Pump the Brakes on Lamar Jackson
Not literally. Lamar Jackson has phenomenal athleticism and you don’t want to put limits on that. I want Lamar Jackson to have a successful career because it means the Ravens made a good pick in the draft. But let’s not forget about one thing. Joe Flacco is still the franchise quarterback. Even though some are already putting that tag on Jackson minutes after his name was called at the end of round one in the NFL Draft.
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Franchise quarterback is a title you EARN when you EARN your SECOND NFL contract from the team that drafted you. You aren’t a franchise quarterback when the ink isn’t even dry on your draft card yet. The Browns hope Baker Mayfield is their franchise QB. The Jets hope the same for Sam Darnold, Bills the same for Josh Allen and Cardinals the same for Josh Rosen. But until you put in your time and play well enough to get a lucrative next contract, you’re just a hopeful carrying the pads of the veterans around training camp.
Now, Joe Flacco in recent years has not lived up to the second contract and subsequent extension he’s been given. We know about his cap situation and $16M in dead money the Ravens would incur if they cut ties with him after this season. Talking about how Flacco earned his contract when he did, and hasn’t lived up to it since, is a dead horse we should all be done beating. But he’s still here. He’s still the guy until it makes complete sense for him not to be. Which isn’t 2018 and 2018 has to play out before you wonder about 2019.
Jason La Canfora with close ties to the Ravens and the NFL made waves when he said, “Flacco was never going to be here in 2019,” and the Jackson pick cemented that. A lot of Ravens fans are on board with the Jackson pick and are ready for full on open competition for the starting quarterback job. Press Box even said that Jackson should be the starter. You’ll even read good things about the Ravens rookie wide receivers Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott and that Lamar Jackson will love throwing to these guys. What, Joe Flacco won’t?
That’s where I say, pump the brakes.
The Ravens would be wise to stay committed to Joe Flacco as preparation for the 2018 season is underway. They should not be preparing to have Lamar Jackson be the answer in 2018, definitely 2019, only to pass up the opportunity in front of them in 2018. It’s a good idea to get an athlete like Lamar Jackson involved in some way or another as a rookie. But it’s not a good idea to go into 2018 like it’s a Flacco farewell tour before it even starts.
The Ravens so far are saying all the right things. They aren’t being fan boys and girls and that is a good thing. Sometimes fans get it right. Sometimes things are so easy and the coaches just bungle it. But for the most part, the football people know the football things. Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon writes on the top of the lineup card everyday the acronym DBAFF. As a little reminder to himself and his guys, don’t be a f***** fan. When Joe Flacco inevitably throws his first interception in front of the home crowd, and half the stadium hits him with boo birds and starts chanting for Lamar Jackson, just stop. Don’t be a fan. Don’t listen to the fans, coaches. If turnovers are a real problem, Cross that bridge then. Not now, not in the preseason, not week 1.
The season could go a number of different ways.
1. Joe Flacco has a great year and Lamar Jackson doesn’t see a single snap. It could happen. If Flacco’s health isn’t a factor for the first time in three years, if the talent added around him through free agency and the draft achieves high marks, then September, October, November Joe Flacco might look like the legendary January Joe Flacco. The only snaps Jackson might see in this case could be on gadget plays.
2. Joe Flacco has an okay season, and Lamar Jackson plays a few snaps as a change of pace. This one seems like the likeliest of scenarios. In my humble opinion, Michael Crabtree isn’t the answer. Perhaps John Brown and Willie Snead aren’t either. If the Saints can’t make a receiver out of you, you think the Ravens will? But if Flacco remains healthy, maybe he does enough to be better than last year, but still average Joe. Maybe in a real dumpster fire of a game where Flacco can’t do anything right, you let Jackson get some action.
3. Joe Flacco gets hurt and it’s the Lamar Jackson show. Self explanatory.
What won’t be happening is Lamar Jackson beating out Joe Flacco in a training camp competition, rendering Flacco the healthy back up to Jackson. Not a chance that happens.
I don’t want Joe Flacco worrying about mentoring Lamar Jackson. I want Joe Flacco worrying about being the best version of himself he can be out there and he’s got the support from the coaches and front office to do that.
Drafting Jackson is a plan-B if Flacco can’t find his successes of old. Until it becomes anything more than that, pump the brakes fans. Pump the brakes La Canfora, Press Box, Twitter bots.