Whether the Baltimore Ravens thought they were getting their future franchise quarterback or a fun gadget guy when they traded up to draft Lamar Jackson with the last pick of the first round in 2018 is irrelevant.
The bottom line is they got one of the biggest steals in draft history.
John Harbaugh was on the hot seat in Baltimore, but when he let Jackson take the reins of the offense, his job suddenly seemed a lot safer.
Lamar took over for veteran Joe Flacco at the end of the 2018 season leading the Ravens to the playoffs.
He followed that up with a 2019 season in which he won MVP and broke Michael Vick’s rushing record for a quarterback.
2020 appeared to be a bit of a down season for the 23-year-old, but he has turned it on as of late as the Ravens make a playoff run.
The biggest knocks against Jackson are his passing ability, the fact that he has lost both playoff games in which he has played, and that he struggles playing from behind.
These might be legitimate concerns for a seven-year veteran.
However, Lamar is 23 years old.
Here is why Lamar Jackson should be respected as a legitimate NFL starting quarterback now and going forward.
Most touchdown since start of 2019 season:
Aaron Rodgers 74 (31 games)
Russell Wilson 74 (31 games)
Lamar Jackson 73 (29 games)
Josh Allen 72 (31 games)
Patrick Mahomes 68 (29 games)
Tom Brady 66 (31 games)
Deshaun Watson 66 (30 games)
— Wola (@WolaWriter) December 30, 2020
1. And He Can Pass!
Lamar doesn’t get enough credit for his decision making in the passing game.
His career interception rate is a miniscule 1.8%.
Josh Allen, drafted in the same year as Jackson, has a career interception rate of 2.3%.
Only Patrick Mahomes can claim a better percentage at 1.4%.
If that isn’t enough for you, take a look at his passer rating.
For his career, Jackson has a passer rating of 102.5.
Again, the only 2020 MVP candidate that is better in this category through his first three seasons is Mahomes (109.3).
Rodgers (99.4), Wilson (98.6), and Allen (89.8) rank behind Jackson.
While he may throw some interceptions here and there or make an inaccurate throw, when watching a Ravens game from start to finish, Lamar rarely has moments where you ask yourself, “What in the world was he doing there?”
Even some of the greats experience those kinds of moments.
His instincts running the ball are well-documented, but Lamar deserves more credit for his instincts in the passing game.
The @Ravens have very strong passing concepts in the red zone that attack and break down zone coverage. QB @Lj_era8 has 44 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in the red zone the last 2 seasons! @gregcosell goes into detail on the @NFLMatchup show!!
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) December 30, 2020
2. He Wins
“Lamar can’t win from behind.”
How many times have you heard that over the last year?
Quite a bit, right?
How many times have you heard it said about Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers?
Not near as much, right?
Well, if that’s the narrative on Lamar, then it should be the story with Mahomes and Rodgers.
In his first three seasons, Jackson has led four 4th quarter comebacks. Mahomes has led six and Rodgers three in his first three years under center.
Josh Allen and Russell Wilson led eight and seven respectively, but the point here is that if Lamar can’t win from behind, neither can Rodgers or Mahomes.
In terms of overall record, Jackson’s .805 winning percentage trails only Mahomes’s .826.
The quarterback’s job is to not just give his team a chance to win but to lead them to victory.
Lamar may not do it the way most quarterbacks before him have done it, but at the end of the day, he wins.
3. Nothing Like Him
We have never seen a quarterback in the NFL with the ability to dominate a game on the ground, through the air, and between the ears.
Jackson can, on any given Sunday, do one or all of those.
Lamar Jackson is a wizard 🧙♂️
— PFF (@PFF) December 27, 2020
But none of them have the arm talent and rushing ability that Jackson has.
If the Ravens need him to rush for 100 yards, he can do it.
If they need him to throw the ball down the field, he can do it.
If they need him to pick a defense apart, he can do it.
No one that has ever played the position compares to Lamar Jackson and the way he can dominate many facets of a game.
We may as well enjoy his greatness while we can.
We should stop talking about what he can’t do and start appreciating what he can do.