I’ve probably spent more time researching the last time my jaw dropped while watching a touchdown run by a player in a Baltimore uniform than it will take to finish writing this missive. But Lamar Jackson’s 47-yard run against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 10 was what sent me back to the Colts’ record books.
And the best research will fortify my story that the date in question was Oct. 18, 1964. Lenny Moore was in the midst of an amazing comeback campaign that season, one in which he would score 16 touchdowns.
It’s clear as day that the game was against the Green Bay Packers. I couldn’t fully recollect until I did my digging about whether it was a flat-out TD run or a pass by Johnny Unitas out in the flat. But what happened once Moore got out in space is remembered as well today as it was on that fall Sunday at Memorial Stadium. I sat in amazement as no fewer than five Packers got their mitts on Moore, only to be driven off by the sheer force of will and nonstop movement of legs. That 21-yard run would propel the Colts to a much-needed win — weren’t they all back then? — against Green Bay, 24-21.
From Oct. 18, 1964, to Nov. 10, 2019, covers a lot of Sundays of Baltimore football. It also painfully included 13 seasons without a team. Unscientifically, it’s about 650 weeks of games where my jaw didn’t drop until Lamar Jackson took my breath away against the Bengals.
Count me as cynical when the Ravens moved back up in the first round of the 2018 draft to pluck the best quarterback in that draft after — count ‘em — four other QBs had walked across the stage to shake NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand.
After Warren Moon, Doug Williams, Steve McNair, Michael Vick, Donavan McNabb, Cam Newton, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, it’s hard to imagine there would still be a bias against African-American QBs to lead a franchise. Still, each QB that went in front of Jackson — Baker Mayfield No. 1, Sam Darnold #3, Josh Allen No. 7 and Josh Rosen No. 10 — all went in the Top Ten. All four of them are white.
The Ravens, in Ozzie Newsome’s last draft in charge, were able to trade back into the first round at 32 and still select Jackson.
With what we now know, if that draft were held tomorrow, Jackson would go No. 1. Maybe it wasn’t a return to a bias against black QBs but whatever the reason, Newsome stole the Ravens’ new franchise QB right out from under everyone’s noses. Those general managers from pick 11 through 31 may not have needed a No. 1 QB, but shame on them for missing out on an amazing value. Brad Meerholz, our art director at PressBox for our first 247 issues, is the only person who predicted to me on that draft day that Jackson was this sort of transcendental player.
Wrapping up this piece about Lamar Jackson seems like the perfect time to put a bow on the Ravens career of his predecessor, Joe Flacco. This is not meant as a slap against Joe, who distinguished himself through 11 seasons of mostly solid, and occasionally special, play.
However, there came a time after the Ravens’ Super Bowl win in 2013 against the San Francisco 49ers that they still had a chance for team greatness. True, the 2012 season had been Ray Lewis’ last ride, and Ed Reed’s departure wasn’t far behind. And sure, we’ll never know the what-ifs had Ray Rice not disintegrated in front of our very eyes.
But still, at the moment when the Ravens needed Flacco to step up most — once he got paid at the level that made other significant acquisitions more difficult — Joe seemed to recede from the possibility of greatness. Joe seemed to always have a new offensive coordinator or QB whisperer in his ear. But to a certain extent, Joe’s mature lifestyle of family-first took precedence over his working toward greatness.
One of the things that stands out about Lamar Jackson is his work ethic. Last season, during his 6-1 run in the regular season with the Ravens, he showed the brilliant running ability and how that might impact a game, with the opposition defense not knowing who was going to touch the ball. That style of play collided in the home playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers with their ability to stifle that by playing seven defensive backs in the game.
Jackson couldn’t hold onto the ball sometimes, fumbling without even being hit. He also seemed to be able to always throw an ill-timed interception. Poise was not in his football vocabulary.
Given the entire offseason and a much better offensive coordinator in Greg Roman, the Ravens have been able to visualize and execute their revolutionary brand of offensive football.
But all that was great on a drawing board. Jackson’s greatest skill, among many, is how much of a student of the game he is. He always saw himself and his game fully in the mirror, and knew and cared about what he knew he needed to do better.
In comparison to what he could have been, I think Joe Flacco never saw the flaws in his game when he looked in the mirror.
Stan “The Fan” Charles is the founder and publisher of PressBox.