Sorry, Lamar Jackson. Bill Polian had you pegged wrong when he declared that you were better suited to play wide receiver than quarterback in the NFL — where you are tearing up the league as a possible MVP.
Don’t just take it from me. Listen to the Hall of Fame GM who said it, Polian himself.
“I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was,” Polian told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, referring to the Baltimore Ravens coach and former GM who drafted the explosive, multi-dimensional talent with the final pick in the first round in 2018.
Alluding to offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Polian added, “And Greg found a way in how he’s developed a system to use those dynamic skills. Bottom line, I was wrong.”
Polian generated a lot of headlines by maintaining on ESPN that Jackson, who came out of Louisville with a Heisman Trophy, didn’t project well as a quarterback on the next level. He dinged Jackson’s size (6-3, 211 pounds) and accuracy while trumpeting the passing chops of the four quarterbacks ultimately drafted before him — Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen.
The most intense pushback, though, was fueled by Polian’s assertion that Jackson should play receiver. It smacked of barriers that many athletic African-American quarterbacks faced in previous decades, when they were forced to switch positions.
Jackson clearly took note of the sentiment, as he punctuated a Week 1 win against the Miami Dolphins in which he earned a perfect passer rating by telling reporters: ”Not bad for a running back.”
Polian maintains that his sentiments about Jackson switching to receiver were skewed.
“I said that in that draft, with the ball in his hand, he’s the most dynamic player in the draft,” he said.
That much isn’t disputed. But Polian, at that time, justified a potential switch for Jackson by comparing him to now-idle all-pro receiver Antonio Brown because of his elusiveness in the open field.
Given Polian’s track record — he earned a Hall of Fame bust by helping three franchises build Super Bowl teams and was a six-time winner of the NFL Executive of the Year award — his words resonated. But those words can be eaten now.
Polian admits he didn’t project Jackson’s ability to redefine the quarterback position in a fashion that might have once been viewed as the ticket for Michael Vick.
“The definition has changed, no question,” Polian said. “What he’s doing is amazing.”
Jackson guided the Ravens to a huge victory against the previously unbeaten New England Patriots on a prime-time stage on Sunday night, putting a number on what has been the league’s best defense. Halfway through the season, Jackson’s three 100-yard rushing games ties the NFL record set by Vick as most by a quarterback in a season. He is also improving as a passer, not so much with big numbers (although he fired five TD passes in the season opener) but with clutch throws. It’s clear, too, that teammates have responded to Jackson’s ebullient style of leadership.
On top of all that and perhaps most significantly, he’s an example that traditional models don’t always apply in a changing world and evolving NFL game.
Talk about a dynamic game-changer. He’s changing minds, too.
Polian said he was eager to watch the showdown on Sunday night because Jackson is so fun to watch — as a quarterback.
“I couldn’t wait to see the game,” Polian said, “to see what Bill (Belichick) was going to do against him.”
Now he knows. With no shame in admitting he whiffed, big-time, with projections for the quarterback who might even wind up as the NFL’s MVP.
Read more at usatoday.com