Perhaps the only thing better than the anonymous scout during the pre-draft process that completely dunks on an NFL Draft prospect is the anonymous coach in the NFL who does the same to a professional player. While the latter is less meaningful, it’s also more petty, and sometimes you’ve just got to expect it.
Yesterday, the NFL media world was asking the question, who’s the anonymous NFL defensive coach who tore Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson a new one? I’m guessing that it isn’t anybody on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff. But presumably, it’s somebody who told this to Mike Sando for The Athletic.
Sando published his annual quarterback rankings article yesterday, a list that is based upon the polling of 50 NFL coaches and executives. As I wrote about, the Steelers’ Mitch Trubisky was ranked 33rd, basically suggesting that he’s not a starter-quality quarterback. But people had nicer things to say about him than Jackson. Or, at least, than that one guy did.
“I don’t (care) if he wins the league MVP 12 times, I don’t think he’ll ever be a 1 as a quarterback”, the anonymous coach, reportedly a defensive coordinator, said of Jackson. “If he has to pass to win the game, they ain’t winning the game”.
The fifth-year veteran was ranked 10th on the list from The Athletic, immediately behind Deshaun Watson, who didn’t even play football last year. Along with Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson, they make up the upper crust of the ‘Tier 2’ quarterbacks. Only six—Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Joe Burrow—made the top tier.
Of course, it wasn’t only nasty comments about Jackson, with even the anonymous defensive coordinator in question talking about him being “a really good football player’ and a tier-one athlete, while another, offensive, coach called him “one of the more special talents to ever play the game”, and there is probably some truth to that.
After all, he became the youngest player to ever win the league MVP award, and was just the second unanimous MVP. The 2021 season was kind of a wash because of the lack of a running back room, the transition of the offensive line, and the fact that he missed about a quarter of the season himself. They were 8-3 at one point, after all.
Still, certain criticisms of him as a quarterback are undeniable. He is not a great problem solver if he can’t use his legs. He doesn’t identify coverages the way you expect a typical ‘great’ quarterback to. He has arm talent, but accuracy waivers.
The question with Jackson has always been, how much can his natural talents and his ability to be a weapon with his legs not only negate his weaknesses, but also accent his passing strengths? When teams are worrying about him taking off, they can be exploited. If he were the sort of passer that Rodgers or Mahomes is, he would simply be a cheat code.