The Breakout Live team debates at what point in the Chargers game John Harbaugh should have inserted Joe Flacco back in, if at all.
It’s been a common refrain from multiple Ravens players after and during (see: Jimmy Smith), and it’s one I agree with: 8 is the guy who got us here, so you live or die with him. I saw Flacco putting his helmet on early in the 4th like everybody else, and I admit a part of me wondered if he might be able to at least breathe some life into the passing game. But to borrow a tweet from a former boss of mine who I greatly respect: it’s Joe Flacco sitting on the bench, not Joe Montana. Flacco is not the guy who’s going to bring you back from a 20-point deficit with 9+ minutes left, so why risk hurting Lamar’s confidence moving forward?
Let’s face it: the game was ugly, and the Chargers had clearly figured out how to handle Baltimore’s rushing attack. And despite being booed by his own fans, Lamar bowed up and nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback. John Harbaugh put all his eggs into 8’s basket long ago, and there’s absolutely no way he was going to start breaking those eggs just to try not to lose by double digits – nor should he have.
This is a difficult one for me to answer, because I would not have drafted Lamar Jackson and I would not have kept him in the starting lineup for one second longer than it took Joe Flacco to get back onto the field. I don’t want to hear about Jackson’s running ability; the Ravens rallied to win games and qualify for the playoffs because of their defense. Lamar Jackson broke 200 yards passing one time in 8 games. That’s pitiful in any era of the NFL, and especially today.
But since the Ravens actually do believe in Lamar Jackson and they do envision him as their quarterback of the future, it was probably smart to leave him in. That’s because they weren’t just playing one playoff game; they were playing with the future in mind. And you don’t destroy your franchise quarterback’s confidence by benching him at halftime in favor of a veteran you’re planning to part ways with.
Senior News & Fantasy Editor
I would’ve turned the game over to Flacco after the Jackson interception midway through the 2nd quarter. The Ravens offense had less than 50 total yards at that point and Jackson had already fumbled twice and thrown an interception while looking like the stage was way too big for him.
This game is an elimination game similar to a Game 7 in baseball. If you have an erratic rookie pitcher who comes out very shaky and the other team scores some runs and you don’t have a lot of offensive firepower, you have to give that guy the hook early to give your team a chance to not only make up the deficit but to prohibit it from widening. Harbaugh sat on a Super Bowl MVP-winning quarterback in favor of an erratic rookie who had a very specific offense tailored for him that clearly wasn’t working. After seeing that type of decision-making, unless it was an edict from the owner, there’s no team that should want to touch Harbaugh as their head coach.
George “Cannonball” West
Despite seriously sub-par quarterback play by rookie Lamar Jackson in the first 3 quarters of Sunday’s Wild Card home loss to the Chargers, I agree with head coach John Harbaugh’s decision to stick with Jackson. For both that particular game’s plan and the team’s future. Jackson made plays late in the game that Flacco could never have made, including an incredible scramble and pass to Kenneth Dixon for 39 yards on a drive that led to Jackson’s 2nd TD pass on the day.
Also, since Jackson had led an inspired, late-season Ravens winning streak that allowed Baltimore to win the AFC North and host a playoff game, Lamar and the Ravens were playing with actual house money, money that can be used next season to absorb the blow that releasing Joe Flacco and absorbing the cap money his contract will cost the Ravens.
With those financials out of the way, it was proper to give Jackson the playoff game experience he will need to succeed in future postseasons, as well as keep a rusty sore-hipped Flacco out of the game and healthy to keep his offseason status as a tradeable asset as high as it can be.
Even though Jackson’s early struggles may have cost Baltimore this game, the experience he gained and the trust the coach and franchise showed in him will pay off. Technically, it already has.