Jacksonville Sports Day

Moeller: Lawrence NFL Debut Brought Back Memories of Plunkett and Namath

When I watched Trevor Lawrence Sunday, I somehow thought of Jim Plunkett in his rookie year.

A few years earlier, I remember a guy named Namath who took New York by storm.

If you’re old enough to remember, Plunkett was a much-hyped, Heisman Trophy winner, who was going to be a generational player in 1971. UCLA head coach and legendary figure Tommy Protho called him the “best pro prospect I have ever seen.”

Plunkett had a decent cast around him that year that included the likes of Carl Garrett, Randy Vataha, and Reggie Rucker should any of them ring a bell. Plunkett took an adequate team at best and produced a 6-8 season.

He would eventually win a deserved Super Bowl with Oakland.

Lawrence can fall into the same category. He was the much-heralded rookie from a cast of Trey Lance, Mac Jones, Zach Wilson, and Justin Fields (Jones was a shade above Lawrence for overall performance in their openers).  

Lawrence once again proved that he is a winner, and he is the right leader for the Jaguars. 

You have to love his frankness. I can appreciate it having covered pro football for a long time in the Northeast, where pretentiousness is more common. 

Yes, he did lose his opener — his first game since grade school likely — in a 37-21 loss in Houston that mostly wasn’t as close as the score.

He did throw three interceptions and also threw touchdowns in a 28-for-51 performance. Certainly, new head coach Urban Meyer turned his quarterback loose.

Stats aside, Lawrence looked confident and posed from the opening snap. He was decisive and accurate. He did get a traditional rookie baptism under fire.

The 21-year-old took every bit of responsibility for his own gaffs as well as taking the traditional bullet for the team.

“It obviously sucks,” he blurted. “Losing is always hard, especially when you feel like you’re prepared, had a great week and really thought you had a great week. Just obviously didn’t lay well. It starts with me. I played really badly.” 

Lawrence created a bulk of the Jaguars’ offense, but it became obvious that he needed help on both sides of the ball.

Meyer, too, realized an NFL sideline is more challenging than a feel-good, college atmosphere where he used his legacy to rule and control the area.

Lawrence raised expectations and reignited the team’s public perception simply with his selection in April.

We all got a wake-up call Sunday afternoon to realize that this team is in a major rebuild. There were some preconceived optimistic views, but we realized there are many hopes to fill as well as a head coach who has to find his comfort zone.

For Lawrence, Meyer, and rest, it will be a matter of an honest realization of the state of the team and what’s ahead.

This Sunday, Lawrence will bring a buzz and a state of electricity in the Jacksonville air and throughout TIAA Bank Field in the Jags’ home opener against the upstart Denver Broncos, who looked like a playoff team in their victory over the Jets last week.

It will be deservingly so for the Jags and their fans.

Like heralded rookies Plunkett and Namath before him,  Lawrence will make a difference.

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