ESPN analyst Dominique Foxworth has long been one of Lamar Jackson's biggest fans. Baltimore has a special place in Foxworth's heart from his childhood and NFL playing days, and from day one he has been one of national media's biggest champions of Jackson.
His history with Jackson makes it all the more surprising to hear what Foxworth had to say on Get Up! Wednesday morning: "I think Kyler Murray on the Baltimore Ravens is more formidable than Lamar Jackson, as formidable as Lamar Jackson is."
Foxworth may be a major supporter of Jackson, but when asked which of the two young quarterbacks he'd prefer, he begrudgingly went with Murray.
"My heart wants to say Lamar Jackson, but I think my brain...obviously Kyler Murray is incredibly accurate as a passer and is a dynamic runner and doesn’t take nearly as many hits as Lamar Jackson," Foxworth said on Wednesday's show. "I love Lamar Jackson, and he is a great player, but if you can have a guy that can throw passes like that consistently, whip it outside the numbers with accuracy consistently, and also when he’s in trouble can wiggle out of trouble...that to me seems like a better prospect to build a team around than Lamar Jackson."
Foxworth's stance not only failed to earn a rebuttal from former Steelers safety Ryan Clark, but the latter went on to double down.
"If Kyler Murray right now was the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, we’d have much more confidence in them to win the Super Bowl. Period. We would," Clark responded. "It wouldn’t be a discussion...if Kyler Murray’s the quarterback of this team, I see them in the AFC championship going toe to toe, head to head, with the Kansas City Chiefs because he does add that extra dimension."
Even looking at their numbers this season -- Murray has outshone Jackson in nearly every statistical category -- it's hard to take the relatively unproven Murray over the league's reigning (unanimous) MVP winner.
Jackson is just seven months older than Murray, but he's already started two playoff games, won 25 of his first 30 career starts, and again, won just the second unanimous MVP in NFL history. He also has less to work with on offense. Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown are talented, but DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best receivers of his era -- it's no wonder the Cardinals offense looks much improved with Hopkins in town.
But for both Foxworth and Clark, Murray's improvements and Jackson's regression is enough for them to prefer the former number one overall pick.
"This is not knocking Lamar Jackson at all, sometimes you've got to choose between Kobe and Shaq, or Penny and Shaq," Clark said. "You gotta make these decisions. And in making this decision, if you were starting a team, Kyler Murray would be your guy. It’s not that I wouldn’t take Lamar, it’s just that with what I’ve seen from them, even with Lamar winning an MVP, if I had to put one at quarterback and say this guy takes X team to the championship, I always pick Kyler Murray first."
While Foxworth agrees that Murray is the preferred quarterback prospect, that doesn't mean he expects him to reach Jackson's level of team success anytime soon.
"I think it’s Lamar Jackson, because of everything that’s around him," Foxworth said when asked which quarterback he expected to win a Super Bowl first. "I think that Lamar is probably more important to his offense than Kyler Murray is, I think that Lamar has a lot better coaching situation, a better organization and a phenomenal defense. I think all of those reasons make it more likely that the Ravens win a Super Bowl in the next few years quicker than Kyler Murray. Though I think Kyler Murray is probably a better young prospect than Lamar Jackson, I think that the Ravens are a better organization and a better team."
Murray plays in the deeper NFC West, but Jackson has to contend with the Steelers in the AFC North. More importantly, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs will be standing in the Ravens' way in the conference for the next decade-plus, making his path to a championship that much more difficult.
Both Murray and Jackson are young and uber-talented, and both clearly have very bright futures ahead of them. Any NFL team outside of Kansas City would be thrilled to add either player to their franchise for the next decade. You really can't go wrong picking between them.
But at this point, for multiple former players and NFL analysts, the choice has become clear. Murray's all-around game is too tantalizing, even compared against Jackson's superior career resume.