From being the fifth quarterback taken in his 2018 draft class to 2019 NFL MVP, Ravens Quarterback Lamar Jackson has put the entire league on notice after just a season and a half as Baltimore’s signal caller. Resoundingly proving his doubters wrong (especially those who were advocating for him to change positions prior to his transition to the NFL), Jackson has shown an uncanny ability to perplex defensive coordinators and players alike, tearing them apart with his lethal running game combined with his much improved passing attack. Despite falling to the Tennessee Titans following a lackluster playoff run, any detractors Jackson has left have struggled mightily to take anything away from the young man’s ungodly brilliant 2019 season. Having already been labeled the next dominant dual threat quarterback, great but frankly hyperbolic expectations have been placed on the 22 year old, with some even predicting a gold jacket and a bust in Canton for the young man.
However, despite the illustrious career and many super bowls that have been planned out for Jackson by the many talking heads that cover the league, I personally have a somewhat bleaker view of his future. For most traditional quarterbacks, depending on their luck with injury, strength of organization and overall skill, a superbowl window can remain open for anywhere from 10-15 years (20 plus if you’re Tom Brady). This rule mostly applies to quarterbacks who are primarily pocket passers — ones who rarely leave the safety of their pocket, not wanting to venture into the wilderness that is the rest of the gridiron. Jackson is far from traditional though, as can be see by his 1,207 rushing yards on 176 rush attempts during the 2019 season, a statline thanks to which Jackson was able to dominate the competition. That same level of success will not last long, and his personal superbowl window is rapidly closing. This is for two reasons in particular.
Firstly, Jackson may be a one-in-a-lifetime athlete now, but his body and his athleticism will not withstand the beating he is taking. There is a reason that teams are hesitant to pay running backs nowadays, for after a few years of continuous contact, their bodies start to give out, no matter how dominant they were in their prime. Jackson treats his body much like that of a running back, meaning no matter how freaky he is athletically, he will end up either getting hurt or see his mobility begin to decline within the next 5-7 years. This has happened to all mobile quarterbacks as they have aged. From RGIII to Cam Newton, Vince Young to Michael Vick, none have been able to rely on their legs for sustained amounts of time without suffering the consequences.
Secondly, teams will begin to figure Jackson out. Due to his unique play style, and considering how short a time he has been in the league, it is very difficult to both gameplan and practice in preparation for the Ravens’s dynamic signal caller. Jackson hammered home this point during the Ravens’s commanding win over the Patriots in week nine, stumping even the greatest coach of all time in Bill Belichick. Yes, Jackson is truly something we have never seen before, having reached a level of greatness that surpassses even the greatest mobile quarterback of all time, Michael Vick. However, his skillset will only serve to take him so far, as once they have more tape on him and experience against his game, other teams will begin to adjust to his play style. They will adapt their defensive schemes to specifically limit his rushing capabilities, forcing him to rely on his much weaker arm to produce offense, at which time Jackson will be reduced to nothing more than an average if not sub-par QB.
Do not get me wrong, I am not rooting against Lamar Jackson. I hope he has a long and fruitful career, and that he knows nothing but success. However, I cannot sit idly by and let this sheer tsunami of praise for him go unbridaled. As a lifelong football fan, I have never seen a mobile quarterback maintain a high level of success simply relying on his legs. And while yes it is true that Jackson’s passing game has improved exponentially compared to the seven games he started in 2018, it is not yet at a point where it is self-sustaining or able to function without his lethal run game. Jackson’s success has been the dominant storyline of the 2019 NFL season, but I do not see that same level of success being maintained in the future. To make matters worse, Jackson himself just confirmed that he will grace the cover of Madden 21, meaning the young quarterback will also have to overcome the Madden curse in order to succeed next year. I hope I am wrong, I really do, but I will believe it when I see it.
Then again, we have after all been spoiled by the longevity of the likes of Tom Brady and Drew Brees, causing us to unrealistically expect all franchise quarterbacks to play into their forties. Perhaps during his brief prime Jackson will bring home one if not multiple Lombardi trophies while at the same time putting up Hall of Fame numbers, and none of these concerns surrounding his longevity will matter.