Lamar Jackson ‘quarterbacky,’ explained: How criticism of Ravens QB became a motivator in possible MVP season

Sticks and stones …

Lamar Jackson’s trot to a possible second career MVP hasn’t been without its obstacles. Throughout the year, the Ravens passer seemed an unlikely candidate for football’s ultimate regular-season award, especially as injuries piled up across Baltimore’s offense.

Then again, Jackson is artistry at its purest form. With the flick of his wrist, he can evoke wonder all across the concourses. It’s a skillset owned by few in the league’s history.

Many have doubted the former Heisman winner’s greatness over the years, and have leaned on racist tropes about Black quarterbacks and their ability to set up winning attacks to critique Jackson. Those in the know understand Jackson is one of the game’s most undeniable talents. He proved as much this season.

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So, with that, here’s a look back at the “quarterbacky” comments that sparked a nationwide conversation about the Ravens’ star.

Lamar Jackson ‘quarterbacky,’ explained

The “quarterbacky” controversy started following Jackson’s performance against the 49ers, a game billed as a duel between Jackson, Christian McCaffrey and Brock Purdy, with all three receiving strong MVP buzz. Jackson wowed San Francisco’s vaunted defense with a wide array of passing — as well as a few moments of blissful chaos in open field.

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Baltimore outpaced its fellow Super Bowl contenders, walking out of Levi’s Stadium 33-19 winners in one of the most talked-about games of the year. Many came away from the contest believing Jackson was the MVP frontrunner.

One person who didn’t was Fox Sports Radio co-host Monse Bolaños. Speaking with co-host Dan Breyer in a segment discussing MVP candidates, Bolaños argued that Jackson couldn’t possibly be the league’s best player. The reason why? He wasn’t “quarterbacky” enough.

“I want my quarterbacks to be ‘quarterbacky,’” Bolaños said. “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.”

#FoxSports Monse Bolaños on #LouisvilleFootball 🐐#LamarJackson: “I want my quarterbacks to be quarterbacky. To me, Lamar Jackson’s just a great athlete, and he had a great game against the 49ers.” Is “quarterbacky” code for something else? 🏈🤔

— 35KYSports (@35KYSportsMedia) December 29, 2023

Bolaños assertion that McCaffrey is the MVP wasn’t a wild one. Her belief that Jackson isn’t a real quarterback was.

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Jackson is already on a trajectory to finish as one of the best players in NFL history. That history has been tinged with narratives that Black players can’t play the quarterback position, a myth Jackson — already an MVP and Heisman winner — and numerous others have disproved

Suffice to say, a great many took note of the implications of Bolaños’ loaded remark. Even Lakers star LeBron James — himself the target of many a racially-charged critique — expressed disbelief over the suggestion.

Quarterbacky huh!?!? NAAAAHHHHH!! H.I.M.

— LeBron James (@KingJames) December 31, 2023

Jackson responded on the field — and later on X — putting on another career-defining display against the Dolphins. You may have heard about it …


— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 1, 2024

Looks real “quarterbacky” to me 🤷🏾‍♂️#RL52 @Ravens #PrupleFlock #RavensNation @Lj_era8

— Ray Lewis (@raylewis) December 31, 2023

Quarterbacky company 😉@Lj_era8 | #RavensFlock

— NFL GameDay (@NFLGameDay) January 1, 2024

Jackson’s path to NFL success has been tailed by racist critiques. Despite setting numerous records during his time at Louisville, many believed Jackson’s only chance at success in the NFL relied on him transitioning to wide receiver or running back. 

Jackson ignored that talk and thrived as a quarterback, first in Greg Roman’s run-heavy system, then in Todd Monken’s new-look offense.

Jackson’s mastery of Monken’s offense in 2023 has been especially impressive. He’s reaffirmed his status as one of the game’s great passers, throwing seeds all across the lush meadow at M&T Bank Stadium.

Bolaños’ comment may seem inconsequential. Its origins certainly are not. Jackson has already combatted and disproved narratives about the perceived viability of the Black quarterback, which is why so many pushed back when Bolaños tried to dismiss Jackson’s excellence.

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