Why the narratives about Ravens QB Lamar Jackson are wrong
The second reason given for Jackson’s ranking is that his running style means that he cannot be trusted in passing situations late in games, which is patently absurd.
While it feels like we’ve been debating Jackson’s ability to lead late-game comebacks for years, I thought that question had been put to bed this year, but apparently not.
For those needing a refresher, Jackson was consistently labeled as a quarterback who could not engineer late-game comebacks despite having really good numbers for his career in passing situations and having already put the team on his back in a number of big moments.
And then he put all those questions to bed by seemingly leading a comeback seemingly every week in 2021.
Whether you prefer the double-digit fourth-quarter comeback against the Chiefs, the two-touchdown second-half comeback against the Vikings, the 19-point comeback against the Colts where he put up maybe the greatest statistical passing performance in football history, or the beautiful fourth-and-19 throw to Sammy Watkins to set up Justin Tucker’s record-setting field-goal against the Lions, Jackson had more than his fair share of big moments in 2021.
And that is without even mentioning the Raiders game where he led two go-ahead scoring drives in the final seven minutes only for the defense to blow the lead both times, or the Steelers game in which he led a last-second touchdown drive only to come up short on the two-point conversion.
Still not convinced?
Take a look at this tweet via Ben Baldwin of PFF which looks at how 108 qualifying quarterbacks since 1999 have performances on drives taking place in the last ten minutes of the fourth quarter in which the quarterback’s team was either tied or trailing by sixteen or fewer points.
The chart looks at the percent likelihood of a successful drive based on field position and remaining time, and which quarterbacks had the highest percentage of successful drives over the expected number.
The first takeaway from this chart should be that Patrick Mahomes is laughably good at football and him not being number one on ESPN’s list is absurd.
But secondly, Jackson ranks 21st in nearly the past quarter-century in this metric, appearing ahead of a number of quarterbacks who made ESPN’s list.
Simply put, the idea that Jackson is a bad passer who cannot lead teams on comebacks is a pretty odd thing to say about someone who is ranked fourth in the NFL among active quarterbacks in EPA (expected points added) per play over the past three seasons and continuously performs in clutch situations.
What’s more, Jackson is not the one on ESPN’s list who had issues in close games.
You may have noticed that Josh Allen was 47th on that graph from Baldwin. The Bills were 0-5 in one-score games, and Allen did not throw a single touchdown pass when trailing in the last four minutes of games.
Now one could say that those are extremely cherry-picked stats that are not an accurate reflection of a clutch quarterback because close games are inherent coin flips.
That Josh Allen had multiple potential game-winning drives spoiled by drops, penalties, or defensive collapses. And they would be right.
And none of this is to argue that Jackson should be ahead of Allen on the list — he shouldn’t be.
It is just to point out that Jackson was not given that same benefit of the doubt in close games when the 2020 Ravens won the same amount of games, had a similar offensive statistical profile, and did most of their work blowing out bad teams and losing close games to good teams as well.
And while part of the reason that notion is especially bogus with Allen is because of what he did in the Chiefs playoff game — a performance the likes of which Jackson has never had in such a setting — you would be lying if you said any similar questions or narratives were part of the common football discourse before that game.
The fact that this shouldn’t have been a narrative is not the point. It is that this has been a lingering question with Jackson despite all evidence pointing to the contrary- another indication of the double standard that he constantly faces.