The way that Lamar Jackson plays quarterback is polar opposite to how 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Peyton Manning played the position during his 17-year career. Jackson is the most dynamic dual-threat quarterback that the game has ever seen and Manning is one of the sharpest minds that it has ever seen in a signal-caller.
While there are several other stark differences between the two like Manning being the first overall pick in 1998 and Jackson being the last pick in the first round in 2018, a way in which they eerily similar is the start of their respective careers.
During the first three years in the league, Jackson has led the Baltimore Ravens to tremendous success in the regular season but has yet to make a conference title game appearance despite making the playoffs in each of those seasons.
Manning had similar struggles at the start of his career. Like Jackson, he built a reputation as an excellent September to December performer who wasn’t able to have nearly the same level of success come January. The Indianapolis Colts were a mainstay in the postseason during Manning’s tenure with the team like the Ravens have been with Jackson under center.
Back then the Colts were viewed as a finesse team who didn’t have the toughness it took to win it all. The Ravens are currently viewed as a throwback hardnosed team who many don’t believe possesses an effective counterpunch if they get thrown off their ball control script and aren’t built to play from behind. Even though football is the ultimate team sport, both quarterbacks shouldered the majority of the blame when their teams failed to live up to the hype and came up short of the ultimate goal.
Manning was able to get the championship monkey off his back and temporarily silence his critics when he finally led Indianapolis to a Super Bowl title after nearly a decade in the league.
Jackson is heading into his fourth year in the league and even though the Ravens aren’t considered the favorites to come out of the AFC, they are among the top contenders. Many believe that this could be the year that the Jackson and the Ravens finally get over the hump and make it to Super Bowl 56 (LVI) or at least advance past the divisional round.
The Ravens’ franchise signal-caller is off to a hotter start to his career than Manning after being voted league MVP and winning his first playoff game before turning 25. Manning didn’t do either until he was 27 in the first of his five career league MVP-winning seasons. He made the playoffs in three of his first five years in the league whereas Jackson helped his team punch their ticket to the big dance in each of his first three.
Manning didn’t guide his team to the big game until his ninth season when he was 30 years old and Tom Brady had already built a dynasty in New England with the Patriots winning three titles in fours years from 2001-2004. The last hurdle Indianapolis had to clear to make it to Super Bowl 41 (XLI) in 2006 was a bout with Brady and the Pats in the AFC championship game. They were able to finally exercise their demons with a triumph over the team that appeared to have their number year in and year out.
The team in the AFC that has been the biggest thorn in the Ravens’ side since Jackson became the full-time starter is the Kansas City Chiefs. Led by Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs are a perfect 3-0 against Jackson and the Ravens over that span, have made it to at least the conference title game in each of the last three seasons, and advanced to the last two Super Bowls.
In order for the Ravens to reach their goals in 2021, it will likely mean going up against the Chiefs at least once which they will in Week 2 and possibly twice if they meet again in the postseason. While the start of Jackson’s career resembles Manning’s in some aspects, he’s also accomplished more in a shorter amount of time and is on track to get at least one ring before he even hits his late 20s.