Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh stepped to the rostrum Sunday evening and saluted his quarterback for combating by means of accidents to guide a spirited effort, albeit in defeat, in opposition to 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 crew’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 recreation, 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’ large play joins historic checklist
• Underneath-radar Giants transfer pays off large
• Officiating is all the time worse than ever
• Two-minute drill: Allen, Purdy & extra
1. Is Lamar Jackson completed in Baltimore? The scenario feels more and more fraught.
It’s been an odd 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 may be influencing his availability. Isn’t that what Andy Reid would do if Patrick Mahomes’ motives have been immediately questioned? Wouldn’t any coach do this for a quarterback he wished to guard?
“That’s completely how issues are accomplished, apart from in case your final identify is Harbaugh, proper?” an exec from one other crew stated on the situation of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. “That’s what him and his brother do, and there may be another 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 stated. “It’s like it’s 1983 and also you’re going to get the child to come back again by saying he is a crucial a part of the crew and it’s not a critical damage, however that doesn’t work in immediately’s NFL. He tries to make it coy and tough, however he desires 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 rather more vital to the Ravens now than Reed was then, however accidents have sidelined him late up to now 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 means of 61 profession begins, by far probably the most for any quarterback by means of 61 begins since at the least 2000, in line with 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 commenced to say no. Jackson turned 26 final week.
“Has he improved as a passer?” an evaluator requested. “Positive, 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 may 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 type of leverage as a result of Baltimore owns his rights by means of the franchise tag. However he might make the scenario in Baltimore untenable if he wished, the best way Jalen Ramsey and others have accomplished when searching for out.
Is it actually coming to that for Jackson and the Ravens?
“It’s exhausting to eliminate a participant who has helped you obtain a lot,” one other exec stated. “You may solely do this when you’ve got 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 should be a factor the place the locker room says, ‘Eh, it’s type of tousled, what he’s doing.’ ”
After the Cincinnati recreation, Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey supplied assist for Jackson, suggesting the quarterback was limping across the facility at maybe 50-60 % of full energy, 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 stated.
“Nothing however admiration for our guys, very pleased with our soccer crew.” pic.twitter.com/ZCSyMbkV44
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 16, 2023
“Tyler Huntley, coming in and enjoying the best way he performed, coming off the shoulder and the wrist accidents and combating his approach again onto the sector and simply giving the whole lot he had,” Harbaugh stated after the sport.
Sean Payton predicted on the Fox pregame present Sunday that Jackson had performed his remaining recreation 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 may be enjoying 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 means of medically,” the evaluator cautioned. “Everyone is completely different, and a PCL is a bizarre ligament, and if there may be actually irritation in there, that’s exhausting to play by means of.”
An agent thought the approaching offseason can be a horrible one for groups needing quarterbacks. That might enhance the demand for Carr, who’s on the buying and selling block. Tom Brady may very well be accessible as a short-term repair. Jimmy Garoppolo’s sturdiness will likely be an element groups should weigh. Groups drafting exterior the highest picks can’t depend on that avenue.
“There will certainly be a marketplace for Lamar if the Ravens wish to commerce him,” an exec with ties to the Ravens stated. “I used to be considering possibly Houston. They’ve a ton of draft capital. Atlanta involves thoughts. Lamar going again residence to Miami can be superb if they might discover a approach.”
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 damage, which appears uncertain with the best way Harbaugh has dealt with it,” a longtime exec from one other crew stated. “I might see a commerce subsequent spring if they’ll get a excessive sufficient decide to get a brand new QB. Lamar seems to have a ceiling that Jalen Hurts poked by means of this 12 months. Harbaugh is making it appear to be they’re uninterested in the scenario. They may 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 out a 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 accomplished 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 costs earlier than the large cap hits make it harder to construct a crew round him.
Regardless of the case, the Chargers’ 31-30 defeat at Jacksonville after blowing a 27-0 lead made Los Angeles the primary crew since 1999 to lose a recreation whereas committing zero turnovers and forcing at the least 5. Groups had received 101 consecutive video games when the turnover dials have been cranked to these extremes.
The desk under exhibits postseason information for Herbert and the 5 different quarterbacks to attain Tier 1 standing since 2014 earlier than signing second contracts. The opposite 5 mixed for a 17-10 postseason document 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 QBPlayoff W-LReached
AFC Title Loss
AFC Title Loss
3. How large was Sam Hubbard’s 98-yard fumble return for a Cincinnati Bengals landing? Greater than all however one postseason scrimmage play since at the least 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), in line with TruMedia. That quantity represents the swing from Baltimore having third-and-goal from the 1, which was value 5.5 EPA in favor of the Ravens, and the very sudden precise results of the play.
NO WORDS.#BALatCIN | 📺 NBC pic.twitter.com/pAFTy1yqpS
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 16, 2023
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.
John Madden calling the James Harrison pick-6 within the Tremendous Bowl in opposition to the Cardinals @jharrison9292 #Steelers pic.twitter.com/0iRiPffkno
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) December 29, 2021
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 in opposition to 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 in opposition to 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 recreation at Veterans Stadium, launching the Bucs to the Tremendous Bowl
The frantic efforts of defenders to move off catastrophe stood out on a few of these performs, including drama to them: Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald navigating by means of 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 recreation 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 crew that had tied the Jets for the NFL’s worst document (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 profitable tradition.
Claiming Hodgins off the waiver wire after buying and selling sad and unproductive 2021 first-round receiver Kadarius Toney to Kansas Metropolis was according to this emphasis. The Giants traded a participant who often missed apply 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 changed into greater than addition by subtraction. It was additionally addition by addition, as Hodgins outproduced Toney for the remainder of the season, albeit whereas enjoying in an offense affording him a way more distinguished function, primarily based on the crew’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 crew that enjoying time is earned on the apply area.
Hodgins caught eight passes for 105 yards and a landing in opposition to the Vikings. He made a 9-yard catch on third-and-7 throughout a drive to a area 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 under exhibits Hodgins’ 105-yard day rating twelfth on the Giants’ all-time checklist for postseason video games. Bob Schnelker holds the document with 175 yards for the Giants in opposition to 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 Cross CatcherSeason-OppYds
5. Officiating is all the time worse than it’s ever been, in line with whoever feels aggrieved at any specific time.
You realize officiating frustration has reached elevated ranges when ESPN’s high information breaker, Adam Schefter, is writing bylined tales on the matter. Is officiating actually dangerous 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 function, by comparability. The league has turned over skilled officers in current seasons.
“It takes 4 years to grow to be actually competent, primarily based on the difficult nature of the rulebook and the best way they preserve tweaking replay,” stated an NFL crew exec with data of officiating. “You set these fifth-year guys in there and you might be rolling the cube.”
A couple of years in the past, I went again by means of previous newspaper clippings to compile tales with coaches and crew 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 many years, 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, stated he’d pay half of any wonderful levied in opposition to Wilson by the league, as a result of officiating was so extremely horrible.
“I do know the sensation,” Rosenbloom stated on the time. “I’ve misplaced two main playoff video games due to dangerous 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 stated 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 crew 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, despite the fact that nobody can quantify how good or dangerous officiating really is, or ever was, or will likely be sooner or later. We simply know anybody watching any recreation, in any sport, at any stage, thinks the officiating needs to be higher.
6. Two-minute drill: An unbelievable 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 approach as quarterback Josh Allen fired away downfield in Buffalo’s way-closer-than-it-should-have-been victory in opposition to the undermanned Miami Dolphins.
Allen averaged 15.6 air yards per try on 39 makes an attempt, which 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 at the least 39 passes. It’s practically double the 8.2 common for these 2,372 qualifying video games.
It was a part of a wild journey by means of the wild-card spherical for the Payments, who would possibly must commerce a few of that volatility for consistency in opposition to the Bengals within the divisional spherical. …
Have a day, rook! Not dangerous to your first #NFLPlayoffs begin. #FTTB #SEAvsSF pic.twitter.com/uB3PRkF353
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 15, 2023
Brock Purdy accomplished 18 of 30 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns within the San Francisco 49ers’ 41-23 victory in opposition to the Seattle Seahawks. The glittering stat line included the best EPA per cross play for any quarterback in wild-card weekend up to now. The 49ers seem 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 are actually averaging 34.8 offensive factors per recreation whereas going 6-0 with Purdy within the lineup. Coach Kyle Shanahan appears to be scheming up wide-open receivers at his normal 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 in opposition to high 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 seemed like earlier than half?” a defensive coach whose crew confronted the 49ers earlier within the season stated, referencing the sport in opposition to Seattle. “In drop-back cross, he’s scrambling for his life, he’s working to the border of the sector 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 accomplished properly, however it’s superb how persons are attempting to anoint him,” an evaluator stated. “I don’t wish to take something away, however he has led the NFL in wide-open receivers. And time to throw. These guys are extensive 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 good 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 crew will retain coach Brandon Staley even after blowing a 27-0 lead in falling 31-30 to the Jaguars. They contend possession will likely 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 the Chargers would possibly pay high 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 crew stated, “however I don’t assume he really desires to take care of the possession there and the spending points they’ve had through the years. All that comes with that group.”
(Prime illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; photograph: Mark Alberti / Icon Sportswire through Getty Photographs)