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Why I would rather trade 4 first rounders for Zach Wilson than one for Lamar Jackson
Seaside Joe 1226: I know this one isn't about the Seahawks, but I do think it's important
Well, it is about time that I write something that finally pushes how some of you perceive me from “Yeah, he’s different but he’s reasonable” to “Seaside Joe should have to go to Seaside Jail. #LockHimUp.”
I was watching more Zach Wilson highlights this week, as I’ve regularly been doing throughout the offseason as I switch back and forth between him and Grayson McCall, and the thought occurred to me that there was literally nothing the Seahawks could offer in trade to acquire him from the Jets. Nothing.
Maybe before Seattle traded Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos there was a chance that John Schneider and Pete Carroll could convince New York’s front office and Robert Saleh to capitalize on a “win-now opportunity” by swapping in a proven vet for a quarterback who may need a couple more years to ascend to championship contention, which I believe is all but inevitable for the other Wilson.
But without R Wilson as bait, I don’t think there is any way to convince the Jets to let go of Z Wilson at this moment. Not for two first round picks. Not for three first round picks.
Not even if the Seahawks called and said, “We’ll give you our first rounders in 2023, 2024, and 2025, plus the Broncos’ first rounder in 2023.”
Because even if Zach Wilson ranked 34th out of 34 quarterbacks in DYAR in 2021, 34th in DVOA, 33rd out of 33 in passer rating, completion percentage, and adjusted NY/A, 31st in yards per attempt, 30th in TD%, and dead last in bad throws…I’ve seen what I need to see and it is too late to turn around. The New York Jets know what they have and he isn’t Mark Sanchez, Sam Darnold, or Geno Smith.
Wilson made a ton of errors for the Jets last season—more mistakes than than Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and obviously Mac Jones—but that’s all what I would come to expect from a quarterback not only playing in the NFL for the first time; Wilson had to play for the Jets, a team that was a) coming off of a 2-14 season, b) working under a first-time head coach, and c) was also the NFL’s worst offense the year before he arrived, ranking dead last in 3rd down%, red zone scoring, points, yards, plays, first downs, and was 31st in passing yards.
You could not have put Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes on the 2021 Jets without expecting them to play like Superman wrapped in kryptonite. (Modern references update: “without expecting them to play like Eleven in season three of Stranger Things.)
Setting aside what Wilson did wrong, it is far more important to highlight what a rookie quarterback does right, especially when they show off skills that not even most veteran starters are capable of doing at this level of football. In a game against the Titans last season, for example, Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur calls a designed rollout on play action on first-and-10 at midfield.
As pointed out by YouTuber Jackson Krueger Sports (I think you’ll be seeing me reference him on this newsletter a lot more often in the future, but some of his videos are BLOCKED when you embed them, unfortunately, hence a link), Tennessee actually covers the play perfectly. Or at least, as perfectly as you can, so long as you’re not facing an elite quarterback.
Zach Wilson was not an elite quarterback last season, not even close to it, but all I’m looking for are some elite plays that most NFL quarterbacks don’t have anywhere on their resume.
Wilson sees that his two downfield options are covered, but directs Corey Davis to “go long” and calls his shot to complete a touchdown pass that travels 60 yards in the air even though the quarterback didn’t completely set his feet before attempting the pass.
Ideally, Wilson rarely has to throw passes without perfect technique. The fact that he can complete this pass without those perfect mechanics says all the more about Wilson’s potential to become a top-three quarterback in this league.
At its simplest form, great quarterback play is a marriage of remarkable athletic traits with a 100/100 football IQ. We know that Tom Brady has a lot more of the latter than the former, but his arm strength, form, mechanics…Brady is doing plenty with his body to prove that he’s the ideal quarterback.
Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers…Like I said, this is as simple to figure it out as it is rare to find: The elite quarterbacks, the ones who come around maybe once ever two or three years, can think of the perfect improvisational plays on the field in a split-second and also have the physical abilities to execute.
Usually when we get down to those quarterbacks who don’t qualify for many top-10 lists but do deserve to start—Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, or Ryan Tannehill for examples—there is something lacking in one of those sides (physical or mental) when they’re out there trying to match Brady, Wilson, or Rodgers play-for-play.
When it comes to watching Zach Wilson strictly from a physicality standpoint, which means a hell of a lot more than “can he scramble,” I get chills—even on the bad plays. It’s just something that you can see when you watch players like Wilson—playing quarterback somehow comes natural to him even when it’s not something you would think a person could be born to do.
Zach Wilson was born to be a great NFL quarterback.
What is a lot harder to predict is Wilson’s ability to improvise those plays at a high level against the very best defenses on a consistent basis, but moments and games like the one above are reasons for optimism as we move forward into his second campaign. And plays like that one are the type that separate the average and the above-average from the great and the elite; a defensive coordinator can only make a plan on how to stop the offensive coordinator, there’s absolutely nothing he can do once the ball is snapped. That’s when the game comes down to the defensive players on the field and the quarterback’s ability to change the play as it is happening.
Those are the plays that separate the good (Cousins) from the great (Allen) from the MVP (Rodgers).
I also suspect this could be the main reason why so many people on Twitter have been terrible at evaluating quarterback prospects in the draft over the last few years; they either ignore the value of the mental side of the game, or they underrate how difficult it is to make that leap from college to the NFL if you haven’t already proven to be a great student of the game prior to the draft.
“Well, you can’t coach arm strength.”
There’s also no proven track record that you can coach a quarterback from having almost no acuity for going through his progressions to being able to do so with the same amount of confidence and skill as Rodgers, Brady, and Russell Wilson.
Given that New York has also seemingly upgraded everything around Wilson, that’s why I do expect the second-year quarterback to become one of the biggest stories of the 2022 NFL season, as well as why I have the Jets as the surprise playoff team of the year.
The Jets will be replacing Keelan Cole’s 557 snaps (which was the most for any WR on the team) with top-10 pick Garrett Wilson; Jamison Crowder’s 538 snaps will go a hopefully-healthy Corey Davis; Elijah Moore, one of the biggest training camp standouts in the entire NFL last year, will be entering his second season, as is first round guard Alijah Vera-Tucker; free agent Laken Tomlinson is a massive upgrade from Greg Van Roten at left guard; Mekhi Becton returns from injury to presumably start at right tackle; plus the team overhauled tight end by signing C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, while also drafting Jeremy Ruckert in the third round.
On top of that, Michael Carter and second round pick Breece Hall have been hailed as one of the best running back duos in the NFL, giving reason to believe that LaFleur has his first chance to run a balanced offense in 2022.
That’s why I am more confident than I have any right to be that even if you’re laughing at me for trading four firsts for Wilson, you won’t be so dismissive of this proposal at the end of the 2022 season. Just consider the shift in narrative on Joe Burrow from year one to year two, the shift that happened for Josh Allen from year one to two to three, the shift on Carson Wentz from year one to two, and even the way that we talk about Russell Wilson now as compared to his first couple of season in the league.
Few people outside of Seattle were considering Wilson as a top-10 quarterback in the NFL even after the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl in 2013. It’s not just that it took time for people to accept that Wilson was an integral part of that team, it’s also the Wilson did need more time to develop from an afterthought to Seattle’s “franchise player.”
Zach Wilson is about to shift the narrative on Zach Wilson. To the point where it won’t sound anymore ridiculous to trade four firsts for Wilson as it would be to suggest trading four firsts for Burrow, Mahomes, Allen, or Justin Herbert.
Because even if “quarterback wins” is a statistic that on its own lacks proper context, football continues to be a sport that at its heart is one signal-caller trying to beat another signal-caller. That’s the sport. Football is unlike any other team sport because it is the amalgamation of a bunch of individual sports (CB vs WR, OT vs EDGE, C vs NT, etc.) and none of those matchups come anywhere near the value of QB vs Everybody.
To me, there is a way to see football in the same way that you see golf or tennis and only the greats like Brady, Rodgers, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, and so on, seem to give their teams a chance to win the Super Bowl year after year. Only the greatest of the greats actually can do that. So instead of thinking of a quarterback as just one player on a team, I instead think of it like this:
Would you trade a bunch of first round picks for a young Djokovic?
Would you trade the farm for a young Tiger?
Would you push all-in on a 22-year-old Joey Chestnut?
That’s how I see quarterback play in the NFL and Wilson seems to have all the tools—physical and mental—to become a top-three player in the league.
That might also lead you to believe that if Wilson has that kind of potential even after being statistically the worst quarterback in the league last year, that Lamar Jackson should be worth at least that much, if not a whole lot more. A former MVP who is only 25, set a new ceiling at the position for rushing abilities, and led the NFL in touchdown passes not long ago, Jackson has undeniably been one of football’s most exciting players to watch over the last four years.
But even if I didn’t have doubts about Jackson’s ability to still be starting in three years, which I do, there are other factors at play that make the choice between Wilson and Jackson an easy one.
The Seahawks will have absolutely no shot in hell (modern reference: Vecna’s Playhouse) of trading for Zach Wilson, so this is all for exercise purposes.
However, we can’t rule out the possibility that the Baltimore Ravens will trade Lamar Jackson sometime in the next nine months and we do know that Seattle is one of the few teams that will have the draft capital, the cap space, and potentially even the motivation to do be involved in such trade talks.
I do not expect it to happen and I would say the odds are less than 5%. Less than 3%.
To make my point a little more clearly though, here are more reasons why trading four firsts for Wilson would make a lot more sense for any team (and why the Jets would TURN IT DOWN) than even trading one first round pick for Jackson (and why I think the Ravens would happily accept any offer that starts at two first rounders).
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This is a very easy one, as Lamar Jackson is set to make $23 million on his fifth-year option, while Zach Wilson is entering the second year of his rookie contract and will count $8 million against the salary cap in 2022, $9.5 million in 2023, and $11.1 million in 2024. Then Wilson will either have his fifth-year option in 2025 or be working on the first year of his contract extension.
Quarterbacks really only ever get to the fifth-year option if the team has hesitations about his long-term future; Allen, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes would be examples of quarterbacks who signed mega-extensions well before it got to that point.
Darnold, Jameis Winston, Baker Mayfield would be examples of quarterbacks who did get the fifth-year option without an extension.
Any team that trades for Jackson would undoubtedly be doing so with a sizable contract agreement already in hand. That means that not only would the team be trading for his $23 million salary in 2022 (which is about as much as Wilson will make over the next 2.5 years total), they would also likely need to put him in the ~$45 million/year range right away.
Not even the Rams had to deal with a contract situation like that one after trading for Matthew Stafford last year. Which brings us to another point about QB contract value:
Stafford’s $20 million salary to L.A. in 2021 was a bargain, ranking ninth among quarterbacks and $12 million less than that of Russell Wilson, the player with the highest cap hit a year ago. And as you know, the Seahawks had their worst season since 2011, coincidentally the first year that fifth-year options and guaranteed rookie contracts became a thing, setting a new standard for how to “moneyball” the NFL.
The Seahawks won a Super Bowl and went to another with Wilson as the best bargain in the league
The Panthers went 15-1 as Cam Newton was at the end of his run of being a bargain on his rookie contract
The Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2017, aided by the fact that they had drafted Wentz in 2016
The Rams reached the Super Bowl in 2018, able to better the roster because Jared Goff was still on his rookie deal
The Chiefs won a Super Bowl and went to another with Mahomes on his rookie deal
The Bengals nearly won the Super Bowl last season because of Burrow being in that same situation
Tom Brady has almost never been one of the top-10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the league
Ten years ago, I would’ve bet the house that everyone would understand by now that teams are falling over themselves to find quarterback talent on relatively cheap contract. But this is still something that is lost on many writers.
As a bargain, Zach Wilson will give the Jets the ability to better the roster over the next 2-3 years while he plays like one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
As a player entering his contract year and demanding a payday north of $200 million, Lamar Jackson’s day as a “bargain” are over. When one player is eating 15% of your salary cap, you have to be sure that he’s capable of willing your team to victory not just week-after-week in the regular season, but especially in the playoffs. I don’t even know if Tom Brady does that…which is why Brady has always been a bargain.
Ability to attract WR, OL talent
Former Ravens safety Bernard Pollard boldly stepped forward on Twitter this week to question if Jackson is able to make throws that elite NFL quarterbacks are able to make. Speaking of wide receivers specifically, Pollard said: “They give him the respect, but they don’t want to play with him. LJ is good but he’s not able to make the throws.”
It’s easy to jump on Twitter to defend Jackson by saying “Ugh, but he won MVP! Ugh, but he had 36 touchdown throws in 2019! Ugh. Ugh. Ugh!”
It’s a lot harder to deny that Pollard is onto something.
Even though Marquise Brown was on Twitter defending Jackson this week, saying that the narrative “is ridiculous,” he was still the guy that demanded a trade to the Cardinals because he felt the offense didn’t fit his style.
Though Jackson won the MVP in 2019 and led the NFL in touchdown throws, Brown was the team’s leading wide receiver* by catching…46 passes for 584 yards on 71 targets. He was followed by Willie Snead at 31 catches and 339 yards.
*TE Mark Andrews caught 64 of 98 targets for 852 yards and continues to be the one offensive weapon who seems to benefit from this scheme/QB
When John Brown left the Ravens for the Bills in 2019, he went from 42 catches and 715 yards to 72 catches for 1,060 yards, seeing his catch rate jump from 43% to 62% and his Y/T jump from 7.4 to 9.2.
Attempts to improve the unit have included third round picks on Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay (both unsuccessful), and then a first on Rashod Bateman in 2021, a player who we’ve yet to see on the field enough to really judge but he did finish with only one touchdown during his 12 games as a rookie. All told, the Ravens have spent two firsts, two thirds, two fourths, a fifth, and a sixth round pick on wide receivers from 2018 to 2021, but the end result for now is that Baltimore is going with Bateman, Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, and James Proche II as their top-four options entering the 2022 season.
Consider the wide receiver trio that Baltimore has to face twice a year when they play the Bengals, or the potential of Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and George Pickens on the Steelers, or a new-look offense with Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and David Bell catching passes from Watson with the Browns.
While other teams were adding wide receiver talent, the Ravens were forced to trade their best wideout to the Cardinals. Is Pollard reading too much into that or is it a sign that Baltimore is in fact struggling to convince the likes of Tyreek Hill or A.J. Brown to partner up with Jackson? Does it have more to do with the fact that Jackson’s pending contract makes it impossible to pay their demands?
Either could be true, or it could be a combination of both. In any case, when you’d think the Ravens need to do more to help Jackson, they’re instead going back to their bread-and-butter of reloading the defense after allowing the most passing yards in the league last season.
It’s also worth noting how much the Ravens have had to overhaul the offensive line since Jackson’s MVP campaign. Baltimore had three Pro Bowlers on the unit three years ago—LT Ronnie Stanley, RT Orlando Brown, and RG Marshal Yanda—but efforts to find a good band again and keep it together have been a struggle: Stanley has missed all but seven games since 2020 because of injury, Brown forced a trade to the Chiefs so he could be paid like a left tackle, and Yanda retired.
The team drafted Tyler Linderbaum in the first round to solidify the center position and they’re of course hoping for a healthy season by Stanley. But veterans Kevin Zeitler and Morgan Moses are being counted on to man the right side and there’s a four-way competition at left guard.
We saw these offensive line concerns play out year after year in Seattle with Russell Wilson as the quarterback. You can attribute some of that to coaching, some to the front office, some to the players themselves. But we also know that quarterbacks are more responsible for their total number of sacks than they’re usually blamed for:
In football terms, here is what that means: Quarterbacks who take high-quality sacks (defined by the expected number of points they cost the offense) in one season have tended to take high-quality sacks in the next season, and vice versa.
This is true both in general and when we weigh by the total number of sacks taken to allow for QBs that played and got sacked more’s data points to be more meaningful.
Last season, Lamar Jackson had the 19th-highest pressure rate in the NFL, but the fourth-highest sack rate. As his offensive line has fallen apart, Jackson’s sack rate has jumped from 5.4% in 2019 to 7.2% in 2020, to 9% in 2021.
He’s a phenomenal talent who, like Wilson, can make game-winning plays appear out of thin air. However, the question of whether or not Jackson increases the level of difficulty for his offensive linemen is not one that should be dismissed. Neither can we just call Bernard Pollard a “hater” (even though he’s clearly an LJ fan) for pointing out that wide receivers only seem to be flocking away from Baltimore.
How Zach Wilson gets along with his WR and OL has yet to be seen, but the sample we got from Corey Davis in nine games and Elijah Moore in 11 games seemed a preview that the Jets offense is capable of a lot more than what we got to see and some of that play came with Mike White and Joe Flacco at quarterback instead of Wilson. It seems to me that Wilson could have a more talented offense around him in 2022 than what Jackson was afforded during his MVP season.
Social Media clap backs
Lamar….WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!
His reaction to Pollard’s criticisms on Twitter were not what I expect from a quarterback who should only be focused on one thing: Shutting people up by how you play in 2022 rather than by getting offended and posting EMOJIS on a SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE.
I would have thought that the only thing Jackson is concerned about this offseason is improving on the worst season of his career, winning a Super Bowl, and securing a life-changing contract.
There is no harder job in sports than being an NFL quarterback. I think how quarterbacks prepare and act in the offseason says as much about them as what they do during the actual season. It’s not just Lamar Jackson, I would even say that Joe Burrow is making too many podcast appearances for my liking to be perfectly fair.
Yes, I am nitpicking… but we’re talking about being one of the five best quarterbacks in the entire world. You’ll be separated by the little things you do, and I always ask myself, “Well, would Tom Brady being doing this? Would Aaron Rodgers be doing this?” Even an oft distracted quarterback like Russell Wilson would never publicly rant against criticisms in such an open forum and certainly not with emojific reactions.
It’s not so much that there are “downsides” to these moments. But at this level, anything you do that is not a positive, is a negative. There is no “neutral” when you’re trying to out-Brady Tom Brady. There’s either you’re doing something positive or you’re doing something negative because you’re not doing something positive.
At the same time that all of this is going on, Zach Wilson’s been trending on Twitter all week because of rumors that I don’t really want to get into because I’m not a freshman in high school. “Haha, mom jokes, haha.” “Haha.” “I’m 40 and I’m still the same person on Twitter that I was at 28. Haha.”
Even after his former college roommate and best friend Dax Milne started dating one of Wilson’s exes, something that is a lot more personal than a former NFL player making a minor criticism of your play, Wilson made no comments until a subtle Instagram check-in of “What I miss?”
Because Wilson wasn’t on social media, he was working with his teammates to get better for the 2022 season.
When a team needs to make the biggest decisions, like trading for a quarterback or paying him a record-sized contract or having to do both at the same time, it comes down to the little things that separate the GM from saying “Yes” or “No.”
Being a franchise quarterback, how you prepare each week and each offseason, as well as how you compose yourself at times when you’re under the microscope or facing the most pressure, is much more than a “little” thing. It’s everything.
Does Lamar Jackson have the passing skills to be a “dual threat”?
Pretend that the NFL announced a ruling that starting today, a quarterback running the ball would be a penalty. Where would you rank Lamar Jackson among all quarterbacks?
There was a huge fuss made this week about Jackson not ranking in the top-10 of a random list, but could it be that those people surveyed have reservations about a player who has only completed 13 more career passes than Justin Herbert…a QB drafted two years after him?
Surely, you would rank Jackson behind Herbert. How many other QBs?
Last season, Jackson ranked 29th in passing attempts (he missed five starts, but the 12 quarterbacks ranked directly in front of him for attempts all missed at least two), 22nd in completion percentage (64.4), 23rd in touchdown throws (16), 14th in TD%, 31st in INT%, 20th in adjusted NY/A, and 21st in DYAR.
Strictly speaking as a passer, does Jackson even rank in the top-20? Would you bet $200 million on your answer?
Now, unlike many of his counterparts, Jackson clearly has special arm talent. All the things that you hope to see would seem to be there, including strength, arm angles, anticipation, and the confidence to give his receivers a chance to catch it.
But the end result has been underwhelming, as Jackson posted the exact same completion percentage and NY/A in 2020 as he did in 2021, which as we just went over was a bad season. That makes two years in a row now since his MVP season that Jackson failed to prove himself as one of the top-20 passers in the league and once you stop looking at the highlights and start watching full games, it becomes clear that there are times when Jackson overlooks what should be the correct read, makes a bad decision, or is inaccurate.
There is also the problem of whether or not NFL defensive coordinators have discovered the trick to defeating Jackson with a repeatable formula: Blitzing.
As YouTuber Alex Rollins noted last week, teams went from blitzing Jackson 25% of the time in 2019 (34th-most) to 36% of the time in 2021 (5th-most). “It turns out his scrambling plummets when defenses bring the heat,” says Rollins.
This keeps Jackson inside the pocket, which has proven to be a problem for the Ravens. Not wanting your quarterback in the pocket seems counterintuitive to being a great quarterback.
Three years ago, before defenses knew how to stop Lamar Jackson, the Ravens were elite in the red zone: Jackson went 38-of-60 (63.3%) with 24 TD, 0 INT in the red zone, also rushing for five touchdowns and 10 first downs on 26 carries.
But last season in the red zone, Jackson went 26-of-47 (55.3%) with 12 TD, 2 INT, plus two touchdowns and eight first downs on 16 carries.
For Jackson to have his prove-it season, which we haven’t seen in 2020 or 2021, he would need to start dominating this area of the field again. Jackson had 19 red zone touchdown throws and six touchdown runs in 2020, but can he prove that the fluky season was 2021 instead of his MVP campaign?
Going back to Jackson Krueger’s channel, he notes that Jackson’s accuracy is “not amazing” and heavily dependent on his ability to run the football. Which brings us back to whether or not you would want Jackson to be the Seahawks’ quarterback if he could only pass the ball.
“But he can run the ball, Joe, you forget that.”
I remember that. I also remember all of the other quarterbacks before him who could run the ball early in their careers but couldn’t run the ball by the time they were 30 and therefore, had relatively short NFL careers and would not have been worth any first round picks the closer they got to that benchmark.
This was a criticism of Russell Wilson early in his career and that’s also something I remember, which included my vehement defense of Wilson against the national narrative because what they were missing was that he was one of the best pocket passers in the league well before most people started to accept that as fact.
They might not have seen it until 2018, but we all knew about it as far back as 2012. That was Wilson’s trademark even dating back to his college days and his ability to run the football was more of a bonus to his passing skills rather than as the GATEWAY to open receivers and opportunities to successfully pass the football.
So far, Jackson seems to need to run the ball to setup the pass, which was never the case with Wilson. How much longer can we reasonably expect Jackson to be a rushing threat?
Through his first four seasons, Jackson’s 615 rushing attempts are the most all-time by a quarterback before his fifth campaign and it is actually 148 more rushing attempts than second-place Cam Newton (467). Josh Allen had 422 attempts (same time period) and Russell Wilson had 411 over his first four seasons.
There are only seven QBs who had over 280 rushing attempts in their first four seasons, also including Kyler Murray (yet to get to year four, Murray has 314 already), Deshaun Watson, and Michael Vick, who had 304 attempts—but he missed a lot of time in years one and three.
Vick did carry the ball 345 times for 2,538 yards from age 24-26, but even that pales in comparison to Jackson’s 468 carries for 2,978 yards over the past three seasons.
Jackson doesn’t get hit on every carry, but it’s worth adding up that physical toll with the 90 sacks that he’s taken since 2019 and it starts to build a concerning record of attacks to his body. In fact, it’s worth noting that even though people are criticizing the value of running backs of usage and injury rates, none of those same fans seem to account for the fact that a QUARTERBACK ranks top-20 in total carries since 2018.
Back to those QBs who were known for running the ball at least as much as they were for passing it, Russell Wilson’s career high for attempts (118) came during his third season in the league. He has averaged 72 rushing attempts over his age 28-33 seasons.
Cam Newton’s career-high for rushing touchdowns came during his rookie campaign and though he was consistently around 100-140 attempts per season in his twenties, it’s clear that the threat got less and less as the years went on. Finally, teams forced him to beat defenses with his arm and Newton’s most recent season in which he was even above-average was when he was 29.
Donovan McNabb was a player who didn’t have to rely as much on his legs to be an effective passer as some other examples. But his rushing attempts per game was nearly cut in half from his first five seasons in the league to the next five seasons.
Of course, Vick, Newton, McNabb were also all examples of players who couldn’t consistently stay healthy after turning 30 and had much shorter careers than many of their Pro Bowl counterparts during their primes. That hasn’t been an issue with Wilson not only because he has always been a passer first, but also because the former baseball player is adept at avoiding the types of hits that ended Robert Griffin III’s ascent all too early.
Even as the best running quarterback in history, Lamar Jackson hasn’t ranked as a top-10 passer at any point in any category other than leading the league in touchdowns in 2019; if Jackson does not have the ability to run to that degree, and it is only logical to assume that will be the case no later than 2027 (it seems far away, but we’re talking about long-term guaranteed contracts here), then what are the chances he will learn to become an elite pocket passer only after seven seasons of playing football at the highest levels (3 years at Louisville, 4 in Baltimore)?
If you had to bet $1,000 on either Lamar Jackson or Zach Wilson winning MVP in 2025, who would you take? What about the MVP in 2027? What about on who is still in the league in 2030?
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I hope that Lamar Jackson proves the skeptics wrong
Something that people consistently miscalculate is that criticism or more accurately, FAIR ANALYSIS THAT IS SPUN AS BEING “NEGATIVE” WHEN IT IS REALLY JUST OBSERVATIONS WITHOUT ANY BIAS, is that it implies I want that person to fail or that I’m predicting a certain outcome.
No, I love football. I don’t even like any other sports anymore. I don’t even like college football! I love professional football. And what makes professional football better than getting to see elite players performing at the highest level and showing you that anything is possible in this game?
That’s what Lamar Jackson did for us in 2019 and the game will be better for it if Jackson goes back to being that player again. Hopefully for a very long time.
My analysis is purely based on what we’ve learned from history, what Jackson has done over the last two seasons, the five games he missed in 2021, the contract situation and realities of the salary cap, and the harsh fact that making it in the NFL is something that only one-percent of one-percent of one-percent manage to accomplish. To be great at quarterback is even more difficult than that.
Others think that there are 20, 25, or even 40 really good quarterbacks in the world. I personally only have an affinity for maybe seven or eight of them. Those are my standards, they don’t have to be your standards.
Though the sample size is small and what he has produced has been awful, the chills that I get from watching Zach Wilson play football are the same that I got from watching Justin Herbert ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. The same we got from watching Russell Wilson early in his Seahawks career, before the rest of the country really knew what we were starting to understand. The same chills we all felt, I think, from watching Mahomes vs. Allen in the 2021 playoffs.
Has Jackson elicited such chills? Yes. Of course! But this has nothing to do with what has happened. This is about moving forward. The fact that Jackson and the Ravens haven’t already moved forward should invoke a certain response from fans and media on its own. Why does a recent MVP need another “prove it” season at all?
I’m rooting for Jackson to prove it. I’m rooting for Zach Wilson to prove it also. Given all the factors at play, I simply expect Wilson’s value to skyrocket at a time when he’s very cheap while Jackson still has to prove that he can beat the best in the game right as he’s due to be paid like one.
The Seahawks won’t be trading for either of these quarterbacks and instead will look to the 2023 draft, where they hope to find their own version of Wilson or Jackson, the bargain of which could get them back to the Super Bowl before too long. If Seattle could jumpstart that process by acquiring Wilson that would have been great, but since that’s not how the NFL works and the Jets know how good they’ve got it (even if the media doesn’t), the Seahawks will have to wait their turn.