clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

This NFL head coach ‘did not buy’ negativity that ended Jared Goff’s time with Rams

Bengals HC Zac Taylor helped Lions OC Ben Johnson prepare for Goff in Detroit

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Wild Card Round - Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Some may call it water under the bridge — especially after the Los Angeles Rams earned a victory in Super Bowl LVI — but we continue to learn new details and insight into LA’s trade with the Detroit Lions that swapped Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford. The Rams tossed in multiple first round picks in order to acquire the now-World Champion QB and offload Goff’s bloated contract.

But while Los Angeles takes a step back in 2023, Detroit seems to be ascending with Goff under center. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for a former Rams assistant and now NFL head coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, Zac Taylor.

Dan Pompei wrote this week at The Athletic about Goff’s blossoming partnership with offensive coordinator—and likely soon to be head coach—Ben Johnson. Included in the article are insights into how Goff’s marriage with McVay and the Rams fell apart, and how Taylor still believed in the young QB despite much public criticism to the contrary:

Ben Johnson, then the Lions’ tight ends coach, had questions. As did Goff.

Zac Taylor had answers...

Taylor texted Johnson, telling him how much he enjoyed his time with Goff. He said he’s coachable and even fun to be with. The QB is the same guy every day, Taylor texted, always ready to work and learn, and he operates without ego.

Taylor kept going, addressing the negativity surrounding Goff, telling Johnson he didn’t buy into it. To Taylor, Goff was not on a downward trajectory, nor had he plateaued. Taylor thought Goff’s best was still ahead.

“Super talented,” Taylor told Johnson. “He’s one of those guys who can make every throw in the book. High-level player.”

Next, Taylor messaged Goff, telling him he would love working with Johnson and that the coach would be great for him. He said even though Johnson wasn’t his position coach, Goff could pick his brain and trust him. Then he called Johnson one of the smartest people he had ever been around.

Taylor saw something in Goff others did not. And he knew something about Johnson that hardly anyone else could.

At the time of this exchange Johnson was the Lions’ tight ends coach under offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, but Lynn lasted only half a season in that role before getting the boot from Dan Campbell. Campbell promoted Johnson to lead the offense—of course with Goff’s blessing. In Johnson’s first full season as OC Detroit finished in the top-5 in of points scored as well as EPA per drop back.

Goff is certainly no stranger to criticism, and even when excels the architects behind the offense seem to get most of the credit. At some point he deserves flowers for leading several top offenses over his career. Sure, he wins with less style points than the modern NFL QB.

NFL: FEB 05 2023 Pro Bowl Games
Goff at the 2022 Pro Bowl Games
Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We know that McVay pushed Goff too hard and effectively broke his confidence. It all came to a boil during the 2020 season where McVay gave John Wolford—who we now know was an inept NFL quarterback—the starting nod over Goff in the playoffs. Wolford was knocked out of that game early with an injury and Goff led the team to victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Read Johnson’s comments to Pompei on Goff and ask yourself if McVay ever uttered such kind words about the quarterback—deferring credit from himself to his player. It’s certainly a stark juxtaposition and could be a key reason why Goff has rebounded in such resounding fashion:

After the season, Johnson interviewed for head coaching jobs...but Johnson backed out and announced he was staying with the Lions...

And then there was Goff. “He’s one of the biggest reasons why I didn’t want to leave,” Johnson says. “I feel we are tied together to a degree. He’s an extension of me, and I’m an extension of him. I’ve told him multiple times his success is my success and vice versa.”

I often think about a multiversal timeline where Goff stayed with the Rams and was able to find another iteration of success with or maybe without McVay. How would the prospects of the team feel different than they do now with a 35-year old Stafford, who may only have 1-3 years left in Los Angeles?

Maybe with Brad Holmes as the general manager, a promising offensive mind calling plays, and with Goff under center, we are instead seeing that timeline play out in Detroit. The Lions are ascending into a contending team and former Rams are playing a significant role in their turnaround.