After the media crammed around former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, they peppered him with questions that usually are asked only of players who don’t check some of the NFL’s most traditional boxes.
While the NFL has slowly adapted to quarterbacks who don’t look or play like Johnny Unitas, a report that teams asked Jackson to participate in wide receiver drills at the scouting combine in Indianapolis sparked a massive debate — one Jackson quickly extinguished.
“No teams have asked me to play wide receiver,” he said. “I don’t even know where it comes from. I’m strictly a quarterback.”
Jackson, a dual threat at Louisville, used the phrase, “I’m a quarterback,” more than once to answer questions. Now he’ll wait to see for which team he’ll quarterback.
The Los Angeles Chargers, who pick 17th in the first round, could be a landing spot for Jackson, though he said he hadn’t yet spoken to the team at the combine.
Chargers Coach Anthony Lynn had success with Tyrod Taylor, another mobile quarterback, in Buffalo, and he seemed impressed when asked about Jackson.
“Our scouts, they’ve watched the whole year. They like him. The couple games I saw, I think he’s a nightmare (for defenses),” Lynn said. “I think he’s a good quarterback.”
Chargers GM Tom Telesco, who said the team is evaluating quarterbacks this offseason like any other, said Jackson’s tape is some of the most enjoyable to watch.
“It is unique, and it’s really a fun evaluation because watching the tape and watching him play, you don’t see that very often, a guy that carries his team the way he does, and he does a number of things really well,” Telesco said. “But those are the fun ones to watch.”
In three years at Louisville, Jackson ran for 4,132 yards. He passed for 9,043 yards. He was a touchdown-scoring machine, running for 50 and throwing for 69.
He completed less than 60 percent of his passes, though — a number that’s given some evaluators pause.
“I had a narrow stance in college. If you look at film, I notice that myself. I’ve been working on it. I’ve been working on my accuracy,” Jackson said. “So that’s what I have to show off. I feel that’s why they’re doubting me right now.”
Jackson isn’t the only possible answer to the Chargers’ quarterback question. Despite having one of the best years of his career in 2017, Philip Rivers turned 36 in December.
“If I have a chance to compete, that’s really where I want to go to,” Jackson said. “I want to learn as much as I can. But if I have to sit behind someone and learn behind a veteran, I have no problem with it.”
The team has spoken to Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson, among others. Rudolph even met Rivers during a workout a few weeks ago.
“(Teams) are trying to get my feel about how I would feel about being a backup, learning from a veteran,” Rudolph said. “I think that would be great, especially in my situation, coming and learning from somebody who has been successful at that level, just trying to learn the ins and outs of the game and what they have done to be successful. I think that would help me a lot.”
Someday, the Chargers will have to make a move at the position — and it could be Jackson … or Rudolph or someone else. But that day’s coming, and that’s why the Chargers are actively looking at players at that position.
“You never know when that opportunity is going to be there for that next quarterback, and we’re in a great position because Philip is playing so well right now, and we feel really good about him,” Telesco said. “But we’re also realistic to know that we have some work to do to plan for the future.”
And with Lynn at the helm, a running quarterback could make a lot of sense.
“When you have a guy who can move around a little bit like Lamar, you make a defense play 11-on-11. And sometimes, they think that’s not fair,” Lynn said. “But when the offense can go 11-on-11, that’s a defensive coordinator’s worst nightmare. That’s what he brings to the table.”