By now it is a foregone conclusion, as sure a thing as a Justin Tucker field goal: Lamar Jackson will be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
The Ravens quarterback has been so good for so many weeks this season that he will not be needed in Sunday’s regular-season finale at M&T Bank Stadium. Entering their Week 17 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens already have secured home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. Their most brilliant star can stop and rest for once. Seasons this special don’t come around often.
By Week 10, Jackson had already posted his second perfect passer rating. By Week 15, he’d broken Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback. By Week 16, he’d led the Ravens to a franchise-best 11 straight wins. Slowly, the best-ever regular season for a Ravens quarterback started to approach more hallowed ground.
“I think his season is historic,” said NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner, who was named MVP in 1999, also after his second season with the St. Louis Rams. “To me, it needs to go down as one of the best quarterback seasons that we’ve seen, just because we’ve never seen anything like it. And being at that level both ways [as a runner and passer] is incredible. ...
“I think it's a special, special season that we need to appreciate, because we may never see it again.”
Warner could not say whether Jackson’s 2019 is indeed the best ever. Certainty requires clarity, and there are too many variables that muddle comparisons: generational trends, rule changes, surrounding talent. But few quarterbacks have had a year like Jackson’s.
He will win the league’s highest individual honor in a style all his own, a 22-year-old at football’s most demanding position, playing and producing unlike anyone else. Jackson has taken to calling some of the league’s greatest stars the “GOAT,” or greatest of all time. In some respects, this season has already made him a peer.
The proprietary statistic, created by ESPN in 2011 to offer a more holistic measure of a quarterback’s performance, accounts for carries, sacks, fumbles and penalties. In other words, it captures Jackson’s value to the Ravens offense better than passer rating ever could.
Barring a miraculous Week 17 charge by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Jackson will finish the season as the top-rated quarterback in QBR, with his 82.2 rating suggesting that a team with Jackson would be expected to win 82.2% of its games over a season.
As measured by expected points added, part of the framework for QBR, Jackson will finish with the greatest rushing season for a quarterback since 2006, the year for which QBR data was first available. As a passer, his 2019 EPA is currently fourth in the NFL, behind only the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, Mahomes and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz.
Jackson’s QBR scores rank among the greatest in what’s become the NFL’s greatest era for passing proficiency. Only four quarterbacks — the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady (2007), Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning (2006), Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (2011) and New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees (2011) — finished a season with a higher QBR than Jackson’s 82.2. And only Jackson has three games rated among the top eight of the QBR era. All are from this season, of course.