Lamar Jackson Is The Best Athlete On The Field Oddly, Thats Revolutionary – Forbes

Posted: December 22, 2019 at 6:42 am

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BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 12: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens drops back ... [+] to pass against the defense of the New York Jets during the game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 12, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

There is an undeniable exhilaration in watching Lamar Jackson play quarterback.

Part of it is the human response to observing someone expressing themselves so completely in their work: his amazing speed and elusiveness; his unconventional but increasingly deadly throwing ability; his irrepressable competitiveness and joy.

But its also more than that. Maybe watching Jackson and the juggernaut Ravens power through their 10-game winning streak and lead the NFL in scoring is seeing a once unsolveable riddle answered with dumbfounding simplicity.

What kind of player is the ideal quarterback?

Hes the best athlete on the field.

Its that phrasing analysts have used to explain how the likely 2019 NFL MVP overcomes the defenses ability to set the edge or pressure up the middle. They say it knowing even casual fans understand how unusual it is that the teams best athete is also the one commanding the huddle and calling out the signals.

Usually, the honor is reserved for the wide receiver Jackson would be throwing to, the cornerback who is covering, or the running back who sold the fake handoff to set up the playaction pass.

But why shouldnt the quarterback be that gifted? Doesnt that make sense? Is it really so revolutionary that the Ravens have taken the most important position on their roster and filled it with a player who possesses the most all-around athletic talent? Isnt that how it goes in pretty much all other sports?

In a word: Duh!

Jackson and the Ravens may be giving football fans, coaches and talent evaluators that feeling of sudden, earth-shattering clarity when a seemingly obvious truth reveals itself. Its like when your friend who always struggled at dating comes out of the closet, or when your mom reveals your misfit brother is adopted.

As mentioned already, football is pretty much alone in pushing its superior athletes away from the games seminal position, beginning in Pop Warner and continuing all the way through the pros.

Youd be hard pressed to find any player in MLB who didnt spend a considerable stretch of his youth career pitching or playing catcher, shortstop or center field. Those who can catch, play short or center at a big league level stay there. Those who cant but can still hit big league pitching get moved to the corner infield or outfield spots.

In soccer and hockey, those capable of combining technical and athletic talent get to touch the ball or puck most often. Those who have a deficit in one or the other are more often asked to defend.

And in the NBA, the combo guard/forward is most coveted the player with enough elusiveness to create and convert his own shot, and enough vision to set up someone elses. Think MVPs of the last decade: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Essentially, Jackson is footballs answer to the combo guard, a runner and passer of equal aplomb who sees what the defense defends and then attacks the opposite. And its impossible to believe hes the only person who has ever possessed that skillset who wanted to play quarterback. Michael Vick already did so at the NFL level, but wasnt fortunate enough to have a team construct its offense around his stengths.

But most players of that profile havent been afforded the opportunity, for any number of reasons. Theres the evolution of quarterback as an increasingly important position over time, conscious and subconscious racist beliefs about the intelligence of black players, rational and irrational fears over a mobile quarterbacks health, and the lack of margin for error in a season with so few games.

With Jacksons arrival, we may be seeing the destruction of all of those arguments, and in their place the construction of a new paradigm, that footballs best athletes should be groomed for the sports most important position. It all sounds so simple. Exhilaratingly so.

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Lamar Jackson Is The Best Athlete On The Field Oddly, Thats Revolutionary - Forbes

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December 22nd, 2019 at 6:42 am