Let’s judge former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson on his ability or inability to play quarterback in the pros.
And nothing else.
In most instances, NFL hopefuls arrive at the annual Scouting Combine ready to prove in drills and interviews what the film has already indicated to league personnel.
It’s why you get invited.
In Jackson’s case, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner was forced to answer questions Friday about his viability at the position because of reports that NFL teams had asked him to switch to wide receiver. For the record, Jackson said no team had asked him to switch but the questions about wide receiver kept on coming.
Are you offended?
Would you consider playing quarterback but being another Slash who doubles at another position?
Jackson answered all the questions respectfully and ended most of his responses with a ‘yes sir’ or ‘no sir’ but his intentions were clear for where he expects to play.
“Whoever likes me at quarterback, that’s where I’m going,” he said. “That’s strictly my position.”
On the same day, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield were asked quarterback questions. None were asked about moving to wideout because it was never brought up by a respected personnel man that either should switch.
This has been in the atmosphere for a while. Jackson is one of the best athletes to play the position since Texas’ Vince Young electrified the country with back-to-back Rose Bowl wins and a 2005 national championship. Apparently those 9,043 yards, 69 touchdown passes and 142.9 passer rating weren’t good enough for him to fully gain acceptance as a legitimate NFL quarterback prospect.
It all started when ESPN analyst Bill Polian, who helped build great teams in Buffalo and Indianapolis behind franchise quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning, said on Golic and Wingo that he thought Jackson should switch to wide receiver. Polian was complimentary but then said Jackson should play wideout because he’s “short and little bit slight and clearly not the thrower the other guys are.”
First of all, Jackson measured in this week at 6-foot-2 1/4, not Andre the Giant but far from Bruno Mars. In case you’re wondering, Mayfield was measured at 6-foot 5/8.
Yeah, I know.
Now this is the same Bill Polian who said this before the 2014 draft about another Heisman Trophy winner. “Johnny Manziel has magic. If you’re in the Browns draft room, you owe it to the fans to consider taking him at 4.”
Yep, that’s the same Manziel who measured in at 5-foot-11 3/4 and the same Manziel who, like Jackson, was an electrifying open-field runner, and the same Manziel whose off-the-field issues ended his career almost quickly as it began.
No one is calling Lamar Jackson the second coming of Joe Montana but not give him a chance to prove he belongs. Didn’t these people learn anything from watching Deshaun Watson in Houston last year? Thought to be a project by some, he was successful because Bill O’Brien’s staff put him in comfortable positions to make plays. Jackson could experience success with the same blueprint.
And don’t give me that garbage about a dual threat quarterback having never won a Super Bowl. Not true. I can name three off the top of my head: Roger Staubach, John Elway and Steve Young. Yet someone labeled them scramblers back in the day. Black guys get the dual-threat tag. Playmaking is playmaking in my book.
Give Jackson his shot.
Of course you’re going to get those who will question his accuracy and that’s a legitimate concern. One guy told me Saturday that Jackson shouldn’t get a shot because he never completed 60 percent of his passes in college. Since when did 60 percent become the determining factor in if a player should be playing the position?
My favorite quarterback of all time played four years of college ball and never completed 60 percent of his passes in a season. His teams were an above average 79-69 and he turned out to be a pretty good pro. Ever heard of Dan Marino?
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said in his Saturday media availability that Jackson was erratic in his throwing drills but remains an intriguing option at the position.
“He’s the most electrifying athlete in this draft,” Mayock said. “He’s Michael Vick.”
Jackson should get his chance to play the position he has excelled at since Pop Warner. Athleticism is a gift that can become a difference making trait if coupled with hard work and a commitment to the game.
It worked for Jackson at Louisville. He should get the opportunity to show it can work in the pros.