At some point soon, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh is going to have to make a tough decision.
Joe Flacco is getting closer to a return. Harbaugh said on Wednesday that Flacco wouldn’t go through a full practice, but he will be limited. He’s able to do more this week as he returns from a hip injury.
Perhaps Flacco won’t be ready to return this week, but it’s going to happen soon. And then Harbaugh will have to decide whether to put Flacco back in the lineup or continue on with Lamar Jackson. Harbaugh has been coy about what will happen when Flacco is healthy.
It’s not an easy call.
The case for sticking with Lamar Jackson
When Flacco went down with a hip injury, the Ravens were 4-5. That’s not all Flacco’s fault, but his 84.2 passer rating wasn’t inspiring. Among quarterbacks with at least 190 attempts this season, the only ones with a worse rating are Blake Bortles, who was benched, and rookies Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. Flacco has posted a passer rating better than 90 just once since 2010, back in 2014.
The Ravens had to turn to first-round pick Jackson after the bye, and they have won three in a row. They beat the Bengals, Raiders and Falcons, three flailing teams, but they are back in the AFC North race regardless. Jackson has been dynamic with his legs, with 265 rushing yards in three starts. It’s not a typical NFL offense, but it has been effective. Whether Jackson running as much as he has is sustainable long term, it’s a nightmare for defensive coordinators in the short term. There’s still an element of uniqueness to the Ravens’ offense with Jackson that will make them a tough team to prepare for the rest of the season.
Most coaches wouldn’t want to make a big change during a winning streak, especially since Jackson is a first-round pick and the future. He’s not just some fill-in who got hot.
The case for going back to Joe Flacco
The decision, when Flacco is healthy enough to push the issue, likely comes down to whether the Ravens want a normal passing offense or keep riding their read option-based attack with Jackson.
Jackson has thrown for 150, 178 and 125 yards in his three starts. In a pass-first league, it’s challenging to win without a dynamic passing game. Jackson isn’t incapable of passing the ball, but he still needs more development in that regard.
With Flacco, the Ravens would have a more recognizable NFL passing game. He brings stability too; Flacco has been the Ravens’ starting quarterback since 2008. Maybe there’s also some feelings of loyalty from Harbaugh. Flacco helped him win a Super Bowl, of course. Sticking with Jackson means going with a rookie with three starts and no 200-yard passing games over a quarterback with more than 38,000 passing yards, 200 passing touchdowns and, yes, a Super Bowl ring.
Whatever Harbaugh does, it better work. If it doesn’t, he’ll be criticized, either for making a big change after the Ravens’ success with Jackson or buying into the small sample size of rookie Jackson’s success against bad teams.
Either way, it’s a decision that will shape the Ravens’ season as they push for the playoffs.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Packers assistant coach fired after tweet
• Team owner pays nearly $100K in Walmart layaway charges
• Ex-NFL star going to prison for attempted murder
• 49ers’ long snapper suspended for second PED violation
– – – – – – –