Dan Orlovsky Pushes Back on Criticism of Lamar Jackson By Stephen A, Smith, Shannon Sharpe
Heading into this past Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens were being hailed as the best team in the league and Lamar Jackson was the consensus pick for Midseason MVP.
However, the Ravens' exasperating 33-31 loss has pundits questioning whether they can trust the team in general, and Jackson specifically, going forward.
Analysts Stephen A. Smith, whose opinion of Jackson seems to change on a weekly basis, and former Raven Shannon Sharpe sharply criticized the Ravens quarterback on ESPN's "First Take."
Dan Orlovksy pushed back on his colleague's takes, and in doing so did the impossible: he left Sharpe speechless. We'll get to that later. First, let's look at what Smith and Sharpe had to say.
"You got the Cleveland Browns coming in, they got an elite defense, you still managed to put up 31] points, what happens – you convert two of eight times in third-down conversions. These are problematic things,” [Smith said. "When you throw two interceptions, you're turning the football over, that's a problematic thing.
"I'm looking at Lamar Jackson and I'm saying, excuse me, 71.5 percent of your passes you completed coming into the game, but it's 56.5 percentage when it's against Cleveland. I got a problem with that because I'm looking for you to show up when it's called upon you to do so, which is against a division rival, and I think that he didn't [Sunday]."
Perhaps Smith missed the first meeting between the Ravens and Browns this season. In that game, Jackson was 15-of-19 (79 percent) and accounted for all four touchdowns (two passing, two running) in a 28-3 victory.
Sharpe said: "Lamar Jackson has been up and down, and it's been masked because they are winning. Now that they didn't win, you see what has happened. It's hard for me to trust him."
There's no question Jackson didn't play particularly well against the Browns this past Sunday. He threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that cut the Ravens lead to one point.
That said, Sharpe's insinuation that the Ravens have been winning in spite of Jackson is absurd. And speaking of absurd, Sharpe compared Jackson to New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who was benched in favor of Bailey Zappe in Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
"Do you realize that Lamar Jackson has thrown as many touchdowns (10) as Mac Jones?" Sharpe said. "Lamar Jackson has fumbled the ball 10 times, he's lost five. Do you realize Lamar Jackson has as many turnovers as touchdown passes?"
Sharpe's stats are kind of accurate (a fumble not lost is not a turnover), but his argument is flawed.
With Jackson orchestrating the offense, the Ravens have scored 20-plus points in four straight games. Even though Jackson has only thrown 10 touchdown passes, Sharpe is ignoring the role that Jackson has played in putting his teammates in position to score touchdowns.
Orlovsky had heard enough.
"We can't constantly do this stuff," he said.
In response to Sharpe's point about turnovers, Orlovsky said: "I don't look at turnovers as just a black and white thing, Shannon. I look at those interceptions [against the Browns] and I say one's bad. The fumbles, I think four or five were in that torrential downpour in both the Pittsburgh and the Colts game. So for me it's always about context. I don't have massive turnover concerns about Lamar Jackson.
"Here's my pushback: Do we have them about Joe Burrow because of what Joe did [Sunday] – two of the most uncharacteristic turnovers that Joe has had in his NFL career?"
When Orlovksy posed the Burrow question, this was the response from Sharpe.
Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty for Ravens?
The recurring theme of the Ravens blowing leads this season and last is a proverbial glass half empty/half full conundrum.
While it's concerning, not to mention deflating, that it keeps happening, the other way to look at the situation is that the Ravens must be pretty darn good to have all those leads. A strong case can be made that they should be 10-0 this season.
"It's pretty damning, right? The Ravens have essentially blown seven games they 'should' have won during the course of the last two seasons," Press Box’s Glenn Clark wrote. "Of course, if the same fact was written another way it might read, 'In every game that Lamar Jackson has played the last two seasons, the Ravens have played well enough to have at least a 75 percent chance of winning in the fourth quarter.' The same fact would benefit a different narrative.
"While the stat is presented to weaponize the semi-frequent shortcomings of the Ravens late in games (they have had those!), a team of course has to be capable of playing well for large swaths of games in order to be in the predicament. And would it somehow make you feel better if the stat said the Ravens trailed by double digits in all seven of their losses the last two years?"
The Big Lead’s Kyle Foster said the Ravens might be the best 7-3 team ever.
"This is a classic good news, bad news situation," Foster wrote. "Yes, the Ravens are objectively awesome and it wouldn't be hard to find someone who thinks they're the class of the NFL. But stumbling this frequently while dominating and getting so little yield is a real problem. Especially when one remembers the road to Super Bowls is usually paved with multiple close games.
"It's all a matter of perspective and I'd be more glass half-full on this puzzler."
Clark also concluded that there's no reason to panic about the Ravens.
"The Ravens will probably be OK," Clark said. "After all, you might have heard that they're a team that's been so good that they've been in position to win literally every game featuring Jackson in the past two years!"
The "Good Morning Football" crew debated the topic this morning. Shaun O'Hara was among those on the glass hall full side.
"I'm even willing to say it's three quarters full because of the way they've lost those games," O'Hara said. "No doomsday scenario whatsoever."
ESPN Analyst Says All Four AFC North Making the Playoffs Is Not Unrealistic
If the season ended today, the Ravens (7-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3), and Browns (6-3) would make the playoffs, while the Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) would lose the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Houston Texans for the seventh and final spot.
There's still a lot of football to be played, but ESPN's Dan Graziano said it won't be a surprise if all four AFC North teams are playing in the postseason.
"I do not know how the Steelers are doing this, and I expect it to catch up with them at some point. But right now, all they have to do is go 4-4 the rest of the way for a good chance to get in," Graziano wrote. "Cleveland's defense is going to keep it in most games, and it just won a shootout on the road against a Baltimore team that had been looking unbeatable. And the Bengals were looking fantastic for more than a month, and they even had a late lead Sunday despite being banged-up and shorthanded on offense before [Texans quarterback C.J.] Stroud led another winning drive against them.
"ESPN's Football Power Index currently projects all four teams with between 30% and 88% chances to make the playoffs. If Cincinnati can beat Baltimore on Thursday (big if, but far from impossible) and tighten things up even further in this division, the likelihood of the AFC North landing all four teams in the postseason will only go up."