Ravens passer Lamar Jackson and Chiefs signal-caller Patrick Mahomes, the NFL's last two MVPs, play the quarterback position in entirely different ways.
When Mahomes took home the honor in 2018, it was his rocket arm, flashy passes, and incredible production that earned him the award. In his first year as a starter for Kansas City, Mahomes threw for a league-high 50 touchdown passes and finished second in the NFL in passing yards.
Like Mahomes, Jackson led the NFL in passing touchdowns when he earned MVP honors in 2019. But the 23-year-old was just as dangerous, if not more, with his legs. Jackson finished with over 1,200 rushing yards, breaking Michael Vick's single-season rushing yards record while adding another seven touchdowns on the ground.
Although the two quarterbacks have different styles, NFL Network's Steve Wyche believes they both have one trait that separates themselves from the other really good quarterbacks in the NFL.
"Stylistically, they are clearly completely different," Wyche told NBC Sports Washington. "But these are the types of players that as long as you have them on your field, you have an opportunity to win, no matter what time of the game it is. That's the key for MVPs."
Over the past two seasons, winning is exactly what Mahomes' Chiefs and Jackson's Ravens squads have done. In each of their MVP seasons, Jackson and Mahomes led their respective teams to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. In 2019, Mahomes led Kansas City to a Super Bowl title. Both clubs are expected to be Super Bowl contenders in 2020.
For Mahomes, Wyche explains that what makes him so great is that defenses cannot afford to make one mistake without paying the price for it.
"A lot of guys put up great numbers, a lot of guys influence games," Wyche said. "But if you are a defensive coordinator and you have to face Patrick Mahomes, you're like 'We cannot let up at any point.' One mistake, he's got you."
In Jackson's case, Wyche explains the way the Ravens passer has been able to be so successful early on in his NFL career is largely due to the offense designed around him.
"It's a little bit different for Lamar Jackson because their scheme isn't so heavily reliant on throwing the ball with the quarterback," he said. "There's is more designed, big plays, he can break a run and it's over. You can be the most sure-tackler in the world, you're looking at your shoetops and he's gone."
Several times a season ago, Jackson made defenders look foolish. It became a weekly tradition.
Mahomes, 24, and Jackson, 23, are already in the NFL's elite tier for passers. The scariest part for NFL defenses is that neither quarterback has even reached their peak yet.
"I think it's a great comparison," Wyche said. "They're both young. they're both going to continue to evolve. They both have great coaches that are going to nurture them."
And because of one free agent move, both Mahomes' and Jackson's path to the AFC crown has gotten a bit easier.
"They no longer have Tom Brady in the AFC," Wyche said. "Even though the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, the path to the championship is going to be a little bit different than what they've experienced in their early careers."
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