It might've taken more than a year and a half, but former general manager Bill Polian, who won six Executive of the Year awards and one Super Bowl during his career with the Bills, Panthers, and Colts, is finally ready to admit he was wrong about Lamar Jackson.
All it took for him to admit his error was Jackson leading the Ravens to the playoffs in a half season of work a year ago as the Ravens remade their offense on the fly and then Jackson taking the Ravens to new heights this season in an even better offense. After hammering the previously unbeaten Patriots on Sunday night, the Ravens are 6-2 and Jackson is rightfully an MVP candidate in his second NFL season -- his first as a full-time starter.
And so, Polian is ready to admit he was wrong to say before the 2018 draft that Jackson would be better off switching from quarterback to receiver. Jackson was coming off a career at Louisville that saw him average 3,601.5 passing yards and 28.5 touchdown passes per season from 2016-17.
"I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was," Polian told USA Today Sports on Tuesday.
"And Greg (Roman) found a way in how he's developed a system to use those dynamic skills," Polian added. "Bottom line, I was wrong."
At the halfway point of the season, Jackson is completing 64.3 percent of his passes and averaging 7.6 yards per attempt. He's thrown 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. Additionally, he's rushed for 637 yards and five touchdowns. He's been so damn near unstoppable that the Patriots' top-ranked defense even got bludgeoned by Jackson. As a result, Jackson is heavily involved in the MVP race with Deshaun Watson, even if Russell Wilson is leading the race by a decent margin at this point in the season. It turns out being a ridiculous athlete is actually beneficial to a quarterback. Who could've known?
"The definition has changed, no question," Polian said, in a quote that reflects how the league can sometimes be so resistant to change, especially when it comes to less traditional methods of playing quarterback. "What he's doing is amazing."
Jackson's immediate and sustained success continues to make what.
"I think wide receiver. Exceptional athlete. Exceptional ability to make you miss. Exceptional acceleration. Exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand -- and that's rare for wide receivers," Polian told ESPN Radio at the time. "[Antonio Brown] and who else? Name me another one who's like that. Julio [Jones]'s not like that. This guy is incredible in the open field. Great ability to separate. Short and a little bit slight and clearly, clearly not the thrower the other guys are.
"The accuracy isn't there. Don't wait to make that change. Don't be like the kid from Ohio State [Terrelle Pryor] and be 29 when you make that change."
Polian was hardly the only person in the NFL community to think Jackson's game wouldn't translate to the next level. At the combine,
To Polian's credit, he did say at the time that he hoped he was wrong about Jackson. He said he wanted him to succeed as an NFL quarterback. But he just didn't think Jackson had this in him.
"I could be wrong on him, and I hope I am. I hope he succeeds as a quarterback. But I also go back to, if he's going to miss, why is he going to miss. You don't make a living as a quarterback running in the National Football League," Polian said at the time. "Cam [Newton] is the exception. You try to take exceptions and say they're the rule: they're not. Bill Parcels taught me that a long time ago. Parcells often said, if you have one or two exceptions on your team, you'll end up with a team full of exceptions. You can't make a living with those guys. You get one every now and then but it's hard to do it."
Jackson likely hasn't forgotten about Polian's remarks and the Chargers' request. After he lit up the Dolphins for five touchdowns back in Week 1,
As Polian mentioned, the Ravens deserve credit for seeing what so many other teams simply refused to see or even look for. It's why Joe Flacco penciled in as the starting quarterback. It's why they made the transition from Flacco to Jackson during the season, understanding that Jackson gave them a better chance to embark upon a playoff run, which is what they promptly did with the rookie under center. And it's why they spent the offseason constructing an offense around his unique skill set, promoting Greg Roman to offensive coordinator job, signing Mark Ingram, and drafting Marquise Brown., even though they still had
Now the Ravens are 6-2, in control of the AFC North, and a legitimate Super Bowl threat after proving their ability to beat the Patriots, and Jackson is already an MVP candidate. And here's the scariest part about all of this: Including the playoffs, Jackson has only started 16 games. Imagine how much better he can and likely will get.