Making an MVP: How Lamar Jackson became the second ever unanimous NFL MVP

Lamar Jackson became the second unanimous MVP in NFL history on Saturday. Let’s take a look back at the season that raised the bar for all quarterbacks going forward.

Former Louisville Cardinal and current Baltimore Ravens superstar Lamar Jackson just capped yet another record-breaking year off with perhaps his most impressive feat yet.

The youngest Heisman Trophy winner ever just became the youngest NFL MVP in its 65-year history, and he did so in a way that no player ever has before him.

Players like Michael Vick, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick paved the way for Jackson. They made a league where the pros used college-style RPO’s possible, and planted the seed in the mind of NFL coaches that utilizing someone with a versatile skillset could keep even elite defenders on their heels.

But nobody has done it, and perhaps will ever do it quite like Lamar Jackson in 2019. His record-breaking play redefined what an NFL quarterback could be. Here’s why:

The passing

Two players in the history of the NFL have ever recorded a perfect passer rating in the same season: Ben Roethlisberger and Lamar Jackson.

Jackson recorded perfect passer ratings of 158.3 against the Dolphins and Bengals in 2019 and recorded 9 games with a passer rating over 100- the most in the league.

Jackson’s passer rating of 113.3 in 2019 ranks 11th all-time.

After criticism abounded in the offseason when Jackson struggled to find his rhythm in the 2019 playoffs against the Chargers, Jackson was out to prove himself. In his first game of the season, he went 17-of-20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns through the air before sitting the bench in the fourth quarter in a 59-10 statement game.

Jackson went on to throw for five touchdowns on three occasions during the 2019 season.

The rushing

Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, Zeke Elliot, Chris Carson… Lamar Jackson. That’s a list, in order, of the top 6 rushers in 2019. That’s not a misprint.

Jackson rushed for more yards this season than Leonard Fornette, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, and his own backfield mate, Pro Bowler Mark Ingram.

He shattered Michael Vick’s rushing yards record by a quarterback in a single season and did so while still maintaining the best QBR and one of the best passer ratings of all-time.

He finished the year with 6.9 yards per carry, which is 1.3 yards per attempt ahead of the next closest player Raheem Mostert. His yards per attempt are the most since Russell Wilson in 2014.

The streak

Perhaps the most impressive feat of Jackson’s season was his leadership as he guided his team to an eleven game winning streak.

After dropping back-to-back games to Kansas City and Cleveland in games in which his defense allowed 33 and 40 points respectively, Jackson and the Ravens reeled off one of the more impressive streaks in NFL history.

The Ravens won at Seattle and against a historically great New England defense in back-to-back weeks. Then they went on to defeat the Texans and Rams by a combined score of 86-13 before defeating the AFC champion 49ers the week after.

All in all, the Ravens defeated five playoff teams and won seven games by double figures.

All-in-all, the Ravens’ success may be the most underrated aspect in regards to the way Jackson was perceived.

Jackson is 20-3 as a starter in the league. He took the Ravens and Harbaugh from middle of the pack and on the hot seat in year one to the best record in the league in year two.

The Ravens clinched their first-ever one seed a week before the season ended, and gained home field advantage for the first time.

In a year of so many firsts for the franchise, its success can all be traced back to the emergence of Jackson.

The electric plays

Jackson’s MVP win was inevitable given the statistics and overall success, but one could argue that the reason for the unanimous decision was his big-time playmaking ability.

Jackson made at least one electric play every game, regardless of the outcome, and he became must-see TV across the league.

In the Louisville market, where almost every fan would have no reason for rooting interest turning to the Ravens other than Jackson, TV and radio stations picked up his broadcasts on a weekly basis. Across the nation, and across the world, Jackson became the player that you watched along with your team. People have become Packers fans and Lamar Jackson fans. They like Florida Gators football and they watch Lamar on Sundays.

I mean, his MVP highlight reel from 15 games this season is better than that of 90 percent of hall of fame inductees.

Jackson is simply fun to watch, and that is one of the more important aspects. You could legitimately make arguments for Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, and Khalil Mack as the best players in the league. But Jackson won unanimously because a week couldn’t pass this season without one of his plays leading off Sportcenter or going viral on social media.

That’s the stuff of legends, and that’s what put Jackson over the top.

The “MVP moments”

Lastly, Jackson had a number of MVP moments.

Just like in his Heisman season at Louisville, he had that one play that really put him on the map. In 2016, it was the Lamar leap followed by his ridiculous standout performance against No. 2 Florida State.

Similarly, in 2019, Jackson faced a Patriots defense that statically one of the best ever to that point and hung 37 on them in primetime.

A week later, Jackson sealed his fate as the MVP with his signature play of the year against Cincinnati.

Ultimately, plays such as this would have made it criminal to name anyone but Jackson the MVP in 2019.

As a football fan, appreciate 2019 while you can. We may never see a season quite like Lamar Jackson’s ever again.

Next: Three questions for Louisville ahead of NSD
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