Dan Campbell Says Lions Don't Need Elite QB to Have 'Sustained Success'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 7, 2022

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 09: Head coach Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions looks on against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on January 09, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Nic Antaya/Getty Images

For Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, the absence of an elite quarterback doesn't have to hold the team back.

"No, I don’t think you need that," he told reporters. "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 might be singing a different tune if the Lions had Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers pegged as their Week 1 starter instead of Jared Goff.

Extolling the necessity of an All-Pro QB would not only undermine Goff but also send a message to the players that their head coach doesn't exactly believe in them.

Campbell's comments weren't without some truth, though.

The San Francisco 49ers reached a Super Bowl in 2019 with Jimmy Garoppolo. The Denver Broncos were crowned champions in 2015 despite relying on leaning on Brock Osweiler and the shell of what once was Peyton Manning. Nick Foles guided the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2017.

Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time champion, but those titles came at a point in his career when he wasn't yet a prolific passer. Likewise, nobody could ever decide how good Eli Manning actually was, and he beat Brady twice in the Super Bowl.

At the same time, there's no question that having a merely pretty good QB instead of a top-shelf signal-caller can lower your margin for error.

The 49ers might have won that aforementioned Super Bowl if they had someone a little better than Garoppolo, who finished 20-of-31 for 219 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Goff is another clear example. The Los Angeles Rams couldn't get over the hump with the two-time Pro Bowler, who was clearly regressing. They go out and get Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions and then win it all.

There's a reason why the 10 highest-paid players in the NFL are all quarterbacks.

To some degree, though, Campbell's comments should be encouraging for fans.

For more than a decade, the Lions had one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the league and look where it got them.

Like clockwork, Stafford would throw for more than 4,000 yards and Detroit would either fail to win a postseason game or miss the playoffs altogether. His presence wasn't enough to compensate for all of the bad coaching hires and all of the bad draft picks.

This time around, maybe Campbell can first build the kind of foundation that allows an incoming quarterback to thrive.