It didn't take Dan Campbell long after Jared Goff arrived in Detroit ahead of the 2021 season to understand that Goff had the perfect complement of temperament, competitiveness and skillset to be the right person to play quarterback for him.
"I found out how competitive he was the first spring we had him out here in the seven-on-seven when it was raining, against our defense," Campbell said Friday. "And that's when I was like, 'Wow, OK. That's good to see.'
"And just watching him throw the football and tight window throws and it was heated. And he was not going to lose that day and he just got better and better and better, and his confidence was at an all-time high. So, you may not always see it outwardly, but believe me, he's very competitive. And you can't play the way he's played if you're not competitive."
Goff's play on the field throughout the regular season and in the playoffs is the No. 1 reason the Lions are in Sunday's NFC Championship Game and one win away from their first ever Super Bowl appearance.
His personality and the uncanny ability to be a calming effect in a sometimes chaotic game is a perfect fit for this team and this head coach.
"I do think there's a part of me that's intentional about being consistent whether things are good or bad," Goff said. "And making sure guys know that I'm not worried about it, so you guys – let's all handle it. It's all under control.
"And that's not easy. I think at times you are worried about things, you are trying to make sure things are the right way and being able to give off that everything is handled is important I think and something that I've always tried to do."
That consistency, good or bad, is something the Lions will need to lean on Sunday against the 49ers. Hostile environment, us against them mentality, but with a quarterback who has been there and never gets too high or too low.
RAGNOW BACK AT PRACTICE
Veteran center Frank Ragnow was back on the practice field for the Lions Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday with ankle, toe, back and knee injuries.
Ragnow has been a warrior all season battling through injury and still playing at a level where he's considered by most to be the best center in football.
"He's good. You know Frank, Frank's doing well," Campbell said Friday. "And Frank will be ready to go. I mean you're not going to hold him out of this one, and he gets better every day. So, he'll be ready."
That's huge for a Lions offensive line facing a really good 49ers defensive line with some terrific talent up the middle.
Campbell promised he'd bring a winner to Detroit when Lions owner Sheila Hamp hired him ahead of the 2021 season. Now in the Lions' first NFC Championship Game since 1991, Campbell has taken extra satisfaction in proving Hamp right with her decision to pick him to lead this team.
"It means a lot. I always wanted to do that. I always wanted to prove her right," Campbell said this week. "That's not an easy thing to do, to take a chance on somebody that nobody knows about or thinks deserves a shot or whatever it is. And so, to trust your instincts and trust people around you and to pull the trigger, it means a lot. It sure does.
Hamp has pulled all the right strings since taking over as principal owner in June of 2020. Not only with the hiring of Campbell, who is a finalist for AP Coach of the Year, but also with the hiring of general manager Brad Holmes, the Pro Football Writers of America 2023 Executive of the Year, and surrounding herself with people like Chief Operating Officer Mike Disner, Special Assistant to the President/CEO and Chairperson Chris Spielman and President & CEO Rod Wood, who understood the culture she wanted to bring here.
"She's one of one. She's unique and I'll say this, everything that we kind of are and what we're about has started with her," Campbell said. "It's really her, it's her vision. Like I'm fortunate she allows me to be myself. I don't feel like I have to be somebody I'm not, and you can't always do that. You can't – and so with that, I can coach. I can do what I need to do, and I appreciate that. So, she took a chance on me and yeah, it feels good to prove her right, but we're not done either."
View photos from the Detroit Lions practice on Friday, January 26, 2024.
EYES ON GIBBS
49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was asked this week what the key is to containing Lions rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs.
"I don't know if you can contain him," Wilks said, via NFL.com. "We have to do a great job swarming the ball, and he's phenomenal. He's four-three on paper, he is four-three on tape. He plays to that speed.
"Again, they do a great job getting him out in space, trying to create one-on-ones with the backers, great job on third down, and he can run in between the tackles and he's most explosive taking the ball outside. So, definitely someone we have to definitely rally to. And as I said before to the defense, we have to swarm tackle this Sunday in order to stop this run game."
It's good to know the 49ers are concerned with Gibbs the way the Lions are with talented 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey.
Gibbs has certainly made his mark his rookie season, rushing for 945 yards (5.2 avg.) and 10 touchdowns along with 52 receptions for 316 yards (6.1 avg.) and one touchdown, totaling 1,261 scrimmage yards and 11 scrimmage touchdowns. He's added 182 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs.