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NFL Quarterback Movement & Life Detours

The Upside of Being Upended

by Rachel (@tootsiepop6)

The NFL landscape changes every offseason through trades and free agency pickups. Sometimes, these moves benefit one side of the equation more than the other, and a player ends up in a less-than-ideal situation. But sometimes, even though these situations are not what the player hoped for, they end up turning out better than he or anyone could’ve predicted.

NFL Quarterback movement teaches us how to handle these life detours and that there can be an upside to being upended. Veteran Lions quarterback Jared Goff is one example of this.

The Rams Send Goff to Detroit

In March 2021, the Los Angeles Rams traded quarterback Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions in exchange for quarterback Matthew Stafford. This trade also included the Rams’ first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023 and a 2021 third-round pick.

The Rams selected Goff as the first-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.  He was with the team for the next five years, including a Super Bowl LIII appearance, where they faced the New England Patriots and ultimately lost. While with the Rams, Goff averaged 3,634.2 passing yards per season and had a win/loss record of 42-27. In his last season in Los Angeles, Goff struggled and there appeared to be friction between him and Coach Sean McVay.

Completing this trade with the Lions pointedly was an upgrade at quarterback for the Rams, acquiring Matthew Stafford. The Rams went to Super Bowl LVI, where they proved victorious over the Bengals. Outward appearances suggested that the Lions got the short end of the stick in the trade by receiving the “lesser” quarterback in Goff. However, the picks they gained in addition to Goff led to them adding key pieces, including DB Ifeatu Melifonwu, WR Jameson Williams, DL Josh Paschal, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, TE Sam LaPorta and DT Brodric Martin.

Growing & Improving 

Goff’s first two years with the Lions were tough. The first, 2021, ended with a record of 3-13-1, while 2022 ended at 9-8, narrowly missing the playoffs. However, the 2023 season was a different story. Goff and the Lions finished with a 12-5 record and triumphantly won their very first NFC North division title. Over his three years with the Lions, Goff averaged 4,086 passing yards per season. This is in part due to the bolstered Lions offense that now includes Williams, Gibbs, LaPorta and star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

When he was traded to the Lions, Goff’s career trajectory was upended. Being put in that position, I imagine Goff felt defeated that the team that drafted him no longer wanted him. Rejection stings. Despite this, he developed a chip on his shoulder. When reflecting on this, Goff told ESPN’s Eric Woodyard. “I think it’ll never leave me, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Goff chose to use that chip on his shoulder to fuel his growth and improve as a quarterback.  And indeed, he improved. According to NFL.com’s QB Index, Goff finished as the fourth-best quarterback of the 2023 season, behind only the likes of Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes

Goodbye, Cleveland – Hello, Tampa Bay

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Another NFL quarterback who benefited positively after moving to another team is Baker Mayfield. The Cleveland Browns selected Mayfield as the first-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. During his tumultuous four years in Cleveland, Mayfield played for four different head coaches, suffered injuries and was denied a contract extension once he was eligible for one.

After the Browns traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson in the 2022 offseason, Mayfield requested to be traded. “It’s in the mutual interest of both sides for us to move on,” Mayfield told ESPN. “The relationship is too far gone to mend. It’s in the best interests of both sides to move on.”

The Browns traded Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers in July 2022. After an abysmal start with a 1-5 record, Mayfield requested a release from the Panthers. The Los Angeles Rams claimed him off waivers in December, where he had a magical “Thursday Night Football” performance just days after arriving.

Then, in March 2023, Mayfield signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had a successful 2023 season with the team, leading them to their third straight NFC South title. Finishing the season with a whopping 4,044 passing yards and a career-high 64.3% completion rate, Mayfield earned his first Pro Bowl nomination. Mayfield took the Buccaneers to the playoffs, eventually losing to the Lions in the Divisional Round. Because of what he accomplished with the team, Tampa Bay recently signed Mayfield to a three-year contract extension worth up to $100 million with $50 million guaranteed.

Mayfield’s career was upended when the Cleveland Browns chose to bring in another quarterback, presumably to replace him. He was shuffled around before signing with the Bucs, so it was unexpected that things would turn out as favorably as they did for him.  Not to mention, he joined the team on the heels of Tom Brady’s exit, facing impossible shoes to fill. Undeterred by all that, Mayfield proved he could hold his own. He is now confidently the Buccaneers starting quarterback for the foreseeable future

Being Upended

Like Goff and Mayfield, many of us have stories of our own careers being upended, myself included. Two years ago, my career trajectory took a sharp left, and I found myself taking a demotion. Due to reasons beyond my control, I left a role that I would have preferred to stay in. This was not what I envisioned for myself and certainly not the path I intended to go down. I felt like a failure. The deafening sound of that defeat made me question my identity. Who am I? And what is my purpose if I’m not doing the role I built my career toward?

Taking a detour from what I mapped out for my life is not what I anticipated, planned or wanted. Goff and Mayfield didn’t plan or want to move on from the teams that drafted them. But circumstances led them in a new direction. Both took on their new roles with tenacity and conviction to prove their former teams wrong for letting them go. Nobody would’ve predicted them to have the kind of success they’ve had with their new teams.

Jameis Winston is another NFL quarterback who has moved to different teams in his career. The Cleveland Browns recently added him to backup Deshaun Watson. In an interview with Josina Anderson of CBS Sports, Winston said: “Yes, I still envision myself as a starter. However, the Lord has also called me to lead by impacting and increasing the men who are around me. Having the opportunity to work with Deshaun [Watson] and help him be the best he can possibly be is my main mission. Now, if Deshaun has to heal up for whatever reason, and I have to take a few games off of him, I’m going to be ready to do that. But I have to fulfill God’s purpose first before my own heart’s desire. Because ultimately, I desire to win some Super Bowls, and this roster that Cleveland got looks like they can do it.”

Finding the Upside

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Winston didn’t anticipate finding himself in yet another backup situation. But he’s not dwelling on that fact and is focusing on how to best contribute to the team’s success. Goff used the chip on his shoulder to improve as a quarterback and leader. Mayfield kept the Buccaneers in playoff contention after Brady retired.

In a couple of years, what story will we be able to tell about both Russell Wilson and Justin Fields going to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2024? Will either or both be able to prove their former teams wrong for letting them go?

The fact of the matter is many quarterbacks face changes throughout their careers. Sometimes, they find themselves in a new position they didn’t aspire to have. It’s the same for the rest of us. We all get upended through life, whether in careers, relationships, or other situations. It’s how we adapt to the new conditions that determine what happens next for us. I will never know why things happen the way they did for me. Maybe God has a different purpose for me that I have yet to discover.

Like Winston, I hope to make an impact however I can in my current situation, while still putting in the work and staying ready for the role I want. I do know that sitting in this discomfort has been an opportunity for me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.

The upside of being upended is we are forced to change. Our resiliency to face new challenges expands. Sometimes because of this, we find that we are led to things greater than we ever could imagine. I hope that will be true for me.


Thanks for reading. Hit me up on Twitter @tootsiepop6 for more fantasy football content!

*Photo Credit: Junfu Han – USA TODAY Sports*

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