Lamar Jackson’s future is more and more a thriller: Mike Sando’s Choose Six

Lamar Jackson’s future is more and more a thriller: Mike Sando’s Choose Six

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh stepped to the rostrum Sunday night time and saluted his quarterback for combating by accidents to guide a spirited effort, albeit in defeat, towards the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.

The quarterback whose toughness Harbaugh saluted prominently in his postgame remarks was Tyler Huntley, not Lamar Jackson, whose unavailability six weeks after struggling a sprained knee has fueled hypothesis about Jackson’s motives within the absence of a contract extension.

As Baltimore’s season ended with a 24-17 wild-card defeat at Cincinnati, the Ravens’ offseason started with NFL insiders questioning how prominently Jackson figures into the group’s plans.

The Choose Six column leads with views from across the league on a topic that simmered for weeks earlier than boiling over because it grew to become clear Jackson would miss a sixth consecutive sport, this one within the postseason, regardless of Harbaugh initially suggesting the quarterback would possibly return a month in the past. Will the Ravens commerce Jackson? What are the options? That and extra on this wild-card version:

Lamar Jackson’s future is … the place?
Chargers, Herbert and rookie window
Bengals’ massive play joins historic checklist
Underneath-radar Giants transfer pays off big
Officiating is at all times worse than ever
Two-minute drill: Allen, Purdy & extra

1. Is Lamar Jackson completed in Baltimore? The state of affairs feels more and more fraught.

It’s been a wierd season for quarterbacks, with Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr each leaving their groups after getting benched. The thriller surrounding Jackson stays unresolved, seemingly by design.

The Ravens simply might have shot down the concept that Jackson’s unsettled contract standing is perhaps influencing his availability. Isn’t that what Andy Reid would do if Patrick Mahomes’ motives have been out of the blue questioned? Wouldn’t any coach try this for a quarterback he wished to guard?

“That’s completely how issues are achieved, apart from in case your final identify is Harbaugh, proper?” an exec from one other group mentioned on the situation of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. “That’s what him and his brother do, and there’s yet one more man who handles enterprise like that — he wears cutoff-arm sweatshirts with hoodies, and his identify is Invoice Belichick.”

A decade in the past, Harbaugh reportedly clashed with legendary security Ed Reed over practices that Reed and a few gamers discovered too intense. Any hole between Harbaugh’s expectations for Jackson and Jackson’s expectations might equally fall alongside generational traces.

“Harbaugh is an influence coach,” this exec mentioned. “It’s like it’s 1983 and also you’re going to get the child to return again by saying he is a vital a part of the group and it’s not a severe harm, however that doesn’t work in right now’s NFL. He tries to make it coy and difficult, however he needs to train energy over gamers, similar to the faculty coaches he comes from and admires.”

The Ravens moved on from Reed after that 2012 season.

Jackson is way more essential to the Ravens now than Reed was then, however accidents have sidelined him late previously two seasons, elevating questions on how a lot cash Baltimore ought to assure for the long run.

Jackson is averaging 10.3 rushes and scrambles per begin by 61 profession begins, by far essentially the most for any quarterback by 61 begins since a minimum of 2000, based on TruMedia. Cam Newton is subsequent at 6.8 per begin to the identical level in his profession, adopted by Michael Vick (6.7), Josh Allen (6.0) and Russell Wilson (5.3). Newton produced an MVP season whereas serving to Carolina to the Tremendous Bowl in his age-26 season, however he by no means reached the Professional Bowl once more and started to say no. Jackson turned 26 final week.

“Has he improved as a passer?” an evaluator requested. “Certain, however he’s a working quarterback, and the way is it completely different than the working again place? It’s completely different when it comes to variety of hits, however the hits will be worse for a quarterback to take. I simply wouldn’t decide to him greater than a 12 months or two.”

Jackson reportedly wished a totally assured deal just like the one Deshaun Watson leveraged from Cleveland when Watson might have signed with different groups. Jackson doesn’t possess that sort of leverage as a result of Baltimore owns his rights by the franchise tag. However he might make the state of affairs in Baltimore untenable if he wished, the best way Jalen Ramsey and others have achieved when looking for out.

Is it actually coming to that for Jackson and the Ravens?

“It’s laborious to do away with a participant who has helped you obtain a lot,” one other exec mentioned. “You’ll be able to solely try this in case you have a alternative prepared on the roster or if the locker room is like, ‘We’re good with out this man.’ They don’t have the alternative lined up, so it’s going to need to be a factor the place the locker room says, ‘Eh, it’s sort of tousled, what he’s doing.’ ”

After the Cincinnati sport, Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey supplied assist for Jackson, suggesting the quarterback was limping across the facility at maybe 50-60 p.c of full power, however Harbaugh has conspicuously allowed perceptions to linger when he might have reset the narrative way back.

“Yeah, he’s letting Lamar twist within the wind,” this exec mentioned.

“Tyler Huntley, coming in and taking part in the best way he performed, coming off the shoulder and the wrist accidents and combating his manner again onto the sphere and simply giving every thing he had,” Harbaugh mentioned after the sport.

Sean Payton predicted on the Fox pregame present Sunday that Jackson had performed his closing sport with the Ravens. Vick, seated close to Payton within the Fox studio, recommended Jackson ought to have “put a brace on” his knee and gutted it out. Earlier within the week, Ravens receiver Sammy Watkins recommended Jackson is perhaps taking part in if he had entered right into a long-term contract.

“I’m not a Lamar apologist, however I don’t assume any of us is aware of what he’s going by medically,” the evaluator cautioned. “Everyone is completely different, and a PCL is a bizarre ligament, and if there’s really irritation in there, that’s laborious to play by.”

An agent thought the approaching offseason can be a horrible one for groups needing quarterbacks. That would improve the demand for Carr, who’s on the buying and selling block. Tom Brady may very well be obtainable as a short-term repair. Jimmy Garoppolo’s sturdiness can be an element groups should weigh. Groups drafting outdoors the highest picks can’t depend on that avenue.

“There will certainly be a marketplace for Lamar if the Ravens need to commerce him,” an exec with ties to the Ravens mentioned. “I used to be pondering perhaps Houston. They’ve a ton of draft capital. Atlanta involves thoughts. Lamar going again house to Miami can be wonderful if they may discover a manner.”

It’s all hypothesis at this level, nevertheless it feels much less far-fetched on a regular basis.

“I see a divorce except their docs are privately telling them Lamar actually can’t play due to the harm, which appears uncertain with the best way Harbaugh has dealt with it,” a longtime exec from one other group mentioned. “I might see a commerce subsequent spring if they will get a excessive sufficient decide to get a brand new QB. Lamar seems to have a ceiling that Jalen Hurts poked by this 12 months. Harbaugh is making it seem to be they’re uninterested in the state of affairs. They are going to by no means give him the Watson-type contract he reportedly covets.”

2. Six quarterbacks have achieved Tier 1 standing whereas on their rookie offers since I started polling coaches an executives yearly for “Quarterback Tiers” in 2014. The Chargers should remorse that Justin Herbert is the one one with no postseason victory.

Herbert turns into eligible for a brand new contract this offseason after finishing his third NFL season. The Chargers might wait one other 12 months or transfer to get one thing achieved earlier. In the event that they enter into a brand new deal this offseason, they’ll have a 12 months or two with smaller salary-cap prices earlier than the large cap hits make it harder to construct a group round him.

Regardless of the case, the Chargers’ 31-30 defeat at Jacksonville after blowing a 27-0 lead made Los Angeles the primary group since 1999 to lose a sport whereas committing zero turnovers and forcing a minimum of 5. Groups had gained 101 consecutive video games when the turnover dials have been cranked to these extremes.

The desk beneath reveals postseason information for Herbert and the 5 different quarterbacks to realize Tier 1 standing since 2014 earlier than signing second contracts. The opposite 5 mixed for a 17-10 postseason report with one Tremendous Bowl title whereas nonetheless on their rookie offers.

Herbert’s Chargers are 0-1 after their historic collapse.

Playoff Wins Whereas on Rookie Offers

Rookie Deal QB Playoff W-L Reached


SB Win


SB Loss


AFC Title Loss


AFC Title Loss


DIV Loss


WC Loss

3. How massive was Sam Hubbard’s 98-yard fumble return for a Cincinnati Bengals landing? Larger than all however one postseason scrimmage play since a minimum of 2000.

The Ravens have been on the verge of scoring a landing for a 24-17 lead within the fourth quarter at Cincinnati, or in order that they thought. Hubbard’s lengthy return of a fumble after Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley prolonged the ball towards the purpose line, however not throughout it, produced a 12.0-point swing in anticipated factors added (EPA), based on TruMedia. That quantity represents the swing from Baltimore having third-and-goal from the 1, which was price 5.5 EPA in favor of the Ravens, and the very surprising precise results of the play.

Solely James Harrison’s well-known pick-six interception for Pittsburgh off Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner within the Tremendous Bowl following the 2008 season produced a much bigger postseason swing on a single play. Hubbard’s play felt extra pivotal as a result of it occurred within the fourth quarter.

The highest 5 EPA swing performs from scrimmage within the playoffs since 2000 have been memorable ones:

• Harrison: 100-yard pick-six off Warner in Tremendous Bowl XLIII

• Hubbard: 98-yard fumble return for Bengals towards Ravens

• Kam Chancellor, Seattle Seahawks: 90-yard pick-six off Carolina’s Cam Newton within the 2014 divisional spherical

• Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos: 100-yard interception return off Tom Brady towards New England within the 2005 divisional spherical, ending with a fumble out of bounds on the New England 1

• Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 92-yard pick-six for Tampa Bay off Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb within the 2002 NFC title sport at Veterans Stadium, launching the Bucs to the Tremendous Bowl

The frantic efforts of defenders to go off catastrophe stood out on a few of these performs, including drama to them: Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald navigating by site visitors whereas attempting to chase down Harrison; Baltimore’s Mark Andrews sprinting after Hubbard and diving at his ft; and the Patriots’ Benjamin Watson separating Bailey from the soccer with an enormous hit on the pylon. It’s that form of effort that makes the video games so compelling.

4. Isaiah Hodgins logged the twelfth 100-yard receiving sport in Giants playoff historical past throughout a 31-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. His claiming off the waiver wire says a lot in regards to the Giants.

Coach Brian Daboll and common supervisor Joe Schoen took over a Giants group that had tied the Jets for the NFL’s worst report (22-59) over the earlier 5 seasons, simply forward of Jacksonville (25-56). Whereas the Jaguars loaded up on costly free brokers to revive their program, together with receiver Christian Kirk for $18 million per 12 months, the Giants loved much less roster flexibility. They determined to powerful it out in 2022, specializing in establishing a successful tradition.

Claiming Hodgins off the waiver wire after buying and selling sad and unproductive 2021 first-round receiver Kadarius Toney to Kansas Metropolis was in line with this emphasis. The Giants traded a participant who steadily missed observe and who, after the commerce, tweeted that the hamstring sidelining him for weeks wasn’t actually injured. Toney then deleted the tweet.

For the Giants, the transfer become greater than addition by subtraction. It was additionally addition by addition, as Hodgins outproduced Toney for the remainder of the season, albeit whereas taking part in in an offense affording him a way more outstanding position, based mostly on the group’s restricted choices.

• Toney with KC: 14 receptions, 171 yards, two touchdowns (seven video games)
• Hodgins with NYG: 41 receptions, 456 yards, 5 touchdowns (9 video games)

Thus far, so good for the Giants. They extracted from the Chiefs third- and sixth-round picks in unloading Toney whereas signaling to their group that taking part in time is earned on the observe discipline.

Hodgins caught eight passes for 105 yards and a landing towards the Vikings. He made a 9-yard catch on third-and-7 throughout a drive to a discipline purpose for a 17-7 lead. His 32-yard reception arrange a landing for a 24-14 lead. His 19-yard seize on second-and-10 sustained a landing drive for the ultimate rating in a 31-24 victory. Hodgins additionally made three receptions on second-and-long that arrange manageable third-down conditions.

The desk beneath reveals Hodgins’ 105-yard day rating twelfth on the Giants’ all-time checklist for postseason video games. Bob Schnelker holds the report with 175 yards for the Giants towards Baltimore within the 1959 playoffs. He later went on to name performs for 9 500-yard video games with Detroit, Inexperienced Bay and Minnesota.

Giants With 100+ Yards in Playoffs

Giants Go Catcher Season-Opp Yds

Bob Schnelker



Hakeem Nicks



Ike Hilliard



Plaxico Burress



Victor Cruz



Amani Toomer



Frank Gifford



Johnny Perkins



Earnest Grey



Hakeem Nicks



Hakeem Nicks



Isaiah Hodgins



5. Officiating is at all times worse than it’s ever been, based on whoever feels aggrieved at any specific time.

officiating frustration has reached elevated ranges when ESPN’s prime information breaker, Adam Schefter, is writing bylined tales on the matter. Is officiating actually unhealthy and getting worse?

Officers’ expertise ranges may very well be one distinction now in comparison with the previous. The 5 referees within the wild-card video games Saturday and Sunday averaged 5.6 seasons as referees. The 4 officers who labored wild-card weekend a decade in the past in 2012 averaged 9.3 seasons within the position, by comparability. The league has turned over skilled officers in current seasons.

“It takes 4 years to turn out to be really competent, based mostly on the difficult nature of the rulebook and the best way they preserve tweaking replay,” mentioned an NFL group exec with information of officiating. “You place these fifth-year guys in there and you might be rolling the cube.”

A couple of years in the past, I went again by outdated newspaper clippings to compile tales with coaches and group officers complaining that officiating had by no means been worse than it was at that very second. There have been dozens of tales over the a long time, 12 months after 12 months after 12 months.

In 1975, then-Vikings coach Bud Grant known as the league “a multi-million-dollar operation being dealt with by amateurs” from an officiating standpoint. Additionally that 12 months, late Buffalo Payments proprietor Ralph Wilson known as for a head linesman to be fired for ruling a play had been whistled lifeless earlier than a fumble. Carroll Rosenbloom, then proprietor of the Rams, mentioned he’d pay half of any effective levied towards Wilson by the league, as a result of officiating was so extremely horrible.

“I do know the sensation,” Rosenbloom mentioned on the time. “I’ve misplaced two main playoff video games due to unhealthy officiating. I suffered in silence and wound up with a coronary. Wilson will, too, if he doesn’t say one thing.”

Rosenbloom really did undergo a coronary heart assault after the controversial name, which can or might not have been an element.

A decade later, the venerable sportswriter Dick Younger mentioned officiating within the NFL was the worst he had ever seen it. Younger was born in 1917, three years earlier than Ralph Hay, proprietor of the Canton Bulldogs, summoned 10 different group homeowners into his Canton automotive dealership to discovered what grew to become the NFL.

“Officiating gaffes extra noticeable this 12 months,” an Related Press headline learn in 2012, 1 / 4 century after Younger’s passing.

Now, in 2022, officiating is allegedly even worse than that, though nobody can quantify how good or unhealthy officiating really is, or ever was, or can be sooner or later. We simply know anybody watching any sport, in any sport, at any degree, thinks the officiating ought to be higher.

6. Two-minute drill: An unimaginable Josh Allen stat and a few perspective for the red-hot Purdy

Did Bruce Arians sneak into the Buffalo Payments’ teaching sales space and wrest the headset away from offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey? It certain appeared that manner as quarterback Josh Allen fired away downfield in Buffalo’s way-closer-than-it-should-have-been victory towards the undermanned Miami Dolphins.

Allen averaged 15.6 air yards per try on 39 makes an attempt, that means the ball traveled that far previous the road of scrimmage to its goal on common. The 15.6 determine ranks first amongst 2,372 participant video games since 2007 when a quarterback tried a minimum of 39 passes. It’s practically double the 8.2 common for these 2,372 qualifying video games.

It was a part of a wild experience by the wild-card spherical for the Payments, who would possibly have to commerce a few of that volatility for consistency towards the Bengals within the divisional spherical. …

Brock Purdy accomplished 18 of 30 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns within the San Francisco 49ers’ 41-23 victory towards the Seattle Seahawks. The glittering stat line included the very best EPA per move play for any quarterback in wild-card weekend thus far. The 49ers look like working largely the identical offense they ran when veteran Jimmy Garoppolo was wholesome, a testomony to how rapidly Purdy has come alongside as a rookie.

The 49ers at the moment are averaging 34.8 offensive factors per sport whereas going 6-0 with Purdy within the lineup. Coach Kyle Shanahan appears to be scheming up wide-open receivers at his standard fee, whereas Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey & Co. break tackles and keep away from defenders whereas racking up yards after catch.

What’s to not like about Purdy? Purdy’s inexperience working the two-minute offense is one space to look at if the 49ers get into high-pressure conditions towards prime defenses. Fixing the blitzes and coverages that may be troublesome to deal with in third-and-longer conditions is one other.

“What did you assume that 2-minute regarded like earlier than half?” a defensive coach whose group confronted the 49ers earlier within the season mentioned, referencing the sport towards Seattle. “In drop-back move, he’s scrambling for his life, he’s working to the border of the sphere thrice in the identical drive, throwing the ball out of bounds, getting hit. Kyle is the one beating guys by 20 within the playoffs with that offense and a top-three protection.”

San Francisco ought to stay unstoppable on offense so long as Shanahan can preserve issues on schedule.

“Purdy has achieved properly, however it’s wonderful how individuals are attempting to anoint him,” an evaluator mentioned. “I don’t need to take something away, however he has led the NFL in wide-open receivers. And time to throw. These guys are broad open. When they don’t seem to be, George Kittle catches the ball on third down and wills his solution to a primary down. It’s the absolute excellent setting and each quarterback would dream to be in it. Give the child credit score, however let’s not anoint him.” …

Individuals I do know who’ve labored for the Chargers in teaching and personnel assume the group will retain coach Brandon Staley even after blowing a 27-0 lead in falling 31-30 to the Jaguars. They contend possession can be reluctant to eat Staley’s remaining wage, whereas noting it may very well be impractical for any entrance workplace to rent a fourth head coach (common supervisor Tom Telesco has helped rent three already in Staley, Anthony Lynn and Mike McCoy).

The concept that the Chargers would possibly pay prime greenback for Sean Payton whereas parting with draft capital for him and ceding management of personnel to him would additionally mark an enormous departure from earlier kind for the group, which is why it appears unlikely.

“I’m certain Sean Payton would like to have Justin Herbert as his quarterback,” an exec from one other group mentioned, “however I don’t assume he really needs to take care of the possession there and the spending points they’ve had over time. All that comes with that group.”

(Prime illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; picture: Mark Alberti / Icon Sportswire through Getty Photos)

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