Why Failing to Win in the 2020 Playoffs May Doom Lamar Jackson’s Legacy
Lamar Jackson has been electrifying the NFL for three years now. He is looking like the most dangerous mobile quarterback since prime Michael Vick. He’s won 24 of his 28 regular-season starts and has the team competing in a tough AFC North this year.
But, Jackson has taken the Ravens to the playoffs twice, and lost both times. Both times at home, no less. It’s only his third year, but there is some serious pressure on him. He will not be taken seriously as a starting QB if he can’t win the big ones. This, despite an MVP and a 12-game win streak in 2019.
Quarterbacks with Multiple Playoff Losses Without a Win
If you look down the list, you won’t find too many playoff QB’s without a win in the playoffs, while having multiple losses. The worst of the group are YA Tittle and Andy Dalton, each posting an 0-4 record in postseason action. Highlighting the 0-3 all-time playoff-record club is Matthew Stafford.
Believe it or not, Peyton Manning lost the first three games in his playoff career, before amassing 14 between his time in Denver and Indianapolis (plus two Super Bowls). But, Lamar isn’t Peyton. He’s a new-breed of run-first, pass-second quarterback. And he hasn’t just lost his two playoff starts, he has played horribly in them.
The reason it’s so important for Lamar to avoid that 0-3 record is that all of his elite peers are finding no trouble winning in the playoffs. Russell Wilson reached a Super Bowl in just his second year, then making it again in year 3. Patrick Mahomes has a title and two consecutive trips to the AFC Championship.
Lamar, meanwhile, has losses to the Chargers and Titans. He failed to reach 200 passing yards against LA, while struggling until the fourth quarter against Tennessee. It has to happen for Jackson this year if he wants to be a big-game QB.
Not Your Average Quarterback
Despite the 0-2 start to his playoff career, Lamar Jackson is a generational talent. How many QB’s can post a 13-2 record in their first full-year as starter and throw for just 3,100 yards, while also taking home the MVP? Lamar had 6X as many touchdowns (36) as interceptions (6), and didn’t post a loss after week 4.
Jackson was also among the league’s leading rushers, racking up over 1,200 yards and seven more scores on the ground. In 28 career starts (37 games), Jackson has rushed for over 2,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is fantastic on the ground, but is not the “running back” that naysayers still think he is.
Jackson leads one of the most unique offenses in the NFL, geared completely for his game. As soon as Jackson got to Baltimore, he reinvigorated a franchise that had been searching for its identity since winning the Super Bowl in 2012. And the fact that he has gone 24-4 is very telling of how qualified he is to lead.
The Next Steps for Lamar
The Ravens have opened 2020 with a 5-1 record, showing no signs of defeat after their disappointing playoff loss to Derrick Henry’s Titans last year. They’re in the thick of a heated division race in the AFC North with the Browns and Steelers. So, what does Lamar need to work on?
Jackson needs to be able to make adjustments. Because the team doesn’t play from behind much, the playoffs have been a bit tougher. They are geared towards being a run-first team, and if you fall behind by 10-14 points, it becomes a bit harder to execute that.
Baltimore needs Jackson to be able to alter his game to the situation. When he’s forced to throw 40+ times, can they count on him to deliver wins? Despite the impressive yardage total against Tennessee, he was far from impressive. And the football seems to come lose from Jackson’s hands more often in the crucial games.
Whoever the opponent is in 2020, he needs to be ready to bring his best stuff. Because the murmurs will start about Jackson being anti-clutch and perhaps even a liability if they fail to move on the postseason this year.
Time to go to work. Jackson will have a great chance when Baltimore comes out of their bye week to play Pittsburgh in Week 8.