The most poignant words of Lamar Jackson’s interview after getting drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2018 were: “They’re gonna get a Super Bowl out of me. Believe that.”
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) April 27, 2018
You could barely blame the 32nd pick of the 2018 NFL Draft for being visibly disrespected after falling to the last pick of the first round, but Jackson didn’t show it.
He told NFL legend, Deion Sanders, that there wasn’t anything he could do to improve his draft stock or credibility before the big show in April. But now that the fireworks had all erupted and disappeared (or so we thought), it was time to show every other NFL team what they missed out on.
While being a backup under Joe Flacco for most of the 2018-19 season, Jackson had a modest amount of appearances, mostly on gimmicky one-offs that showed only glimpses of his talent.
But then Flacco was sidelined with a hip injury in Baltimore’s Week 9 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers
Jackson was thrust into the spotlight and went on to start the last seven games of the season. And he did better than anyone could have hoped, including those who were fans or covered the Ravens, going 6-1 in the regular season.
Jackson was the spark that led Baltimore from a 4-5 stretch, in which many were wondering whether Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh would even keep their jobs, to a playoff appearance on Wild Card Weekend.
No one could have anticipated the breakout season Lamar would have this year, as the Ravens’ previously vaunted rushing attack was stymied by the Los Angeles Chargers, resulting in a 23-17 loss.
For a moment, all of his doubters felt like they were correct in his ability, or lack thereof, to step up in high-pressure moments and deliver the ball accurately as a passer. And many thought Jackson’s struggles were merely about to begin, not to mention the wildly ineffective game plan set up by then-offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
How Lamar and Baltimore turned it around
Entering the 2019 regular season, media heads raved over Jackson’s determined mindset to fix his passing mishaps and have a stellar sophomore year.
The Ravens cooperated by hiring Greg Roman as the new offensive coordinator. Roman previously had worked with Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers during their NFC championship runs earlier in the decade. Many in Baltimore loved the decision, as it provided a creative mind to align with Jackson’s ridiculous abilities.
All the hype and talk boiled over into the first game of the season when Jackson showed off his passing skills against the Miami Dolphins. He threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns on a whopping 85% completion rate, as the Ravens went up 42-10 at halftime and ended up scoring another 17 in the second half.
Critics held out for more proof of real improvement. While his performance was impressive, the fact that the team he played was blatantly tanking took some of the luster away.
No matter. After falling to a disappointing 2-2 record to start the season, Jackson and the Ravens ripped off 12 straight wins. And of those 12 wins, nearly all of them featured signature moves from the second-year quarterback that left viewers speechless.
Who was a HERO for your team, yesterday? 🤩
— Gridiron (@Gridiron) October 21, 2019
My Personal Favorite
This one came in Cincinnati against the Bengals in Week 10. Jackson escaped the pocket, cut upfield, and left defenders in his wake for a 47-yard touchdown.
In the end, Jackson ran away with the MVP campaign, finishing with 48 total touchdowns, 3,127 yards passing, and 1,206 rushing yards. That last mark broke Michael Vick’s single-season record for rushing yards in a season.
Despite falling short in the playoffs again this year, Jackson’s ability, combined with the Ravens effort to maximize his talent and sign pieces tailored around him did the team wonders.
The league, as a whole, has a lot to learn when it comes to franchises adjusting to their players and not vice versa. Not only has it worked for Jackson, but if other teams buy into this philosophy, it could work for incoming athletes, one example being Jalen Hurts.
Beyond just the field of statistics and wins, Jackson serves as a role model for young athletes who watch the NFL. Seeing his humble yet fun-loving nature provides another reason for more people to love number 8.