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The Criticism of Lamar Jackson Stinks of Racism

Here we go again with racist tropes about an elite black quarterback.

Let's just get a few things out of the way that people who will dislike the headline of this piece will inevitably want to point out.

A player can be criticized for their faults. A player can have holes in their game that may resemble stereotypes or tropes that we can acknowledge in a humanizing way. There are times in life when archetypes fit a person pretty straight on. Now that we have acknowledged that, let's also say this:

The language used to discuss players can also veer off into acknowledged racism at the drop of a hat. This happened this week when describing Baltimore Ravens superstar, Lamar Jackson.

What Happened?

In a recent Athletic article, Mike Sando did a tier list of quarterbacks in the NFL with rankings and descriptions. Sando did point out that Jackson has some weaknesses in his game.

Sando said that Jackson can “carry his team sometimes but not as consistently” and that Jackson “can handle pure passing situations in doses and/or possesses other dimensions that are special enough to elevate him” He pointed out that Jackson does have a hole in his game.

However, an anonymous NFL defensive coordinator had some harsher language to describe Jackson.

“If he has to pass to win the game, they ain’t winning the game. He’s so unique as an athlete and he’s really a good football player, but I don’t (care) if he wins the league MVP 12 times, I don’t think he’ll ever be a 1 as a quarterback. He’ll be a 1 as a football player, but not as a quarterback. So many games come down to two-minute, and that is why they have a hard time advancing even when they are good on defense. Playoffs are tight. You have to be able to throw the ball, and he is just so inconsistent throwing the ball. It is hit or miss.”

Ouch.

Would This Description Be Used Against Lesser Quarterbacks?

Let's put aside the fact that speaking anonymously is a cowardly move. Let's instead focus on the fact that in his second season, Jackson led the league in passing touchdowns. Jackson averaged a higher yard per attempt than Justin Herbert did in his second season while completing over 66 percent of his passes. Since Jackson's rookie season, he has thrown for 8,766 yards, 78 passing touchdowns, and 28 interceptions.

Critics will cite Jackson's failure in the playoffs. Jackson is 1-3 so far in his career. This criticism holds light water when you factor in that more "old-style" quarterbacks like Peyton Manning struggled mightily in the playoffs early on in his prolific career. I don't mean to take away anything from Justin Hebert by referencing him again, but his playoff chokes are just as large as Jackson's, and Lamar Jackson's body of overall work is far more impressive. Hebert doesn't receive this criticism.

Jackson does. Dynamic quarterbacks like Jackson and Michael Vick before him always had language like this levied at them. Vick's career took an obvious off-the-field slide but the point stands. Lamar Jackson is one of the best players in the NFL. Language like the cowardly words used by the anonymous defensive coordinator is dehumanizing and rooted in racist tropes about how black men cannot be good quarterbacks.

Do better, anonymous defensive coordinator. As a community of NFL fans, we can all do better.