Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian suggested in 2018 that Louisville alum Lamar Jackson was more suited to play WR than QB. The then-21-year-old begged to differ, and insisted he could excel at center. Turns out he was right, and Polian was wrong.
Jackson, drafted 32nd by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2018 NFL Draft, is tearing up the league as a QB, and is making a case for MVP. In 10 games this season he has amassed 3,046 yards (2,258 passing, 788 rushing), along with 25 touchdowns (19 passing, 6 rushing). His QB rating is 77.7% (3rd behind Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott), with a completion rate of 66.3% (11th overall). Importantly his Ravens are 8-2, and are now legit contenders thanks to the brilliance of Jackson.
This strong play hasn’t gone unnoticed. Even Polian admits now that he was amiss in his assessment of Jackson. “I was wrong,” says Polian, “because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was.” That “old, traditional standard” is the drop back, stay in the pocket, and fling away mold perfected by the Joe Montanas and the Steve Youngs of yesteryears.
But Jackson isn’t that type of QB. He is far from it. The NFL team guide for this season by Ladbrokes describes Jackson as being “as unique a player as the NFL has seen in decades.” That’s because he is more Michael Vick than Joe Montana only better. A feature by Forbes on Jackson notes how the Floridian “represents a new era for an NFL quarterback.” He is dual-threat personified, as he can beat teams with his passing, and punish them with his running. In fact, he might be even more dangerous venturing out of the pocket rather than staying in it.
“The beauty of having him is that you know that when he gets outside of the pocket, very rarely does he get pinned in,” explains Ravens assistant head coach David Culley. “And I think that’s where we practice what we call ‘scramble routes,’ … and if you follow those rules and you want a catch, there’s a pretty good chance he’s going to get it to you if you’re in the place that you need to be.”
That’s how good of a playmaker Jackson has become. The young Raven is no longer the last minute crazy run and gun QB that we thought he was. There is now a method to his playing style, and it has birthed Lamar Jackson mania. The Baltimore Sun explains that Jackson has reenergized not just his team, but also the entire Ravens fan base
“These last few weeks have really exploded, whether it’s retail or tickets or social-media engagement,” says Ravens vice president of marketing Brad Downs. “As much as the city embraced our defense, through the two Super Bowl runs and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed … it’s still not an exciting, playmaking quarterback who has that dynamic, fun quality. This is just fun. I haven’t seen anything like it in my time here.”
For all the talk about Jackson’s brilliance, we can add great leadership to the mix. His Ravens teammates hail him as a complete leader, one who has undeniable “command and presence” on the field, in walk-throughs, in meetings, and in the locker room. With his talent, productivity, and leadership there is little doubt that Jackson has evolved into an elite QB. In fact, he has become <em>Lamar Jackson, the NFL’s likely MVP.
IMAGE CREDIT: @new_era8