When you’re truly remorseful, your apology tends to be louder than your initial disrespect. It’s why Lamar Jackson’s and Patrick Mahomes’ haters have been so silent lately.
Next Sunday, the two best quarterbacks on the planet will face each other for a chance to play in Usher’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas. If the Ravens win, it will be Jackson’s first. If the Chiefs are victorious, it’ll be Mahomes’ fourth. But no matter who makes it, both men have done more than enough to make Monse Bolaños, Bill Polian and some random defensive coordinator look dumber than they already are.
“I want my quarterbacks to be ‘quarterbacky,” FOX Sports’ Bolaños said about Jackson in December. “And, to me, Lamar Jackson’s just a great athlete, and he’s done a really good job and he had a great game against the 49ers. Prisoners of the moment, he is not the MVP. Christian McCaffrey is the MVP, and he has been. I’ve been saying this for weeks.”
Well, McCaffrey isn’t going to be MVP, as Jackson is a lock to win his second. On Saturday, Jackson made NFL history as the first player with two passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, 100 rushing yards and a 100.0 passer rating in a game. This is why no one knew who Bolaños was before her statement, and why she hasn’t made news since.
“Credit to Lamar,” said Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans after Baltimore beat Houston 34-10. “He made a ton of great plays. That’s why he’s the MVP.”
You would think that by now the doubts about Jackson’s ability would be over as he’s proven himself — at least in the regular season. But, haters like Polian never go away quietly.
“You have to be very disciplined in your rush,” Polian recently said about how you stop Jackson. You have to tell the rushers that they’re not there to sack him, they’re there to keep him in the pocket and make him throw the ball and not escape and not extend and not do any of the things that opens up all of these receivers. And that’s hard to do.”
Mind you, this comes after Polian finally admitted that he was insane for believing that Jackson should have switched from quarterback to wide receiver before the 2018 NFL Draft. “I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was,” said the man who was named Executive of the Year six times. “And Greg (Roman) found a way in how he’s developed a system to use those dynamic skills. Bottom line, I was wrong.”
Jackson won his first MVP in 2019. That year, 47 of 50 voters selected him as their All-Pro quarterback. Polian was one of the three haters. It’s that same kind of belief system that had an unnamed defensive coordinator refer to Mahomes’ game as “streetball.”
“We love Mahomes because of his unorthodox throws, not because of his natural pocket presence,” the coordinator told The Athletic’s Mike Sando in 2022. “And when that disappears, that is when they lose games. I don’t think that is a 1. I think that is a 2. Nothing against the guy. I love the kid. But take his first read away and what does he do? He runs, he scrambles and he plays streetball.”
Mahomes responded by addressing what the dog-whistler was really trying to say about him and others.
“Obviously, the Black quarterback has had to battle to be in this position that we are to have this many guys in the league playing,” said the man who’s preparing for his sixth straight AFC Championship Game. “Every day, we’re proving that we should have been playing the whole time. We’ve got guys that can think just as well as they can use their athleticism. It’s always weird when you see guys like me, Lamar [Jackson], Kyler [Murray] kind of get that on them when other guys don’t. But at the same time we’re going out there to prove ourselves every day to show we can be some of the best quarterbacks in the league.’’
No matter who wins on Sunday, Super Bowl 58 will feature a Black quarterback — making it the eighth time in the last 12 editions of the NFL’s greatest game. From Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson to Cam Newton, Jalen Hurts, Mahomes, and maybe Lamar Jackson, these men stand on the shoulders of Doug Williams and Steve McNair. And beyond their race, they all have something else in common. They’re all “quarterbacky.”