When the No. 1 seed in the NFL playoffs has a championship game at home, there’s an expectation that team will win. In fact, when any team is at home one win away from the Super Bowl, there’s an expectation that team will win. When the home team has a superstar quarterback who is set to get his second league MVP, there’s an expectation to win.
Lamar Jackson demanded to be paid like a superstar franchise quarterback in the offseason, which was fair given his accomplishments and trajectory. But the question now is whether he, or any quarterback, can be considered truly elite without winning in the postseason.
When you look at the elite quarterbacks in league history, they have all won the sport’s ultimate prize. And the simple reality is Jackson hasn’t done that. He’s become one of the game’s biggest individual stars but when it comes to elevating a team in the playoffs, he has fallen short.
Some of that is on the Ravens, who have done a relatively poor job surrounding him with proper talent at the skill positions. Some of that is injuries, particularly at the running back position. And some of that is on the shift in offensive philosophy to make Jackson more of a passer than a runner. Even though Jackson had 821 rushing yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry, he was noticeably less explosive when entering the open field as a runner this year. He wasn’t breaking off the back-breaking highlight-worthy 50-yard touchdown runs like he was in years past. The change worked for the Ravens for most of the season but ultimately, there was too much responsibility on Jackson in the playoffs and he was unable to deliver when it mattered most.
Going up against the cream of the crop is tough, and that’s certainly what Patrick Mahomes is. It’s hard to beat Mahomes at any game regardless of supporting talent, but that’s what Jackson signed up for when he demanded a massive contract. Part of getting that payday means you will have the advantage over the other guy, fair or not.
The Ravens can chalk up Sunday’s loss to a few unlucky plays in a crucial spot, one of which Jackson was responsible for. They’ll potentially have to add a receiver with both Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman underwhelming, and the running back room is in a flux. The one constant is Jackson, who will coming off a MVP season still looking for his first Super Bowl appearance. He’s one of the most exciting talents in the game but it might be time to reconsider his place among the elites of the position.