Trevor Lawrence: Scapegoat or savior for the Jacksonville Jaguars?

• Trevor Lawrence is better than the stats and record show

• Lawrence is not far from Lamar Jackson's production

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans
Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans / Justin Ford/GettyImages

John F. Kennedy said, "Victory has a hundred fathers, and defeat is an orphan." This quote resonates following the Jacksonville Jaguars' turbulent 2023 season, punctuated by a disheartening loss, as a fourth-and-2 attempt from their 33-yard line went awry. The weight of that loss, and the entire season, seems to have been hoisted squarely onto one man's shoulders: Trevor Lawrence.

But is this fair to pin the loss on Lawrence? Or is it a gross oversimplification of the problems that dogged the Jags throughout most of the season?

Understanding the final play

Let's look at that fateful moment — Lawrence, the quarterback, aimed for his tight end, Evan Engram. The play didn't pan out as expected; the ball whistled through the air, and the Jaguars' season drew close. Social media exploded with criticism focused on Lawrence and how he couldn't deliver when it mattered the most.

However, is it accurate to put the onus of an entire season's failure on just one player or, more specifically, one throw? The answer is a resounding no. It's essential to consider the various factors that led to that moment - injury setbacks, lack of support, and poor play calling.

Trevor Larwence and injury setbacks

Lawrence's performance in that game cannot be evaluated in isolation without considering his physical condition. He had been battling injury after injury in the weeks leading up to the game.

An AC joint sprain in his right shoulder, a concussion, and a high-ankle sprain - all these injuries had a cumulative effect on his performance. While it's a poor excuse, we learned Lawrence will play; his toughness is off the charts.

Lack of support from the rest of the Jaguars offense

Moreover, Lawrence seemed to be single-handedly shouldering the team's offense. The offensive line, which wasn't precisely top-tier to begin with, saw little to no improvement. The only notable change was the replacement of veteran right tackle Jawaan Taylor with rookie Anton Harrison. Ezra Clevland stepped in for positive progress, and Cam Robinson played well, but an elite offensive lineman to anchor the line is desperately needed. 

Poor play calling

The play calling from the offensive coordinator, Press Taylor, left a lot to be desired. It seemed like the entire playbook was reduced to Lawrence throwing shallow crossers to Engram, which is hardly a sustainable strategy.

It's admirable of Doug Peterson to extend the opportunity afforded him by Andy Reid in Philadelphia, but in Jacksonville, it cost the Jaguars a much-needed breakout season. 

The Unfair Expectations

The expectation that Lawrence should be the franchise savior and overcome all odds, regardless of the circumstances, is unrealistic and unfair. It's like expecting a ship to sail smoothly in stormy seas with a damaged hull and a broken compass.

The harsh reality is that no talented player can single-handedly turn a team's fortunes around. Football is a team sport that requires a collective effort to succeed.

Trevor Lawrence vs Lamar Jackson: A Comparative Analysis

Let's compare Lawrence's performance with Lamar Jackson, the MVP favorite, to provide an unbiased perspective. Lawrence's stats are not far behind Jackson's despite a turbulent season.

Interestingly, both quarterbacks have a similar completion percentage, with Jackson at 67.5 percent and Lawrence at 65.8%. Jackson's total passing yards amounted to 3,678 while Lawrence eclipsed 4,000 (4,0160) for the second straight year. Jackson has a higher touchdown count at 24 against Lawrence's 21. Considering his injury setbacks and lack of consistent support, Lawrence's stats are comparable to the MVP favorite.

But Lamar is a dual-threat quarterback. That is a fair point, so let's look at total yards; Lamar ended with 4499 total yards and 29 total touchdowns. Lawrence finished with a total of 4355 yards and 26 total touchdowns. If that 4-&-goal from the 3-yard line space jam quarterback sneak scored, Lawrence would have tied Jackson's rushing touchdowns.

Turnovers are the difference, right? Not as big a difference with Lawrence being charged with 25 interceptions and lost fumbles combined and Jackson with a total of 18, and it's worth noting seven of Lawrence's14 interceptions were missed bobbles by his receivers and not bad decisions or missed throws; see the video below.

The Calvin Ridley difference 

Calvin Ridley was great this year, with 76 receptions, 1,016 yards, and eight touchdowns. But he had 136 targets, a 55 percent completion rate. Factor in that Lawrence completed 66 percent of his passes despite 136 attempts to Ridley... Ridley missed 13 catchable balls, five of those were touchdowns.

Two missed routes lead to interceptions, a big one against the Titans Sunday. Ridley was third in the league with 24 red zone targets, yet only four were converted for touchdowns. That number should be seven. 

The need for change

The Jacksonville Jaguars' management needs to take stock of the situation. They need to provide Lawrence with the support he needs to excel - in the form of a stronger offensive line, a better play caller, or a more balanced attack strategy with more 6-9-yard completions over the middle. 

Lawrence is undoubtedly a gifted player with immense potential. But he is not the problem in Jacksonville. The issues plaguing the team are deep-rooted and multifaceted, requiring a comprehensive and strategic resolution approach. So, before fingers are pointed at Lawrence, remember that football is, and always will be a team sport.

When Lawrence walks back into Everbank stadium next year with a fresh, clean-cut cut, short haircut and ready for business, he will prove critics dead wrong. Trevor Lawrence is the generational quarterback Jacksonville deserves and the brightest spot in an abysmal franchise's history.

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