I don’t care if Lamar Jackson is the NFL MVP this season.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you probably know that this first sentence is a bit of a purposeful setup for a coming swerve. But the statement is largely based in fact. It just needs a little context.
The Ravens’ quarterback is obviously a top candidate for the league’s highest individual honor as we’ve moved beyond the halfway point of the season. After his dominant performance against fellow candidate Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans, betting markets have moved him into a dead heat tie with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for the award. Ravens fans are chanting it from the stands and flooding social media with the conversation.
He deserves that. He’s been an absolute rock star and the biggest driving force behind the Ravens’ six-game winning streak that has made them arguably the singular best team in the league as of this point. If the season ended today, clearly he would be a deserving winner.
But I, Glenn Clark, Ravens fan, am not as obsessed with the MVP debate as the rest of the community appears to be. I genuinely just don’t care if he wins the award or not.
Why? That’s simple. I don’t value MVP as a fan the way I do, you know, winning a Super Bowl. When the Ravens hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl XLII, I didn’t think to myself (even for a second), “You know, this just doesn’t mean quite as much because they didn’t have a player on their roster who was even in the MVP discussion this season.”
You probably think, “Right, I want the Ravens to win the Super Bowl more than I want Lamar Jackson to win MVP, but why can’t it be both?” Well Freddie Mercury, Veruca Salt and “The NFL Chick” Syreeta Hubbard, it might well be. Frankly, the most likely scenario is that Jackson continues to play extremely well, the Ravens keep winning and he has an insanely strong argument to win the award. And if the night before he plays for a Super Bowl title in Miami he’s too busy to be able to attend the ceremony to pick up the prize, that’s absolutely swell.
But if the Ravens aren’t playing that weekend while Jackson accepts the award, the consolation prize wouldn’t make us feel any better about a terribly disappointing end to the season.
“Wouldn’t you want to see Jackson win MVP because it would be validation that all of the doubters were wrong about him?”
No. He’s already done that. If Jackson happens to finish a vote short of Wilson for MVP, will his performance this season be any less validated? We already have the answer on Jackson. He’s great. He’s a great quarterback who we have no reason to think won’t be great for a very long time.
And the greatest validation that can come is winning the Super Bowl.
“It sounds like you’re suggesting that Jackson can win the Super Bowl OR win MVP, but Glenn, I’m telling you, he could do both!”
Of course he can. But it shouldn’t be any sort of priority. And that’s how both he and the Ravens should approach everything they do the rest of the season.
If they keep blowing teams out (and who’s to say they won’t?), they shouldn’t keep him in the game for even a snap longer than necessary in order to bolster his stats.
If they have the No. 1 seed locked up after 15 weeks (which seems unlikely but considering how they’ve been playing and how beatable the Patriots have looked of late, so let’s just stay with it), they shouldn’t factor the MVP race at all in a decision to play Jackson at the end of the season.
And if in game-planning for any particular opponent the rest of the year they happen to think their best bet is just to hand the ball off and play to the strength of their suddenly resurgent defense, they shouldn’t be dissuaded because of an MVP race where a limited statistical performance could impact Jackson’s chances.
The only thing that matters is winning a Super Bowl. And what I perhaps like most about Jackson is that he genuinely appears to not only understand that but completely embraces it every time he gets the chance. He’s clearly far more concerned about winning a Super Bowl than he is about any other hardware, which means even more since he could very well do both.
You can full-throat your screams for MVP as much as you want. But Jackson “is worried about [his] team” and getting to the Super Bowl. That’s what I’m worried about too. If MVP comes along with it, so be it.
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