John Harbaugh defends leaving in Lamar Jackson into fourth quarter

Adrian Clayborn sacked Lamar Jackson with less than nine minutes remaining Sunday. The Browns defensive lineman wrapped up the Ravens quarterback’s left leg and awkwardly dragged him down.

Why, many wondered on social media, was Jackson still in the game with the Ravens up by 32?

That was a question posed to coach John Harbaugh on Monday, and he didn’t seem to appreciate the second-guessing.

“We’re not going to just react to every criticism,” Harbaugh said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “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.”

The Ravens pulled Jackson on their next possession, with 4:05 remaining, as Robert Griffin III mopped up. In 2019, Jackson sat out the entire fourth quarter of two games and played half of the fourth quarter in two other games.

“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.”

All’s well that ends well.

Eleven times last season in games that didn’t involve the Ravens, a team held a lead of 30 or more points. Only two of those starting quarterbacks stood on the sideline for the entire fourth quarter, and none of the other nine were removed until 6 1/2 minutes or less was left in the game, per Hensley.

“Ten minutes left? Nah, I don’t think so,” Harbaugh said of pulling Jackson a possession earlier than he did. “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.”