Ultimately, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson might be judged on titles, not awards

OWINGS MILLS — Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson thought he would have won a Super Bowl before earning a pair of NFL MVP awards.

On Thursday night, he won The Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player award for a second time, but he has yet to bring home a Lombardi Trophy. The Ravens were perfectly positioned to win a title this year, but they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-10, in the AFC Championship Game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Ultimately, Jackson’s legacy could hinge on winning a championship.

“If you want to be considered one of the greats of all time, it’s what you do in the postseason,” said Louis Riddick, an NFL and college football analyst for ESPN. “[Jackson] will be judged by what he does in the postseason.”

Having turned 27 on January 7th, Jackson is in elite company and is the youngest two-time NFL MVP. He is also the 11th player to win the award multiple times.

Jackson has gone 58-19 as the starting quarterback for the Ravens in the regular season. He is the fastest quarterback to reach 5,000 yards rushing. Michael Vick holds the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback at 6,109, which Jackson could eclipse next season.

However, Jackson has gone 2-4 in the playoffs. In those six postseason games, he has completed 112 of 195 pass attempts for 1,324 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions (75.7 rating). Jackson also has rushed for 521 yards with three touchdowns on 73 carries.

Of the 15 quarterbacks to receive multiple first-team All-Pro selections, Jackson and former Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts are the only ones who have never started in a Super Bowl, according to ESPN Stats.

“The greats have all been through tough times, and I don’t think this is going to stop him from wanting to get to the ultimate goal,” wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “I think, if anything, he’s going to work even harder. He wants it bad.”

Jackson understands the criticism that goes with falling short in the playoffs. The latest disappointment arrived in the 17-10 loss to the Chiefs. Jackson turned the ball over twice and missed a number of deep throws.

The Ravens have not helped Jackson with their postseason game plan.

The Ravens had a record-breaking rushing attack in 2019. However, in the 28-12 loss to the Titans in the divisional round, Jackson attempted 59 passes, but the running backs — Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram — had just nine carries.

History repeated itself this season.

Once again the Ravens had the league’s No. 1 rushing attack, but they ran the ball a season-low 16 times — eight by Jackson — for 81 yards against a Chiefs team that allowed 182 yards rushing to the Buffalo Bills the previous week.

In those playoff losses, Jackson has not looked like a player who won a pair of MVP awards.

In the setback to Kansas City, Jackson went 20 for 37 for 272 yards, but except for two long throws to rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers for 30 and 54 yards, he did not produce any explosive plays. He was sacked four times, lost a fumble and was intercepted when he threw into triple coverage.

That performance added more fuel to his critics.

“I never thought I’d be a two-time MVP winner. If anything, I thought I’d be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback by now,” Jackson said after the awards ceremony in Las Vegas. “I feel like I still have work to do and stuff to prove to the naysayers. But I need the naysayers.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has dismissed the postseason criticism of Jackson. He is confident that Jackson has already created a positive legacy for the NFL, the Ravens, and the city of Baltimore.

“In the National Football League, unless you don’t make the playoffs, your last game is not a success unless you win the Super Bowl,” Harbaugh said. “You have to understand that. So, when you don’t win the last game, especially a home AFC Championship Game, which is so rare and so hard to get to – it’s rare air – then it’s like, ‘Whoa, is it success [or] is it a failure?’

“Lamar Jackson is a phenomenal success. He’s a phenomenal success as a football player. He’s phenomenal success as a person, as a leader, as a family man, but you’re asking about the football player. In my opinion, there’s nobody better in this league, especially nobody better for the Baltimore Ravens and for this organization and for this city and just from a historical perspective.”

Since he was selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Jackson said his No. 1 goal is to win a Super Bowl. That has not changed. Moments after winning his latest MVP award, Jackson reiterated that stance.

“Just to get this award, to be here for the award is the honor. I’d rather play in the Super Bowl than accept the award,” Jackson said.


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