The Cincinnati Bengals are, as a whole, not a good football team this year as their 2-5-1 record would suggest. No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, however, has proven that he is a good football player and exhibits the kind of skillset that suggests he could be excellent for a very long time. The Bengals have found their man.
This past week, Burrow earned the second win of his young career in an upset win over the Tennessee Titans, a playoff-caliber team with championship hopes. He played well, completing 70 percent of his passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Burrow made a couple of remarkable, clutch throws down the stretch that makes one wonder what he could do with a better supporting cast.
Colin Cowherd believed the performance so impressive that it elevated Burrow to the top of the "Who Would You Rather Have For the Next 10 Years" rankings that we in sports media like to talk about all the time because originality is overrated. He went so far as to say he would choose Burrow over a fellow AFC North quarterback who already has an MVP trophy under his belt and is actually younger than the Bengals QB: Lamar Jackson.
With the understanding that both of these guys are far from finished products as professional football players, it's still quite a claim by Cowherd. Burrow has been great to watch. He's shown off great pocket presence, accuracy, and a strong arm. He's processing his reads at the speed one would expect from a highly-touted rookie. The Bengals would be atrocious without his heroics; instead, they're just pretty bad.
But being pretty good for a rookie is not the same as winning a whole-ass MVP award in your second season as Jackson did. Yes, the Ravens disappointed in the playoffs, but Jackson was the best player in the NFL for an entire season. Throwing for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns while running for another 1,200 yards is something no other quarterback in NFL history has ever done. Burrow could certainly win an MVP award at some point in his career, but until he does, Jackson has an undeniable leg up there.
But here's what's most relevant to the conversation, and why Cowherd is wrong: what Jackson can do on the football field is not replicable by anybody in the league, much less by any of his fellow quarterbacks. Burrow is very talented but has no part of his game that really sets him apart from his peers. That will not stop him from being great, but finding a QB who's good at a lot is not as hard as finding one who can do what Jackson does.
Burrow would be easier to build around, and Jackson is not a perfect quarterback, but unique is hard to find in football. Jackson is one of a handful of players across all positions that can be classified as truly unique. Burrow isn't there yet and may never get there. If you're taking one for the next decade, I'm going with the guy who isn't like anybody else and has proven his skills translate to wins. As fun as Burrow is and will be for a long time.