OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson essentially ended the NFL Most Valuable Player debate last week, when he put up another five touchdown passes and broke Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback.
The more intriguing question involving Jackson is whether the football world is witnessing something historically greater.
“If he gets to 35 to 40 touchdown passes and what he’s done running the ball, Lamar has to be in the conversation of the best season by a quarterback,” said former NFL MVP Kurt Warner, an analyst for the NFL Network. “With a lot of things Lamar does, it is hard to gauge right now because it’s so new and unique. Maybe 10 to 15 years down the road, we’ll have a better feel where it stands. But with how special he is running and throwing the ball, it’s pretty ridiculous.”
Running the ball like Barry Sanders and tossing touchdown passes like Tom Brady, Jackson has brought shock and awe with how he has run up the score on some of the best teams by breaking ankles on open-field scrambles and breaking defenses with those sidearm throws. He is playing the quarterback position unlike anyone before him, leading the NFL with 33 touchdown passes while becoming the second quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards.
The past four decades, the top seasons, based on QB rating, have been produced by Joe Montana in 1989 (3,521 yards passing, 26 TDs, 112.4 rating), Steve Young in 1994 (3,969 yards passing, 35 TDs, 112.8 rating, 293 yards rushing), Tom Brady in 2007 (4,806 yards, 50 TDs, 117.2 rating), Peyton Manning in 2013 (5,477 yards, 55 TDs and 115.1 rating) and Patrick Mahomes (5,097 yards, 50 TDs and 113.8 rating).
Jackson separates himself by being highly rated as a passer (his 112.8 rating is second in the NFL this season) and a top-10 rusher. He is the first quarterback in NFL history to rack up 2,500 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. Jackson can also become the first to finish with 1,000 yards rushing and a 100 passer rating.
“He’s the perfect weapon right now,” ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said.
There is no argument about which quarterback has mesmerized the sports landscape. Jackson is quarterbacking the NFL’s best team and highest-scoring offense. He is the front-runner for NFL MVP and the runaway No. 1 vote-getter in Pro Bowl fan voting.
On social media, Brady is playfully challenging Jackson to a race, and Magic Johnson is congratulating Jackson for breaking Vick’s mark, comparing the Ravens to the Lakers. Following games, the center of the Ravens’ field looks like a mall autograph event. Opposing players line up to get Ravens No. 8 jerseys signed by Jackson.
“The guy is a freak of nature,” Jets linebacker James Burgess said. “One of a kind.”
Jackson is poised to become the first quarterback since 1940 to be the leading rusher on the team that finishes the regular season with the best record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He can also become the only quarterback to lead the NFL in touchdown passes and finish in the top 10 in rushing yards, per Elias.
Through Week 15, Jackson has thrown three more touchdown passes than anyone else in the NFL and ranks eighth in rushing, with 1,103 yards.
“I’ve never been with anybody like him,” Ravens wide receiver Seth Roberts said.
Jackson tops the NFL with three games with five touchdown passes this season. He has recorded four 100-yard rushing games. He is the first NFL player with multiple games of five touchdown passes and at least 50 yards rushing, according to Elias. Jackson accomplished this all-time feat in a four-game span this season.
“He is so rare, and I hear people say he’s opening the door for other teams, and they’ll look for athletic quarterbacks,” Warner said. “I don’t ever think we’re going to see another Lamar Jackson. How many times can we say a player transcended the way the game is played? He has.”