OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh defended his decision not to remove quarterback Lamar Jackson earlier from Sunday’s season-opening 38-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Harbaugh kept Jackson in the game when the Ravens started a series leading by 32 points with 10 minutes left in the game. The reigning NFL MVP dropped back to pass three times and got sacked once.
Jackson was then pulled on Baltimore’s next possession with four minutes remaining.
“We’re not going to just react to every criticism,” Harbaugh said Monday. “We could take him out of the game at halftime, too. That might keep him safer, too. But we’re not going to do that.”
Last season, the Ravens ran out to so many big leads that Jackson sat out the entire fourth quarter twice and only played half of the fourth quarter twice. Harbaugh said he believes the Ravens were the first team to begin taking out their starting quarterback that early.
“A lot of things can happen. I’ve seen teams come back in the fourth quarter,” Harbaugh said. “It’s the first game of the season. We’re trying to work on things as well. It’s just a criticism that you guys can keep asking me about and I’m going to keep telling you the same thing. I think if you study football and look at what other teams do, you’ll see that people don’t do that and there’s a reason for it. It’s not because we want to see somebody get hurt. Take a look at Seattle with Russell Wilson. I would encourage you to do your homework on that.”
ESPN Stats & Information doesn’t track when quarterbacks are removed from games. Last season, there were 11 games in which teams won by 30 or more points, excluding the Ravens. In those games, only two starting quarterbacks were pulled at the start of the fourth quarter and no one else was removed until there were were 6 1/2 minutes or less left in the game.
Jackson was hit more than any other quarterback last season, but he only received contact nine times on Sunday. Six other quarterbacks took more hits than him.
Harbaugh isn’t second-guessing his decision to keep Jackson in the game with 10 minutes left.
“Ten minutes left? Nah, I don’t think so,” Harbaugh said. “It’s the National Football League. You look around the league and you’ll see not too many people are taking their quarterbacks out with 10 minutes left in the game in the National Football League. That’s historically true. There’s a lot of reasons for that. I don’t think I have to get into all the reasons for that. For all the people that want to say that should be done, I’d have to disagree with that.”