Detroit Lions' Dan Campbell: 'I don’t think you need' elite QB to win big in NFL

NFL teams have been tripping over themselves to add star quarterbacks the past two seasons, believing an upgrade at the position can lead them to the Super Bowl.

But second-year Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell told beat reporters Wednesday he does not believe teams need to be elite at the position for long-term success.

“No, I don’t think you need that," Campbell said. "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."

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Lions quarterback Jared Goff, left, talks to quarterback Tim Boyle and coach Dan Campbell at a timeout during the second half of the Lions' 37-30 win over the Packers on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at Ford Field.
Lions quarterback Jared Goff, left, talks to quarterback Tim Boyle and coach Dan Campbell at a timeout during the second half of the Lions' 37-30 win over the Packers on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at Ford Field.

The Lions are poised to enter 2022 with Jared Goff as their starting quarterback for the second straight season, but no one in the organization has endorsed Goff as their permanent answer at the position.

Goff had a mediocre first season in Detroit and is widely considered a middle-of-the-road NFL starter. He completed 67% of his passes last season but was reluctant to push the ball downfield at times, though his play improved in the second half of the year.

The Lions sat out the quarterback trade market this offseason after dealing Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Goff and three draft picks last winter. Stafford led the Rams to a Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals, who have emerging star Joe Burrow at quarterback.

Veteran quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz have changed teams in recent months, with the Denver Broncos (for Wilson) and Cleveland Browns (for Watson) trading multiple first-round draft picks.

The Lions, coming off a 3-13-1 season, could be in the market for a quarterback with one of their two first-round picks, Nos. 2 and 32, though Campbell said the team is looking for "a Day 1 starter" at the top of the draft.

American squad quarterback Malik Willis of Liberty looks to pass against the National squad during the Senior bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Ala. on Feb. 5, 2022.
American squad quarterback Malik Willis of Liberty looks to pass against the National squad during the Senior bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Ala. on Feb. 5, 2022.

"That’s really what you’re trying to acquire, a guy that you can feel like can come in and he’s going to be able to have solid production for you," Campbell said. "I mean, that’s kind of the idea. We need to feel like, all right, this guy comes in, it may take just a little bit, but you’d like to believe by the time you hit your first game that this player’s starting for you and is going to be able to produce. And then be able to grow every year a little bit here."

Campbell said he came away from the Senior Bowl with favorable impressions of top quarterbacks Malik Willis and Sam Howell, who were on the Lions-coached American team.

Willis, one of the most athletic and strong-armed quarterbacks in the draft, is a potential top-10 pick, while Howell is projected to go late in Round 1 or early on Day 2. Pitt's Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss' Matt Corral and Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder also could go in the first round.

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"We got better exposure than anybody else that hasn’t directly been around them, so I feel like we got a pretty good handle on both of them — and I like both of them," Campbell said. "Look, Malik, he’s explosive now. This guy’s an explosive athlete and he’ll learn to play the quarterback position, but he’s explosive."

Asked why the Lions would consider a quarterback at No. 2 if they want a Day 1 starter with the pick, Campbell said, "Look, if you really love a guy, right? If you really love a guy and you know people are going to be all over him, and the only way to acquire that guy is pick them where they're at, it's something worth thinking about, especially if you think you can develop those guys."

The Lions' offensive staff has little track record of developing young quarterbacks, but an extensive history playing the position.

First-year offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, 35, was a walk-on quarterback at North Carolina, quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell, 51, played 18 NFL seasons and receivers coach Antwaan Randel El was a college quarterback.

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) passes in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on Dec. 12, 2021.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) passes in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on Dec. 12, 2021.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes said last week he believes Goff also would be open to mentoring a rookie signal caller.

Campbell said he sees value in having a mobile signal-caller, one with "pocket mobility" who can make plays not just with his legs but passing downfield while on the move.

He praised Goff for his play down the stretch last season and said "I’m glad we got him this year," but was evasive in answering questions about his vision for the future at the position and the danger in waiting too long to find a long-term solution.

"I think it’s more, man, like, right now, what is best for us right now?" Campbell said. "Now, Brad’s got to look at it a little bit farther off than I am, but right now, what gives us the best chance? And man, when — let’s build this roster, in general.

"Now, 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’s sitting there, then you figure out a way to get that guy. You figure out a way when it’s the right guy."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Why Dan Campbell doesn't think Detroit Lions need star QB to win