BALTIMORE — As the Ravens’ offense continued to sputter and 21-year-old rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson continued to stumble, John Harbaugh admitted to thinking about making a change.
“I can assure you, we were considering putting Joe [Flacco] in the game and all that kind of stuff,” the Ravens’ coach said on Sunday after a 23-17 loss to the Chargers in an AFC wild-card game. “It was part of the conversation. We certainly thought about it, certainly talked about it with everybody.”
In the end, Harbaugh let Jackson try to work his way out of a funk that lasted through the first three quarters. After the Ravens fell behind 23-3, he finally came alive with two late touchdown passes and had an opportunity to drive for the winning score.
His day — and the Ravens’ chances — ended inauspiciously when he fumbled at the Baltimore 38-yard line with 18 seconds to play. Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram recovered, and Philip Rivers took a knee to finish off the Ravens.
“In the end, talk about the fourth quarter,” Harbaugh said. “Lamar played really well in [the] two-minute [offense]. I don’t think Joe would have played any better in two-minute than Lamar did. Give Lamar credit for the way he played in two-minute . . . You have to say, based on that part of it, at that point in time in the game, it was the right decision. We went down and scored two touchdowns.”
The game likely will be Flacco’s last in a Ravens uniform. The one-time Super Bowl MVP was replaced by Jackson after an injury and never got the job back as the rookie went 6-1.
“Lamar is our quarterback going forward, no question about that,” Harbaugh said. “Joe Flacco can still play. Joe’s going to have a market. A lot of teams are going to want Joe. He’s special. Joe Flacco is a great talent. He’s the best quarterback in the history of the Ravens.”
Harbaugh’s own future is in question amid recent reports that some teams — reportedly Denver and Miami — are considering giving Baltimore draft picks to hire him away.
“I don’t believe so,” Harbaugh said when asked if there is any doubt about whether he’ll remain in Baltimore. “No one can say what tomorrow is going to bring. We’ll see what God has in store. I have every expectation to be here as long as they want me here, and I believe I’ll be here. I expect to go forward with that as long as that’s what they want to do.”
Jackson knows he must do much better than Sunday, when he admitted he felt out of sorts. “We played like we didn’t want to be here. I did [play that way], not my team,” said Jackson, who threw for 194 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 54 yards. He was sacked seven times and had three fumbles.
He added, “I didn’t play my game at all, only toward the end. There are a lot of things I need to work on.”
Jackson said he was surprised by the Chargers’ defensive deployment of seven defensive backs on all but one play. “They really didn’t have any linebackers out there,” he said. “They had mostly [defensive backs] in the box for more speed, but we still should have executed. That shouldn’t stop us. We stopped ourselves.”