This comment from Bucky Brooks recently caused some controversy:
“When you look at the situation where we are with Lamar Jackson. He’s about to have his fifth-year option picked up, and command maybe $40 million. Man, it is really hard to build a team when the quarterback takes up so much money. If Justin Fields slides, they can be in range to move up and take Justin Fields, have Lamar Jackson play on his fifth-year option, and then rather than pay him $40 million plus per year, they can say, ‘Hello, graduation. We now have a redshirt freshman who is ready to pick up the deal. We can keep all of the assets and the pieces in place, and continue to do what we do.”
He actually brings up some great points. Fields isn’t is good a runner as Lamar Jackson. Nobody is. But he’s got a better arm, I’d say. Fields can absolutely launch it. And while Fields is not as great a runner as Lamar, he just ran a 4.44 at his pro day. There’s only a handful of QBs in the history of the NFL that have clocked a 40 time like that. He’ll still be a huge threat to run the ball.
Still, Brooks was widely ridiculed for his remarks. People in the sports media laughed him out of the room. “Let Lamar Jackson go?! He’s an MVP! Are you insane?!?” was basically the response.
But I don’t think it’s such a crazy idea, honestly.
For one thing, while Lamar has been great and he’s won an MVP, NFL history shows that QBs that play like him do not last very long. There’s only so much abuse a guy can take, and running QBs take a lot of abuse. They’re way higher injury risks than traditional “single-threat” QBs.
Second, we all know Lamar is limited as a passer. He’s an incredible runner, but the Ravens were dead last in the NFL in passing yards in 2020. They were 16th in adjusted net-yards per attempt. This is why, while he’s had tons of success in the regular season, he hasn’t been as great in the playoffs (1-3 record, 3 TDs vs 5 INTs, 55% completion rate, 68.3 passer rating). In a league that revolves around passing, it’s hard to see Lamar Jackson carrying the Ravens to a Super Bowl with his arm.
Third, while what Brooks is suggesting might sound crazy now, in the near future, it might become a fairly regular occurrence in terms of the general principle he established, which is basically, unless you find the next Patrick Mahomes in the draft, you really only commit to a QB for his first 4-5 seasons, then let him go when his rookie deal expires and let some other team pay him the big bucks.
Wouldn’t the Rams have been better off doing this with Goff? You basically say, “Hey, this guy’s been a decent QB the past 5 years, but we don’t think he can lead us to a Super Bowl, so we’re going to go in a different direction.”
You’re not saying the guy’s a bust. You’re saying he’s kind of in between a bust and a home run: he’s not bad, but he’s not worth putting a ring on it and locking it down long-term.
For a while now, teams have been in this mentality where if they get a QB and he’s simply not a bust–if he’s just half-decent–they feel obligated to give him an enormous contract, which then screws the team over salary cap wise and prohibits them from building out the rest of the roster. And they’re basically wedded to a QB that they signed to a big deal not because he’s got potential to lead them to a Super Bowl, but because they’re scared to let him walk and turn into one of those teams that’s looking for a QB. Nobody wants to be a team that’s looking for a quarterback. It sucks. Ask Bears fans how it feels.
You might say it’s ridiculous for teams to think they can find a playoff-caliber QB every 4-5 years, and that’s 100% true: it isn’t an easy thing to do. Generally once you find a good QB, you hold on for dear life, because life without a good QB sucks. And there are a lot more Mitch Trubiskys out there than Patrick Mahomeses.
But if you know, deep down, that you’re not going to win a Super Bowl with the guy, then what’s the point in committing to a good-not-great QB? You’re going to have to pay him a ton of money, which guts your roster for years to come. Even elite QBs like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, their massive contracts have hamstrung their teams in terms of the salary cap. And those are Super Bowl-caliber QBs. You can win a Super Bowl with those guys, but it becomes much harder to do so when you’re paying them $35-40mil a year.
So if it’s not even a great idea to pay top dollar for an Aaron Rodgers or a Russell Wilson, then why would it be a good idea to pay top dollar for a guy who’s not even as good as either one of them?
It’s not worked out well for teams who have paid great QBs what they deserve. How could it possibly work out when you’re paying a good QB like he’s a great QB?
Every NFL should take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves: “Can we win a Super Bowl with our current quarterback?” If the answer is no, then you should be looking for his replacement. I don’t care if he gets you to the playoffs every year and if he’s widely considered a good quarterback. There’s only a handful of guys you can win a Super Bowl with, and if your guy isn’t one of them, then you have to be thinking about his replacement.
I’m not saying the Ravens can’t win a Super Bowl with Lamar. They certainly can, however I think it’s doubtful. I do not think they’ll win a Super Bowl with him.
For all the people who are so outraged by what Bucky Brooks said, here’s a simple question: would you bet money that Lamar Jackson wins a Super Bowl in the next two seasons?
Because that’s how long he’s got on his rookie deal. And he’s definitely not winning a Super Bowl after he gets paid the big bucks. The Ravens will have to let a ton of talent go in that situation and the overall roster will take a big step backward.
The time to win is when your QB is on his rookie deal. That means you can build up a loaded roster everywhere else. You can surround him with tons of weapons and a great defense.
But once you pay him $40 mil a year, forget about it.