The Baltimore Ravens are having a storybook season in 2019, and a big reason for that is the success of quarterback and MVP candidate Lamar Jackson. But what’s been even more fun to watch this season is the full-on bromance that Jackson has with his head coach John Harbaugh.
On the sidelines during the Ravens’ 49-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10, the cameras caught one of the coolest coach-player conversations you’ll ever hear between Harbaugh and Jackson:
Harbaugh: You know, most quarterbacks worry about stats.
Jackson: I’m worried about my team, Coach.
Harbaugh: Well, you’re a leader. That’s why they love you.
Jackson: I love you too, Coach.
Harbaugh: I said that’s why they love you — that’s why I love you too.
Jackson: You already know, baby, it’s all love, Coach
Harbaugh: I love the way you play too. You just don’t flinch. You just attack — all you do is attack.
Jackson: It’s all I know.
Harbaugh: You changed the game, man.
Jackson: We gotta keep it going.
Harbaugh: You know how many little kids in this country are going to be wearing No. 8 playing quarterback for the next 20 years?
Jackson: I can’t wait to see it when I get older, but right now I gotta get to the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh: That’s right, start with one.
BRB — CRYING MY EYES OUT BECAUSE THIS IS FREAKING ADORABLE.
Just how far the Ravens and Harbaugh have evolved offensively with Jackson is incredibly impressive.
For 10 years, Harbaugh had Joe Flacco as his quarterback. While the run was successful, with the two winning the Super Bowl during the 2012 season, Flacco is one of the most conservative (and frankly boring) quarterbacks in the NFL.
It would have been a lot easier for Harbaugh to stick with what he had known for a decade with Flacco, but he deserves credit for turning the offense over to Jackson when he did last season.
Flacco lost the starting job after he suffered an injury in Week 9, and the Ravens were sitting at 4-5. Under Jackson, the Ravens won six of their final seven games to earn a wild card playoff bid, and the team kept going with Jackson even after Flacco got healthy.
In that playoff game against the Chargers, Jackson struggled in the first half, throwing a pick and losing a fumble. But Harbaugh stuck with Jackson instead of putting in Flacco in the second half. Although Jackson fumbled again — ending what could’ve been a game-winning drive for Baltimore — he gave the Ravens more a chance at the end to win it.
HC John Harbaugh said that he considered Joe Flacco, but wouldn’t go into the details. He ultimately stuck with Lamar Jackson: “I don’t think Joe would’ve played any better than Lamar did in the last few minutes. So, give Lamar some credit.” #Ravens pic.twitter.com/hlUDVmzBF6— Kyle J. Andrews (@KyleJAndrews_) January 6, 2019
In the offseason, Baltimore ended up trading Flacco to Denver, which made it clear that this was officially Jackson’s team. Before the season even began, Harbaugh was confident Jackson was going to prove his doubters who thought he was just a running QB wrong.
“One of the best competitors I’ve ever been around,” Harbaugh said in August. I’m not afraid to stand up and say, and all the haters can say what they want, and they can smirk, they can be snarky, and they can say whatever they want, but they’re all going to be proven wrong. They’re going to have to eat their words soon enough.”
Harbaugh was right, and Jackson has given new life to this Ravens organization. With Jackson at the helm, the Baltimore has ranked in the top 10 in the league in total offensive yards through a season and a half. Under Flacco, the unit never finished higher than 13th in the NFL.
Jackson is making plays with both his arms and his legs depending on what defenses give him. He set an NFL record as the first QB to get two perfect passer ratings with a minimum of 17 attempts in the same season. With 702 yards already, he’s also on pace to break Michael Vick’s single-season quarterback record of 1,039 yards rushing, too. The Ravens adapting the offense to fit Jackson’s skills has allowed his to look like he’s playing in a damn video game:
Harbaugh is reinventing both the Ravens’ and NFL offenses alike — by showing that option-style offenses do work, more teams can come around to the modernization of what an NFL system can look like. He’s also proving that adapting to what more college offenses are running these days can translate well to the NFL, and might provide more early success for younger rookie QBs.
Harbaugh letting Lamar be Lamar is another reason why everything is clicking like it is:
Think of all t/ ways John Harbaugh could've derided Lamar Jackson for not being conventional. Harbaugh could've said, no fit in the prototypical box, or QBs have to look & talk a certain way in postgame pressers. The best thing someone can do for you, is let you be u at ur best!— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) November 11, 2019
Sure, head coaches have to evolve as the game changes, especially in the NFL. But seeing Harbaugh make this switch so effortlessly is a pleasant surprise. Jackson is even doing things like convincing Harbaugh to go for it on fourth down, and it’s making the Ravens a must-watch team every week. That’s something I never thought I would have seen a few years ago.
I can’t wait to see how far the Harbaugh-Jackson relationship takes the Ravens this season, and for many years to come.