Joe Flacco, New York Jets, Injury, Contract, COVID, Vaccine, Mask
Joe Flacco, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets had to go to Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco is two months away from turning 37, owns a 2-13 record as an NFL starter since Oct. 21, 2018, and is subject to the NFL’s rigorous COVID-19 prevention policies for unvaccinated players.

He’s still the best passing option the New York Jets have right now.

Flacco is the face of the state of the Jets (2-7), who are about to embark on another meaningless eight-game stretch to cap off their seasonal endeavors. Their 10-year (and counting) playoff drought has made such a commencement as reliable of a New York November tradition as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The only thing the new 17-game schedule changed is that there was no official midway point of the season to mark the occasion. Game one of the painful eight comes on Sunday as the Jets battle the equally woebegone Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Provided the Jets don’t earn upset victories over New Orleans, Tampa Bay, or Buffalo, none of their final games will reshape the NFL playoff picture. The games nonetheless hold value for a team looking to reclaim the narrative on what was supposed to be an optimistic chapter of their eternal rebuild.

The football gods have offered yet another macabre gift in the form of eight consequence-free opportunities for current wearers of green to prove why they should be allowed to stick around for the potential good times ahead. No move needs to be made with play positioning in mind.

Tyler Durden unwittingly spoke of the Jets’ modern fortunes in the 1999 film “Fight Club” and the Chuck Palahniuk novel it was based upon: “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

In other words, throw the idea of tanking, an endeavor made all the more pointless by the arrival of the extra pick yielded from the Jamal Adams severance package, aside once again.

We saw several players, including Bryce Hall, Foley Fatukasi, John Franklin-Myers, Braxton Berrios, and Ty Johnson establish themselves as Jets of the future by becoming silver linings of the Jets’ particularly offensive two-win campaign in 2020, namely through upset wins over playoff teams from Los Angeles and Cleveland. Rookies Michael Carter (both the rusher and the safety) and Elijah Moore are doing the same as the situation becomes increasingly dire this season.

If the Jets want to continue to build, Flacco is the only way to go for the time being.

Ideally, newly minted franchise quarterback Zach Wilson would be around to partake in consequence-free football.

A rookie franchise thrower finding hope through otherwise meaningless games is nothing new for the Jets. When Sam Darnold capped off his freshman season by leading a game-winning drive in Buffalo before matching Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers’ every move in December 2018, it actually seemed like the Jets had a plan, one that was unceremoniously lit up in flames upon the hiring of Adam Gase.

Of course, “ideally” is a word that’s been more or less erased from the Jets glossary, as Wilson is still out with a sprained PCL injury sustained in an Oct. 24 loss in New England. He should be back before season’s end, but there is absolutely zero value to throwing an even slightly-injured Wilson into the wolves of the NFL’s depths.

Until further notice, the Jets are left with two passers once capable of the NFL’s most valuable commodity: internet clicks. The early days of Twitter were dominated by debates over whether Flacco was “elite,” while anyone playing the “Drink Every Time You Hear Mike White’s Name” game during the Jets’ nationally televised Nov. 4 game in Indianapolis would’ve been passed out by the first commercial break.

Flacco was the right – and only – move to make.

For one thing, Flacco helped facilitate some of the Jets’ more respectable offensive showings during the brutality of 2020. In his four starts, he managed to top the third-year man Darnold in almost every major statistical average. His 224 passing yards per game, for example, bested Darnold by 40. Flacco’s six touchdown passes in four starts crushed Darnold’s nine scores in 12 starts.

One could potentially argue that the Jets, cursed with needs in every aspect of the game, should’ve considered using Flacco as part of the “stopgap” quarterback phenomenon increasingly popular across the league (i.e. Indianapolis riding Phillip Rivers to a playoff berth last season) and instead using the second overall pick on a offensive weapon (Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase), a blocker (Penei Sewell), or defender (Patrick Surtain II). But what’s done is done.

Head coach Robert Saleh said that Flacco’s ability to win was one of the reasons why the team went out and reattained his services at the cost of a day three draft pick to Philadelphia.

“You know Joe is just that veteran. One of the reasons we went and got Joe is for the experience part of it,” Saleh said. “Not only for the playing ability, but for the room, but also for situations like this. Miami has a dynamic coverage system as it pertains to defense with zero and all the different coverages they run. Joe’s kind of been there, done that, and just kind of a steadying experience that we thought would put us in the best position to win.”

The Flacco gambit also allows the Jets to make up for lost time of sorts: they went through a majority of this season with no experienced backup quarterback on the active roster. There was only so much that Wilson could glean from White, a 2018 draft pick that waited over three years to make his regular season debut, or the well-traveled Josh Johnson, who lingered (and still lingers) on the practice squad before taking advantage of further injuries and garbage time to post career-best numbers against the Colts.

With Flacco, Wilson now has an opportunity to see how a championship quarterback operates in even the most dire of situations and how he works with and develops a young, talented bunch of weapons.

Additionally, Flacco’s rearrival allows the Jets to work through this ongoing process in a relatively peaceful manner, at least in terms of an on-field perspective. His unvaccinated status will probably be discussed over the next few weeks, but from purely a gridiron lens, there’s little, if any, controversy surrounding him.

Flacco could go out and post Mahomesian numbers on Sunday and not a single, healthy-minded Jets fans would be calling for him to usurp Wilson for the franchise throne. It was ludicrous enough that White, the one-game wonder, was raising realistic conversations about Gang Green’s future under center.

Not only are the Jets better poised to foster further offensive development with the Super Bowl MVP Flacco in tow (his previous Baltimore endeavors helping launch the careers of Torrey Smith and Mark Andrews), but the potential long-term quarterback controversy has ended. The Jets can work through the immediate future with little-to-no spotlight.

Once Wilson is fully healthy, he will undoubtedly retake the reins of the Jets’ offense. New York thus avoids a situation that has befallen Sunday’s opponent: the damage the Dolphins did on their potential first-round savior Tua Tagovailoa by alternating him with the eternal prescience of Ryan Fitzpatrick could perhaps never be properly measured or assessed.

In the grand scheme of things, arguing over the Jets’ Sunday starter is likely a fruitless exercise…a good portion of viewers will probably forget who it was by the time “Sunday Night Football” hits the air.

For a team desperately seeking an inner gridiron peace, that’s the best outcome they can hope for.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email: geoffmags90@gmail.com

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Jets71
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Jets71

Finally, some common sense among the writers! Thank you Geoff!!!!! I have no idea why everyone is making such a huge deal over Saleh starting Flacco. First, it was the media who went all ga-ga over Mike White and reasonably so after his Cincy game, but as usual they took it too far. Then White played horribly and the coach came out and said the reporters crowned him, see he didn’t say the Jets had crowned him. Saleh was honest, and his protection of White was more a note to the “beat”…you guys are fickle. Well, they didn’t like that,… Read more »

rags11
Member
rags11

Thank you for the article. According to Bart Scott, who talked about this on his radio program, the plan was for Joe Flacco to start the four game while Zack is out. Because he is unvaccinated, he couldn’t start the first game, thus the Mike White start. Because Mike did so well in his first start, he deserved to start the second game. Because he was playing well to start that game and left with an injury, he got the third game which didn’t turn out well. So here we are four weeks later back at the original plan when… Read more »