There was Earl Campbell running for four touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins in the Astrodome. Brett Favre’s unbelievable night after his father died. Bo Jackson rushing for 221 yards and running over Brian Bosworth. Tony Dorsett, Steve Gleason, Antonio Freeman ... the list goes on.
Any list of the iconic performances over the history of “Monday Night Football” has to include Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson after what he did against the Los Angeles Rams. Jackson, making his Monday night debut, threw for five touchdowns. Jackson is the first player ever to throw for five touchdowns in his MNF debut. He rushed for 95 yards on eight attempts. The Ravens absolutely dismantled the defending NFC champions, scoring touchdowns on all six possessions with Jackson in the game on the way to a 45-6 win.
It was one of the finest individual performances in the 50 seasons of MNF. Jackson will be very tough to beat for NFL MVP after that. And he has probably taken the crown of the most electrifying player in all of sports.
Who is the most exciting athlete in sports?
If you could watch only one player in sports, who would it be?
LeBron James is a fine choice, even in his 30s. Giannis Antetokounmpo would be a great pick, as would James Harden. Even a healthy Zion Williamson could work. Mike Trout and Ronald Acuña are fascinating baseball players. Simone Biles is a lot of fun to watch. Lionel Messi might be the most entertaining athlete in the world, but let’s keep it to American sports to make the list more manageable.
The best answer, especially after Monday night’s show, is Jackson. Nobody in the NFL can match the entertainment he brings. He’s the best running quarterback we’ve seen, playing in an offense that is uniquely tailored to his dual-threat ability, and he has some of the best passing games in the NFL this season. He has two perfect passer ratings, and Monday night’s five-touchdown game wasn’t even one of them. All of the criticisms of his passing ability before the draft and through last season look silly now. Jackson can do everything on a football field, and he makes it look routine.
Jackson and the Ravens looked unstoppable on Monday night. Technically they were unstoppable considering they went six-for-six scoring touchdowns on Jackson’s drives before the game was out of hand and Robert Griffin III took over.
Lamar Jackson is NFL MVP frontrunner
Jackson is different than Mike Vick, Randall Cunningham, Steve Young or some of the NFL’s other great dual-threat quarterbacks in that the Ravens have so many called runs for him. The closest comparison is Cam Newton, and the Carolina Panthers never called as many runs for Newton as the Ravens do for Jackson. Jackson could be one of the best running backs in the NFL — he’s on pace to blow past Vick’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback — though the Ravens are probably happy he ignored all the naysayers and stuck at quarterback.
While called runs are the foundation of the Ravens offense, there are times when things open up for Jackson on drop-backs and he improvises with his legs. That’s when he’ll make everyone hold their breath. On Jackson’s most entertaining play of the night, he saw the field open up in front of him after dropping back, so he shot through the line and into the open field. He weaved his way through the Rams defense for 29 yards, was tackled at the 1-yard line and was clearly upset he didn’t score. It’s about the only thing he didn’t finish on Monday night. Jackson was 15-of-20 for 169 yards and the Rams had no answer for him in the passing game.
There are plenty of exciting players in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson are among them. Christian McCaffrey is a joy to watch. When DeAndre Hopkins contorts his body to make a contested catch, it’s a thrill.
But there’s nothing currently in the NFL like watching Jackson. There’s no better show in American sports.
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