It seems like every time Lamar Jackson suffers a loss -- an infrequent occurrence early in his NFL career -- every national media member comes out with a major criticism of his game.
Sometimes it's his passing ability, sometimes it's his deep ball accuracy, and sometimes it's his propensity to take a lot of hits. But it's always something.
That continued Thursday, as ESPN's First Take continued to break down the Ravens' Week 3 loss to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football.
.@maxkellerman doesn't think passing ability is the issue with Lamar Jackson.— First Take (@FirstTake) October 8, 2020
"I'm worried about something more important. I'm worried about [his ability to perform under] pressure." pic.twitter.com/hJhoaN0TAO
There's a lot to unpack here. Though right off the bat, Kellerman does actually admit that Jackson is a strong passer.
"I don’t think passing is the issue with Lamar," Kellerman said. "Let’s keep in mind at age 21 he was the most accurate passer in the history of the NFL. That includes Peyton Manning, everyone. These are just by the numbers. And I get play action helps him and all that stuff, they’re not playing from behind usually, doesn't have to throw it a lot. But his accuracy started out better than anyone’s ever at age 21 in the NFL, and has gotten better."
Okay, we're off to a good start, Jackson is still objectively one of the best passers at his age than anyone in NFL history. So what's the problem this time?
"I’m worried about something more important, I think," Kellerman continued. "I’m worried about pressure. Because 21-1 against the rest of the league and 0-3 against the Chiefs in the regular season. But worse than that, 0-2 in the playoffs. Which means you are almost undefeated in your NFL career until you play in the highest pressure games, and then you’re winless."
Let's pause here. While these stats are technically correct, they ignore a lot of the points Kellerman just made in his previous comment. Jackson is winless in the postseason, yes, but it's a sample size of two games. More importantly, those two games came at the ages of 21 and 22.
It's hard to judge him too harshly for losing to the Chargers in his rookie season when the team refused to let him throw the ball in the first half of the game. Not to mention the fact that in the fourth quarter of that game, with the pressure even higher, he pulled the Ravens back into it.
In fact, in each of the last two losses to the Chiefs, the Ravens have gone down big early, while Jackson pulled the game closer when the pressure was highest in the fourth quarter.
It's also unfair to say he's "winless" in "high pressure games." Was facing the undefeated, historic Patriots defense on Sunday Night Football not a high pressure situation? How about against the 49ers, who had the best record in football last season? Or in a tie game in the second half on the road in Seattle?
But Kellerman wasn't done yet.
"On Monday Night Football against the Chiefs, when the blitz came, Lamar’s eyes were on the ground," Kellerman said. "He wasn’t keeping them down the field, the pressure was getting to him. Now, Griese also pointed out ‘where were the hot routes’ right? The entire team didn’t respond well to the blitz...Lamar Jackson’s issue to me is not his passing. I think that is trending in the right way and is already good enough. It’s dealing with pressure in the biggest moments. He has to start demonstrating that, when it matters most, he can stay the same guy."
Kellerman mentions it, but it's worth repeating: the entire team didn't respond well. In both their Week 3 loss this season and the Titans loss in the playoffs, Jackson may not have played well, but he was clearly let down by his teammates. The reason Jackson was under pressure from the blitz all night was his offensive line struggling. He accounted for over 500 yards of offense against Tennessee despite countless drops from his best receivers.
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have a major problem getting past Kansas City Chiefs -- just like everyone else in the NFL. They match up poorly with what Patrick Mahomes does, and it forces the Ravens to get away from their offensive identity. It's a problem they need to figure out if they're ever going to get past the Chiefs.
But Jackson has proven time and time again his ability to play against great opponents in pressure situations against every other team in the NFL. You don't go 22-1 against everybody else without winning in a few pressure situations. Pretending otherwise is a discredit to the incredible growth shown by the reigning unanimous NFL MVP.