As Ravens fans, we all heard plenty of jokes over the years at Joe Flacco’s expense. They were typically straightforward. They could be anything along the lines of “your QB looks like Bert from Sesame Street” to “there’s no way this bum is elite” and depending on how Flacco performed that particular week, both could be true. However, the Flacco era is over, and Lamar Jackson is the QB for the Baltimore Ravens. No player in the NFL is immune to being made fun of, but Jackson has received a label that he just can’t seem to shake: “running back.”
Every time the NFL makes a post on any social media on the Ravens or Lamar specifically, the comment section is overrun with the same jokes every single time.
They’re not funny anymore.
These jokes, of course, stem from Lamar’s reliance on running the football. For AFC North football fans have been dying for new things to hold over Ravens fans, Lamar’s “one-dimensional” style of play is quite attractive. Yes, Lamar is a running quarterback who has shortcomings throwing the football, but what rookie quarterback – especially of those with Jackson’s upside – hasn’t improved at the game of football after their rookie season?
Logically, the way the ravens played offense last season with Lamar made sense. If the QB doesn’t have the ability to throw the ball 30 times a game, why make him? And if the team is winning, why fix what isn’t broken? Lamar isn’t the best passer, but to assume that he will always be what he was as a rookie with no progress as he gets more experience in the NFL is idiotic. A rookie QB is seldom perfect.
Look at a few of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Peyton Manning holds the rookie record for interceptions and he would end up winning two super bowls and also currently holds the NFL record for most touchdown passes. Brett Favre threw more interceptions than completions his rookie year and he held the touchdown pass record before Manning. Troy Aikman went 0-11 in his rookie year and he would end up being a three-time super bowl champion.
As no one has ever accused Manning of being a running back, and Aikman and Favre weren’t known for their legs either, perhaps a look at a different type of QB is needed.
One QB that Jackson was often compared to coming out of college was Michael Vick. Jackson’s rookie numbers were better than Vick’s, with 7.1 yards per attempt to Vick’s 6.9, and LJ also had a better completion percentage (58% to Vick’s 48%). Vick’s falcons did not make the playoffs his rookie year, but would in his second season. Vick’s completion percentage improved by ten percent, and he threw for nearly 3000 yards while tacking on another 777 on the ground. Vick would end up throwing the ball 421 times to his 113 rushing attempts. Those Falcons beat Favre’s Packers at Lambeau Field in the Wild Card Round. Vick went to the playoffs with a 19th ranked defense. If a QB like Vick could improve the way he did in his second season with an average defense, imagine what Lamar could do with a top-5 defense.
If one dual-threat QB from a decade and a half ago and three hall of famers aren’t enough to convince you that Lamar will improve, perhaps going through the four signal-callers taken before Jackson and all of their shortcomings will drive the point home.
How do the rookie years of these guys stack up against the “running back” taken with the 32nd overall selection?
With the tenth selection, the Miami Dolphi – or rather, The Arizona Cardinals – took Josh Rosen. There’s not a lot to say here. Poor Rosen got sucked into a dumpster fire of an organization that gave him absolutely nothing to work with. Honestly, this guy deserved better than to be given up on after one season with a rookie head coach who was also axed. Hopefully, Rosen will avenge himself in Miami. Still, does he get nearly the hate that Jackson gets right now?
With the seventh overall selection, the Buffalo Bills took Josh Allen. The Bills have a bit of hype around them this season. Here’s some food for thought for Bills fans: Jackson had a completion percentage of 58%. Josh Allen’s was 52%. Allen had 6.5 yards per attempt. Jackson had 7.1. Allen’s most notable highlight from his rookie season was him hurdling a defensive player while he was running the football. Ravens fans have to listen to fans of a team that has been Bill Belichick’s doormat for the last 15 years call Jackson a running back while their new QB’s best highlights are of him running the football. That’s a tad ironic.
Oh, and one more thing Bills fans, you’re not doing anything until Tom Brady retires so have fun playing him twice a year.
With the third overall pick, the New York Jets took Sam Darnold. The Jets might finally have their man. However, Jets fans still need to keep their mouths shut. Sam threw the ball about 2.5 times more than Lamar last year, and he threw five times as many interceptions. The Jets still lost to the Patriots twice, and they somehow managed to lose to the Dolphins twice as well. With the savior of the franchise at the helm, the Jets had one less win than a season prior. With the Ravens QB of the future, he took a below .500 team to a division title. Oh, and he didn’t lose to the Browns.
With the top pick, the Cleveland Browns of course took Baker Mayfield. Baker is the one rookie QB that definitely had a better year than Lamar in 2018. He’s done something that was thought to be impossible: gave Browns fans hope. Baker set the rookie touchdown pass record, and can move around in the pocket effectively and scramble when needed to.
However, in Week 17, with everything on the line, he was outplayed by Lamar Jackson.
Lamar was on the winning side when he played against the Browns in Week 17. Baker threw the ball 42 times in that game. He also threw three picks, one of which sealed the game for the Ravens.
Lamar’s skill set allows the Ravens to have a balanced attack, meaning that Lamar should never have to throw the ball 42 times in a game. This matchup is going to be so much fun to watch, and both sides will have their day as the years go on. That is what that Week 17 game said.
To the Browns fans that completely discount Lamar and say that defenses now have the film to study on him, remember: that goes for Baker as well.
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to LJ shutting up all the “he’s a running back” jokers this season. I wonder what they’ll reach for next.