The Baltimore Ravens were so good last season that it became common practice to see Robert Griffin III come in at the end of games to serve mop-up duty. In the 15 games started by Lamar Jackson in 2019, Griffin came in to play in six of them, totaling 71 snaps, before starting the finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That was never more evident than in the season opener last year, during which the Ravens got so far ahead so early that Griffin ended up playing 23 snaps. I have no idea if that is a record for the most mop-up snaps ever played by a quarterback in a game in which there were still stakes to be played for, but it kind of feels like it’s probably close.
The Ravens’ season opener on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns was another blowout, ultimately winning 38-6. The score was already 31-6 by the middle of the third quarter. Baltimore had the opportunity to put in Griffin with about 10 minutes to play, but they chose to leave in Jackson for another drive. Griffin ultimately logged six snaps in the final four minutes of the contest instead.
When asked earlier this week why he wasn’t taken out sooner, even with the game well in hand, Jackson defended the decision. “We didn’t have any preseason games. That was my first time getting tackled since January, so I felt we needed that”, he told reporters, via ESPN. “Coach knows what he’s doing. It is what it is. You can get hurt at any time. I’m good. I came out of the game 100 percent. So, it’s fine”.
Jackson completed 20 of 25 passes against a wounded Browns secondary for 275 yards (the second-highest yardage total of his career), averaging 11 yards per attempt, throwing three touchdowns versus zero interceptions. He also carried the ball seven times for 45 yards after setting a new quarterback record for rushing yards in a season a year ago.
In his first season as the full-time starter all year, Jackson was named the MVP of the league in 2019, only the second player to be awarded that by unanimous decision. While he only threw for 3127 yards (on just 401 pass attempts), his 36 touchdown passes led the NFL, versus just four interceptions. He also rushed for 1206 yards at 6.9 yards per carry, with seven more touchdowns.
He is now 20-3 as a starter since entering the league in 2018, during the regular season, but the Ravens have lost both of the playoffs games in which he was the starter to date. Despite going 14-2 last season, they were one-and-done with the Tennessee Titans taking them down in the Divisional Round in 2019.