Lamar Jackson needs to gain just 63 yards to break Michael Vick’s single-season NFL record for most yards rushing by a quarterback. Jackson is averaging 81.4 per game, so if it somehow doesn’t happen Sunday when his Baltimore Ravens visit Buffalo, then it won’t be long.
For Jackson, the thought of smashing Vick’s 2006 record is overwhelming. He was 9 years old at the time, playing in the youth leagues of South Florida when Vick both mesmerized and inspired him.
“Michael Vick is my favorite player,” Jackson said this week. “For me to do such a thing, it’s incredible. He had that record for a long time, and it will be pretty cool.”
It will be cool. The comparisons are cool. Vick is even cool with it all; he mentored Jackson before Jackson got to the NFL and is a vocal fan.
“I never thought I’d see another guy come into the NFL that looks like me,” Vick told Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor last month. “I really didn’t. Like, where is he gonna come from? What is he gonna look like? How can he do what I did? Can it be done?
“[But] when I watch Lamar, I’m in shock.”
And once this is done and this record falls, it should serve, hopefully, as the end of Jackson trying to be the next-Michael Vick or being described as the next-Michael Vick or really having Michael Vick serve as any kind of barrier to clear.
This comes with all due respect to Vick, who was one hellacious talent and one of the most electrifying players the NFL has ever seen, but he’s no Lamar Jackson.
Jackson’s current comparables, and certainly his long-term upside, are far greater than Vick.
Certainly that’s true of the Atlanta-version of Vick, who was effective and plenty of fun to watch, but was still too much of a one-dimensional player to go down among the all-time greats. His Falcons high for completion percentage was just 56.4.
It also includes Vick’s return in Philadelphia, where he was a better passer and a wiser quarterback, but at age 30 and following two missed season’s serving a federal prison sentence for operating a dog-fighting ring, was less (slightly, but still) of a running threat.
Jackson is just 22, yet here in his second season in the NFL, and first as the full-time starter, he has already shown he is a better runner than Vick in his running prime and a better passer than Vick in his passing prime.
The year Vick rushed for 1,039 yards, he completed just 52.6 percent of his passes for 2,474 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also tossed 13 interceptions. His QB rating was a 75.7.
This year, Jackson is completing 66.5 percent of his throws for 2,532 yards and 25 touchdowns against just five interceptions. He still has four games to play to pad those numbers. His QB rating is 109.6.
It's not close. At no point in Vick’s career did he put up comparable numbers — his best throwing season was his comeback year of 2010, when he got Philly to the playoffs. His QB rating was 100.2. That year he rushed for 676 yards.
Jackson isn’t just a better passer than Vick, though, he’s a better passer than most quarterbacks and one of the absolute best ever for his age.
At age 22, Peyton Manning completed 56.7 percent of his passes and threw a record 28 interceptions. Aaron Rodgers carried a clipboard in Green Bay. Tom Brady was in college. Even if you took Brady’s second year in the league, when he led New England to a Super Bowl at age 24, his QB rating was 86.5.
Jackson’s current 66.5 completion percentages is one of the top 100 in NFL history. No 22-year-old in NFL history has been more accurate.
Will Jackson be better passers than them over the course of their careers? Who knows? That’s the standard that he is chasing, and the players he should be compared with. His coaches credit his attention to detail for his improvement last offseason. He walks around in a T-shirt that reads: "Nobody Cares. Work Harder." He isn't just some athlete. Almost anything seems possible going forward.
While Jackson’s ability to run certainly impacts defenses and improves his efficiency, it’s not like he’s just racing around and chucking it like it’s backyard football.
Pro Football Focus grades him as the NFL’s best passer from the pocket this year. Ahead of Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees and the rest. PFF’s overall QB ratings has Jackson behind just Russell Wilson and Brees.
The concept may be too much to handle — the best runner may also be the best passer — but here we are, with Lamar Jackson completely upending the sport.
Vick once did that, too. It was fun to watch. His impact on the game won't fade. He never did it like this though, never did it like Lamar Jackson, which is why what was once the standard for a mobile quarterback is no longer the standard for Lamar Jackson.
The rushing record will likely fall. Then everyone needs to find some new comparable for this guy.
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