Lamar Jackson Is the Heir to Ray Lewis in Baltimore
The player Lamar Jackson is most often compared to is Michael Vick, which obviously makes sense given their similar style of play at the quarterback position.
As far as former Ravens, however, the player Jackson has the most in common with didn't dazzle fans with ankle-breaking juke moves; he awed them with bone-jarring hits.
Because of how Jackson impacted his position and the intangibles he possesses, the second-year quarterback is the Ravens' heir to first-ballot Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, Baltimore Beatdown's Vasilis Lericos wrote.
"Lamar is a worthy successor to Ray as the epicenter of Baltimore football," Lericos wrote in his article on lessons learned from the Ravens' 2019 season.
With his arm and legs, Jackson turned the NFL quarterback archetype on its ear. Lewis, who excelled sideline-to-sideline with a combination of speed and power, changed the NFL middle linebacker position. Jackson led a record-setting offense as the Ravens went a franchise-best 14-2 this season. Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, led a record-setting defense as the 2000 Ravens won the franchise's first Super Bowl.
"Former General Manager Ozzie Newsome understood the talent Lewis possessed and built a roster that maximized his impact. Lewis was the centerpiece of the first championship team while surrounded by block-eaters on the defensive line, ballhawks in the secondary and a power-rushing offense," Lericos wrote. "Last offseason, the Ravens made Jackson their focal point when they built an offensive scheme that accentuated his skill set.
"Lamar responded with an MVP-caliber season that included a league-leading 36 touchdown passes, eight-point improvement in completion percentage, league-leading 6.9 yards per carry, NFL-record 1,206 rushing yards from the quarterback position and the best single-season approximate value in the history of the sport."
Beyond their athletic skills and achievements, Jackson and Lewis are both obsessed with winning and being great. Moreover, they're natural leaders who teammates gravitated to, and their infectious personalities galvanized Baltimore football fans.
"Lamar shares many of the same intangibles that made Lewis great," Lericos wrote. "He truly elevates his teammates, not only with the schematic advantage his talent supplies, but with his leadership. His dedication to his craft, passion and competitiveness fuels the locker room."
Lewis was so impressed with Jackson this season that he said he'd come out of retirement to play with him.
"I told [Ravens Owner] Steve [Bisciotti] the other night in the box, 'You know I still got two quarters in me. I can come play with [Lamar Jackson],'" Lewis said on Showtime's "Inside the NFL" in November. "If you all are holding the ball for seven minutes on a drive, and then nine minutes on a drive, I'm like 'Man, I've never had that in my career.'"
Lewis said he recognized early on that Jackson was going to be special.
"Talking to Bisciotti at the time … I was like, 'You don't know what you've got in Jackson, but I've watched that kid his entire career. He has the it factor,'" Lewis told TMZ in November. "There's a number of athletes that come around in a generation that have an it factor … There aren't too many people that you can say that about, [but] he's one of those people."
On a side note, the honors for Jackson's spectacular season continue to pile up. Yesterday, he was named the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. Jackson also finished at No. 1 in ESPN's NFL MVP rankings.
"Jackson emerged as the front-runner for the MVP award by Week 10 and separated himself from the pack in every game that followed," ESPN's Courtney Cronin wrote. "Jackson is the no-brainer league MVP for the 2019 season."
The People Who Kept Art Modell Out of the Hall of Fame
Art Modell once again was denied his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the late former Ravens owner's positive impact on the NFL remains undeniable.
Modell was a finalist to be part of the special 15-member centennial class, which is in honor of the NFL's 100th season, but he was not voted in by the blue-[add]ribbon panel. Sadly, it was likely his last chance for inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
"Modell is not in the Hall of Fame because of a determined and successful effort by advocates for the abandoned Browns fans who had to wait three years to get a new owner, a new franchise and a brand-new stadium," The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck wrote. "The issue here is not whether those faithful Browns fans were wronged, but whether the totality of Modell's life — and the role he played in the exploding popularity of the NFL during the second half of the 20th century — should be overshadowed by the single fact that he chose to move his financially beleaguered team out of Cleveland rather than sell it.
"Obviously, enough people think so, because Modell has been repeatedly passed over despite his undeniable impact on professional football."
To illustrate his point about Modell's impact, Schmuck referenced a tribute column he wrote in September 2012 following Modell's death at 87.
"If you believe that pro football has superseded Major League Baseball as the most popular and entertaining team sport in North America, and you're happy about that, you can thank Modell for pushing to expand the NFL and negotiating a series of national television deals that turned it into an economic powerhouse," Schmuck wrote at the time.
"If 'Monday Night Football' takes the edge off the beginning of your work week, you can thank Modell, who helped engineer that watershed move into prime time in 1970 and also the NFL-AFL merger that turned pro football into must-see TV."
Our own John Eisenberg expressed similar sentiments.
"It was hoped the [centennial class panel] would recognize Art's integral role in helping make the NFL such a popular and profitable television property," Eisenberg said. "Art was way ahead of the curve in understanding what TV could do.
"If you believe as I do that a Hall of Fame should tell the story of a sport's history, football's Hall is incomplete without him."
'Hollywood' Made Star Turn in Playoff Game
One of the bright spots in the Ravens' loss to the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round was the performance of wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown. He had seven catches for 126 yards, the most yards he gained in a game since putting up 147 in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.
For his efforts, Brown was selected as one of Pro Football Talk's divisional round rookies of the week.
"Marquise may only get better in his second season, but he had a real good game in that loss, and I think the Ravens have every reason to feel good about Marquise and their offense," PFT's Michael David Smith said.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec also praised Brown's performance against the Titans, which included a spectacular 38-yard reception on a key third down late in the first half.
"One of the few positives for the Ravens in the loss was how Marquise Brown stepped up in a physical playoff game and delivered one of his best outings in his rookie season," Zrebiec wrote. "Brown's primary offseason focus will be on getting healthier and stronger. The Ravens have to be excited about his future."
As our own Garrett Downing pointed out, Brown was never at full speed this season, as he continued to recover from the Lisfranc injury he suffered at the end of his college career. With a full offseason to get healthy, Brown "is going to be able to hit the ground running at a speed we have never seen from him in Baltimore," Downing said.