing the same, old refrain: The Rams can’t win a Lombardi Trophy with Jared Goff as their starter.
So, Goff was packaged up in a huge deal for the Lions’ Matthew Stafford, who would indeed lead LA to a Super Bowl victory. Not long after, the veteran team began to dismantle, Stafford started to show his age, and the Rams are in a bit of a rebuilding mode right now. Their immediate future will hinge on finding a replacement for Stafford, who is now 35 and showing indications that he might be close to calling it quits.
At the time? It was considered just another one of those trades where a powerful franchise picks off the best players from a perennial pretender to cement a championship. Much like the Yankees have done in baseball, it appeared as if the Rams were merely picking the best parts off of a broken-down franchise, one that was seemingly stuck in the slow lane for perpetuity.
It worked, too. The Rams would go on to win their first Super Bowl in LA, crowning Stan Kroenke’s vision of making his team the toast of Tinsel Town. Meanwhile, the Lions would be hitting the ignition (again) with a new head Coach, the lovable (and volatile) Dan Campbell.
The prevailing thought was that Goff would fade away in Detroit Rock City, and eventually be drowned out by all the criticism his game had been getting. When the Lions received two first-round picks, as well as a third-rounder, he was a nice throw-in. The thought was: If they got anything out of him, he could fill the role until they could shop around for something better. By then? The rebuilding process would be complete
Instead, Goff has gone on a comeback tour in Motown, he’s got the team cruising to a 3-1 start in 2023. The Lions are the talk of the NFL early on, and they look ready to go to war with anyone. Mostly because of their brash and bodacious head coach. But also because their signal caller is having a career renaissance.
He’s a good fit for the working-class city, as well. Despite being a California kid, he has a blue-collar approach. Even following the huge win over Green Bay, Goff was low-key in his postgame interview. It was almost as if he was saying, “This is nice… but we still have a lot to do.” That’s the kind of drive that epitomizes a tough town like Detroit Rock City.
After a 2022 Pro Bowl season which saw him post 4,478 yards, 29 TDs, and 7 INts, his former critics were singing a different tune. Jared Goff went from being a one-hit wonder to the comeback kid. Now? He’s aiming for the championship that eluded him in LA, and the chance to have fans in Detroit dancing in the streets.
While it’s not expected that the Silver & Blue will grab the holy grail this year, the signs are there that it could be a reality within a few seasons. Lions fans are enjoying watching the rise of the Pride and are willing to wait because they know – better than anyone – that there ain’t nothing like the real thing.
Right now… the prevailing attitude around The Motor City these days is that with Dan Campbell designing the engine and Jared Goff driving the car? Everything’s alright.
Ryan Boman is the author of the 2023 book, Pop Music & Peanut Butter: A Collection of Essays about Embracing Life with Laughter & Love. Follow him on social media @RyanKBoman