The Ravens' disappointing exit from the playoffs didn't quell the football world's love affair with Lamar Jackson. His experience at the Pro Bowl this week is evidence of that.
If you haven't checked out what's happening in Orlando, Fla., I'd advise doing so. There's a video of Jackson tossing passes to Drew Brees' son, who couldn't wait to meet him.
Fans have waited in long lines to get Jackson's autograph and pose for pictures with him. There's a video of the Tennessee Titans' Derrick Henry going full fan-boy himself and basically asking Jackson how he does what he does on the field.
Rivals, teammates, coaches, fans and the media are all still asking that question after Jackson's magnificent season, almost as if the playoff defeat never happened. (Nice thought, huh?)
Lamar, how in the world do you do what you do?
The buzz almost surely will culminate with Jackson winning the league's Most Valuable Player award next weekend. If/when it happens, it'll be a first for the Ravens, who have won two Super Bowls and drafted three Hall of Famers but never had a player win the NFL's ultimate individual honor.
It'll also be a hugely popular selection both outside Baltimore and in it, as Jackson clearly has captivated the entire football world with his one-of-a-kind talent and upbeat earnestness.
If Baltimore fans still can't believe it, don't worry, there's no need to pinch yourselves. The Ravens' young quarterback really has become one of the NFL's most electric and appealing figures, and at 23, he's just getting started.
He might not have led the Ravens to the Super Bowl this year, but he is the star among stars at the Pro Bowl, and that isn't just a nice consolation prize. It should help the Ravens. Players are going to want to come here, team up with Jackson, be part of the show.
You watch, when the Ravens draft players in April, they'll all smile and say, "Wow, I get to play with Lamar." And as for free agents, well, they want a nice deal, but I could easily see the chance to play with Jackson influencing some decisions.
Baltimore has long been an appealing destination for free agents because the Ravens operate sensibly as an organization, practice in a state-of-the-art facility, spend to the salary cap limit and win games. Not every team checks all of those boxes.
Like a lot of people, I thought Jackson might possibly help them lure certain free agents when he became a starter and led them to a division title as a rookie. He was an interesting, new figure on the pro football scene.
But after what he did in 2019, Jackson is way more than just another factor in what makes the Ravens attractive. He is THE factor.
The subject came up at Head Coach John Harbaugh's year-end press conference when he was asked if free agent wide receivers would feel better about coming to Baltimore now that Jackson led the NFL in touchdown passes and exhibited vastly improved passing skills in 2019.
"Yes," Harbaugh said, "I absolutely believe that players are going to be very excited to be here and to be a part of this offense."
That's interesting with receivers such as A.J. Green and Amari Cooper due to hit free agency next month.
Hey, Derrick Henry also is due to hit free agency, and I know, it probably isn't a fit, but if his expression on that Pro Bowl video is any indication, he's a major Lamar fan. I'm just saying.
Offensive players aren't the only ones feeling it. When veteran nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. signed with the Ravens in November, he said, "I get to play with Lamar Jackson. That's freaking awesome. It's a great time to be in Baltimore."
If I'm the Ravens, I put that last quote from Peko at the top of any email pitch to free agents. It's a great time to be in Baltimore. Put it in big, bold print, right beside a picture of Jackson.
Honestly, what else do they need to say?