The New York Jets believe in Zach Wilson, but must find a capable, consistent backup quarterback
New York Jets quarterbacks:
- Players under contract: Zach Wilson
- Free agents: Joe Flacco (UFA), Mike White (RFA)
- Reserve/future: N/A
The Position on the Position
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but the New York Jets are trapped in a quarterback conundrum.
Rest assured, this won’t be yet another commentary or condemnation of the Zach Wilson selection… there are far enough of those as is.
Wilson, frankly, is one of the aspects of the Jets’ latest rebuild blueprints that appears to be trending in the proper direction. His stats weren’t anything eye-popping but he appeared to be getting the hang of the NFL’s pace and environment in his last seven games played after coming back from a sprained PCL sustained in an October loss to New England.
Wilson’s increased mobile confidence (163 yards on 21 carries) and pocket IQ (no interceptions over his final five games/162 attempts) were particularly inspiring in yet another lost season.
Zach Wilson, the Mormon Mahomes, with a 52-yard TD run 😲😲😲 pic.twitter.com/8CFMJPtJuS
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) December 26, 2021
It’s the situation behind Wilson that looks somewhat frightful.
As it stands, Wilson is the only quarterback under contract on the New York roster, seemingly dooming the Jets to deal with a similar issue that plagued last season’s passing game: the lack of an experienced, reliable backup quarterback. The Jets should be fully educated on the importance of the role – no New York quarterback has started a full season since Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015.
Despite several alumni from the San Francisco days of head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur (i.e. C.J. Beathard, Brian Hoyer, Nick Mullens) lingering in free agency, the Jets mostly ignored the idea of experience when it came to the backup quarterback spot. Most of training camp was spent with Wilson, James Morgan, and Mike White as the exclusive throwers with nary a single pass, or even game, of NFL experience among them.
Though White held down the fort during Wilson’s medically-induced absence, some noted that Wilson had no veteran mentor to work with in his developmental rookie season. The Jets made desperate attempts to atone for this supposed sin through the late additions of Josh Johnson and later Joe Flacco.
With Wilson currently standing as the only metropolitan quarterback under contract, the Jets must address the role even if the top spot isn’t one of the primary offseason priorities (for a change).
— New York Jets UK (@NYJetsinUK) November 21, 2021
The Jets have enough draft-day capital to the point where dealing a Saturday selection to Philadelphia to bring back Flacco (2020’s understudy who signed with the Eagles last spring) in a desperate attempt for veteran assurance is forgivable.
Flacco’s rearrival drew unwanted attention through the trade and his vaccination status (or lack thereof) but he performed respectably in two games with the Jets, notably throwing for 291 yards and two scores in relief of Wilson and White in a narrow November loss too Miami.
With a 15th NFL season looming, Flacco has shown no hints of retiring. His days as a consistent starter are undoubtedly behind him, but he could draw attention as a valuable mentoring commodity. Between his honorable showings in fill-in duty and his storied NFL past, there may be no better weapon for a developing team looking to stabilize its long-term passing game.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) October 31, 2021
For one glorious Sunday, Myers was no longer Halloween’s most feared Michael. That honor instead went to White, whose literally Hall of Fame-worthy performance guided the Jets to an unlikely win over last weekend’s Super Bowl competitors.
Every subsequent Bengal-based accomplishment in the near future will likely cause White’s name to trend on social media, as his 405-yard, three-score showing was one of the few curses of Cincinnati’s magical gridiron season. Such endeavors came after White meandered across the football wilderness after failing to take the field in his first three professional seasons as a fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2018.
The offensive explosion against the Bengals, one of the most destructive in recent New York memory, led some to unironically float the idea of White usurping Wilson in the franchise quarterback role. An immediate injury in the ensuing Thursday contest in Indianapolis interrupted Mike-mania and a four-turnover showing against four-touchdown victors from Buffalo ended it.
Will They Draft?
Under no circumstances should the Jets use a draft pick, even in their 2022 abundance, on a quarterback, but that hasn’t stopped them before.
Choosing Morgan in the fourth round of the 2020 draft was bizarre at the time and became dumbfoundingly painful thanks to both emergence of Gabriel Davis (who went to Buffalo three picks later) and the fact the Florida International alum didn’t dress in a single regular season game in green.
If the Jets must draft a quarterback for the third season in a row (and, again, they shouldn’t), such a selection undoubtedly wouldn’t come before day three.
Veteran Names to Watch
Andy Dalton. RAVENS KILLER.pic.twitter.com/g4qIZXNclS
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) November 21, 2021
Andy Dalton, Chicago
Dalton is once again a free agent after a bizarre year in Chicago that saw him frequently alternate between Justin Fields’ mentor and competitor.
If the Jets firmly set some boundaries and let Dalton know from the get-go that he will serve as a veteran to Wilson, a turn to New York could prove fruitful. Dalton has also been trustworthy in event of an emergency, notably keeping the Cowboys lingering in contention in an admittedly dreary NFC East title race after Dak Prescott went down in 2020.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) November 3, 2019
Brian Hoyer, New England
Say what you will about Hoyer, but the 36-year-old has developed a lasting NFL prescience after entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2009. Most of that tenure has been spent in New England, where he was recently lauded for his mentorship work with Wilson’s fellow 2021 draftee Mac Jones.
Hoyer previously worked with LaFleur during a rare year as a primary starter in 2014, as the latter’s first NFL job came as an offensive intern in Cleveland.
Trevor Siemian just tossed it up for six 😳
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 21, 2021
Trevor Siemian, New Orleans
The Jets had the right idea when they previously signed Siemian prior to the 2019 season. The seventh-round pick was set to serve as a mentor to a then-sophomore Sam Darnold after assuming the Denver Broncos’ franchise quarterback role for two seasons.
Siemian had just enough starting credentials to be called upon in a pinch and was fully aware of pressure situations as the man who succeeded Peyton Manning in Denver.
However, Siemian was thrust into the top role after Darnold infamously contracted mononucleosis and lasted only six passes before he was likewise forced out due to medical reasons (in his case an ankle injury).
Siemian performed admirably in place of Jameis Winston in the Saints’ first year post-Drew Brees, throwing 11 touchdowns against three interceptions and earning a career-best in passer rating (88.4).
At this point, it’s probably best to cut ties with White, whose 2021 saga will probably go down as one of the most uncanny chapters in NFL history.
One of the few verbal mistakes Saleh made in his maiden New York voyage was merely hinting, even indirectly, that White was being considered for the long-term starting role. Magical as MetLife Stadium became on that holiday afternoon, it was nothing lasting. The Jets don’t have time to reminisce on single-game nostalgics.
Backup quarterback nonetheless remains an important need for this team, but the Jets have so many others and can’t bog themselves down with such a search. The easiest solution would probably be to invite Flacco back for another season, though management will likely embark on their due diligence in an admittedly crowded free agent understudy/mentor market.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags