The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson named NFL MVP

It's been expected for months, but Lamar Jackson is now officially an NFL MVP. (Nick Wass/AP)

MIAMI — On the eve of a Super Bowl in which Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens expected to be playing, the sensational second-year quarterback received his consolation prize.

Jackson, 23, whose passing skills were questioned by some talent evaluators as he prepared to enter the NFL, was named the league’s most valuable player Saturday, becoming the first Ravens player to win the honor and capping a stunning first full season as their starter.

“I’m still young,” Jackson said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m not really trying to dwell on what I just did. Like I said, if I win the Super Bowl, you’ll probably see a lot more emotion. But I’m good with what I’ve got right now.”

Jackson’s selection, considered a near certainty by the season’s late stages, was announced at the “NFL Honors” show taped in Miami the day before the Kansas City Chiefs face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

Jackson became the second player to be a unanimous MVP choice by the media members designated by the Associated Press to vote for the award. He joined New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a unanimous MVP in the 2010 season.

“He’s got six Super Bowls,” Jackson said. “I’ve got to get my first one.”

The Ravens, thanks in large part to Jackson’s dazzling running and his rapid development into a reliable NFL passer, were the favorites to represent the AFC this weekend. They were the conference’s top playoff seed after a regular season in which they posted a league-best record of 14-2 and won their final 12 games. But they suffered a shocking loss at home in the divisional round to the Tennessee Titans, who went on to lose at Kansas City in the AFC championship game.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens

So it is Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Jackson’s predecessor as the NFL’s MVP, rather than Jackson who soaked up the accolades all week in South Florida while readying for a first career Super Bowl appearance. Jackson and the Ravens were left with no choice but to settle for reflecting on their successful regular season gone awry, while looking ahead to such a promising future.

“I’ve got to grind now,” Jackson said. “The season is going to come fast as ever. So I’ve just got to be prepared because I’m trying to get a Super Bowl.”

Jackson’s selection was a foregone conclusion. He set a single-season NFL rushing record for a quarterback with his 1,206 yards, even while sitting out the regular season finale with the AFC’s No. 1 seed already clinched. Jackson also threw for 3,127 yards. He had 36 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. His passer rating of 113.3 was up dramatically from his rookie-year mark of 84.5.

Jackson’s quick ascent to NFL stardom validated the confidence shown in him by Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens’ former general manager who traded up to take the quarterback with the final selection of the first round in the 2018 draft. Jackson was the fifth quarterback chosen in that opening round after Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield, the New York Jets’ Sam Darnold, Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Arizona’s Josh Rosen (later traded to the Miami Dolphins), all of whom were taken in the top 10.

Jackson’s skills as a runner were widely acknowledged, but there were questions about him as a passer, to the point that there was speculation at the NFL Scouting Combine that he would be asked to play a different position — such as wide receiver — as a pro. But Jackson maintained that he was a quarterback. As his accomplishments piled up this season, he sometimes referenced the doubts about him.

The issue came up Saturday when he was asked during his backstage news conference after accepting the award what his MVP selection might mean to kids who could find themselves in similar circumstances someday.

“Make those people eat their words,” Jackson said. “It feels good when you can make those people eat their words.”

He took over for an injured Joe Flacco as the Ravens’ starter during his rookie season and helped them make the playoffs. Coach John Harbaugh left Jackson in the starting job even after Flacco got healthy, and the Ravens traded the former Super Bowl MVP to Denver in the offseason. Harbaugh allowed Jackson to be himself as a player, the Ravens redesigned their offense to accentuate Jackson’s strengths, and both Jackson and the team flourished. The Ravens were second in the league in total offense and first in scoring this season.

Now even more will be expected and Jackson will have to deal with the scrutiny of his 0-2 playoff record. He and the Ravens must hope that his highlight of Super Bowl weekend next year doesn’t come on the Saturday before the game.

Harbaugh was named coach of the year, a regular season award picked before Baltimore’s playoff collapse, and Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman won assistant of the year.

Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore was named defensive player of the year. New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas was chosen as offensive player of the year after setting a single-season league record with 149 catches.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who helped the Titans reach the AFC championship game after being obtained in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, was the comeback player of the year. Nick Bosa, set to play Sunday for the 49ers, was named defensive rookie of the year. He and Joey Bosa are the first brothers to have each won that award. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, the top pick in last year’s draft, was selected as the offensive rookie of the year.

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell was named the Walter Payton NFL man of the year.

“Today was incredible,” Campbell said. “This award has been very prestigious for a long time. … This is a very humbling experience.”

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson was given the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award and said the honor meant more to him than the MVP he won earlier in his career.

“Those things really kind of go unseen, at least you think it does,” Peterson said.

What happened in Super Bowl LIV

The Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20, in the Super Bowl to deliver Kansas City’s first NFL championship in 50 years. Find all the highlights here.

How it happened: Patrick Mahomes had a play in his back pocket for when the Chiefs needed it. Now “Tre Right, Three Jet Chip Wasp” will live in Kansas City lore.

Commentary: Patrick Mahomes, in Super Bowl comeback, showed why he is the best quarterback in the NFL.

Parade: Fans gather early and in mass numbers to celebrate Chiefs’ Super Bowl in Kansas City.

Photos: The best photos from Hard Rock Stadium | The plays the Chiefs made to win

Halftime show: Jennifer Lopez and Shakira teamed up to become the first two Latina singers to perform at the Super Bowl. It was a truly riveting, wildly entertaining performance. “You may have heard the American Dream itself pulsing in a space where it will always be allowed to live,” pop music critic Chris Richards writes, “inside a pop song.”

Commercials: The very best from Super Bowl Sunday, and the very worst.

Go a little deeper...

Patrick Mahomes became the NFL’s best quarterback by refusing to specialize in football

In tragedies’ wake, Andy Reid and the Chiefs found success through second chances

The Chiefs brought Native American imagery, and the ‘tomahawk chop,’ to the Super Bowl stage

Len Dawson smoked his way through the first Super Bowl. The photos are priceless.

For Chiefs owner Clark Hunt and his family, this Super Bowl trip was 50 years in the making