Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, NY Jets
Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, New York Jets, Getty Images

In football, numbers lie on a frequent basis. This is the most misleading stat about the 2022 New York Jets through seven games.

Statistics are a great tool to aid in football discussions – but only when they are used with proper context. Some stats tell the wrong story if you don’t dig deeper.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the one stat that I find to be the most misleading about the 2022 New York Jets through their first seven games.

Joe Flacco’s passing yards vs. Zach Wilson’s passing yards

I frequently see people who clearly have not watched any Jets games claim that New York should bench Zach Wilson for Joe Flacco. To back up their claims, they usually point to the raw passing yardage totals of the two quarterbacks.

Most of these comments sound something like this: “Joe Flacco passed for 901 yards in 3 games. Zach Wilson passed for 693 yards in 4 games. It’s pretty clear the Jets should make a change if they’re serious about winning.”

If you’re one of the people who has made such a claim: Please stop box-score scouting and actually watch a game.

Jets fans who watched the first three games of the season are aware of how poorly Flacco played. He had a decent/solid game against the Browns, but that was sandwiched between a pair of horrible starts against the Ravens and Bengals. His overall body of work was not close to the quality of a starting-level quarterback.

The only reason Flacco has passed for so many more yards per game than Wilson is because he got significantly many more pass attempts per game. Therein lies the most frustrating aspect of the pro-Flacco argument: Even if you are a box-score scout, you should still know that Flacco’s passing yardage total is misleading. All you have to do is look at his number of pass attempts! It’s that simple.

Flacco threw 51.7 passes per game, hurling 155 throws in three starts. Wilson is throwing 25.3 passes per game, tossing 101 balls in four starts. So, it’s no wonder that Flacco is averaging 300.3 yards per game and Wilson is averaging only 173.3.

On a per-attempt basis, Wilson has clearly been better than Flacco. Wilson ranks 24th out of 36 qualified quarterbacks with 5.9 net yards per pass attempt (a statistic that adjusts traditional yards-per-attempt by deducting sack yardage). Flacco ranks dead-last with 5.1 net yards per pass attempt.

Wilson is also outpacing Flacco in other quarterback evaluation metrics, such as ESPN’s QBR, where Wilson ranks 20th out of 36 qualifiers with a 48.6 QBR while Flacco is way down at 35th with a 30.3 QBR.

Another off-base comment I frequently hear: The disparity in pass attempts between Flacco and Wilson is a sign that the Jets trust Flacco more.

Ever heard of a game script?

The Jets essentially never led on the scoreboard in any of Flacco’s three starts. Outside of the game-ending kneeldown in Cleveland, the Jets did not run a single offensive play with the lead while Flacco was the starter.

Under Wilson, however, the Jets have spent the majority of their time either leading or tied. They have only trailed for 25:39 out of 240 minutes (10.7%) since Wilson returned, while they have spent 162:33 with the lead (67.7%).

Flacco threw a lot because the Jets were constantly playing from behind, not because the Jets had a special amount of trust in him. Wilson rarely throws because the Jets have had favorable situations on the scoreboard, allowing them to establish their ground game and milk the clock.

The Jets never trailed in two of Wilson’s four games (MIA and GB), and in a third (DEN), they only trailed for 3:37. Most of the trailing time under Wilson came against Pittsburgh, and, lo and behold, the Jets trusted Wilson enough to call 40 passing plays for him in that game.

When you adjust for the game situations, it’s clear there isn’t much of a difference in how the Jets have called plays for each quarterback. In fact, the Jets might even trust Wilson more.

From Weeks 1-3, the Jets had a 42%/58% pass-run ratio on first-down plays in the first quarter (8 pass, 11 run). Over the past four weeks, they have elected to pass much more frequently on first downs in the opening period, employing a 52%/48% pass-run ratio in these situations (12 pass, 11 run).

Wilson has struggled and must be better. That much is clear when watching his film. I’m not saying he’s playing well.

But simply comparing Wilson’s passing yardage to Flacco’s is a pointless endeavor and adds nothing to the conversation. When you put their passing numbers in context, it’s clear that there isn’t a debate to be had between Wilson and Flacco.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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mlesko73
mlesko73
1 month ago

Thank you for writing this article.
From the comments, it looks like my fellow fans are getting it.
I’ve been pulling my hair out in other forums trying to tell our fanbase to take a breath.
Zach has played 17 games, one season.
A lot of these fans would have serious egg on their face if they lived in Buffalo and assessed Josh Allen after year one AND year two. They would have run arguably the best QB in the league out of town!
I’m not saying Zach is Joe Willie, but he might be some day. Let’s see. No one expected us to even sniff a playoff berth, so let’s realize we’re playing w/ house money and let the process of growth work.

DFargas
DFargas
1 month ago

Funny thing is that the different offensive approach that LaFleur has used with Wilson compared with Flacco has a lot to do not with the Jets offense but with its defense. The D in Flacco’s games was a total mess, causing the Jets to fall behind early and have to pass a lot. Since then, the D has made a huge leap, especially at safety. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a unit make such an improvement but we kind of knew it was coming because of the players. This has allowed LaFleur to use a run-heavy game plan and generally be patient. It’s been good for Wilson and the team overall. Now it’s time for the fans to be patient.

mlesko73
mlesko73
1 month ago
Reply to  DFargas

hallelulah and amen…a Jets fan w/ perspective!
100%

Sarah
Sarah
1 month ago

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Last edited 1 month ago by Sarah
Peter Buell
Peter Buell
1 month ago

I’ve been saying this the past few days. If Flacco played Sunday he’d be in traction. I see the wisdom in getting Robertsin but losing AVT is a huge loss as well.
The line really needs to get its act together. As much as I’d hate to lose a young receiver, even after Saleh and co pretty much gave Moore a free pass he cokes out again and triples down.
If they can get a string lineman for him that’s needed as much if not more than a WR who just can’t shut up.
Mims us next man up but I also liked this kid Cal Jackson who is on the practice squad.
Can’t have a 2nd year guy screwing up the locker room.

Rich
Rich
1 month ago

To the eye, Zach is significantly better than last year even if the stats don’t show it. The most important stat this year is ZERO interceptions the past 3 games, all resulting in pretty convincing team wins. What he’s improved at most, eliminating a lot of negative plays: sacks, ints, including the maddening running out of bounds behind the LOS instead of throwing it for an incompletion. He’s better. Period. Which suggests he’ll continue to improve going forward. He’s only 23.

Jets71
Jets71
1 month ago

As difficult as it is sometimes I try to turn off the delusional when it comes to things like this (also I don’t look at any twitter or media during games as Ben said on the Podcast…never).

Ok so, over the past couple of days I was giving Zach a hard time after watching Vitor’s breakdown, but one thing that should be noted is Zach saved about a half dozen sacks in Denver. Flacco surely would have gone down more than Zach. I wonder if the Jets could have won had it been Flacco rather than Zach?

For me this isn’t even a debate. I fully expect Zach to have a much better second half as he has just finished his first full season of games. I also think some of the “mechanical” things he’s doing can and will be fixed. My bigger concerns are the “weapons” or what has quickly become a lack of weapons for Zach. I hope in time the WR position gets healthy both physically and in Moore’s case, mentally.

Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
1 month ago
Reply to  Jets71

I agree, They say Zach is a hard worker and loves to study and I believe them. So as long as him and Lafleur can be on the same page about what needs to be done week to week then I see there being no reason why Zach can’t progress. The Bears where 2-4 going against the Pats on Monday night. There OC came up with an excellent game plan to take away the Blitz. They ran a lot of shotgun to negate the Pats pass rush and Blitzes. It opened up the field for the QB to run the ball and boot. I foresee the Jets trying the same thing to help Zach make his pre snap reads easier and buying him an extra second in the pocket. My concerns are the same as yours in regards to the WR’s creating separation. If Moore plays this week. I expect him to be a Major factor in the passing game playing the slot. Mims and Smith don’t poses the speed or separation that Moore has.

Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
1 month ago

I for one was in favor of Flacco over Wilson before the Steelers game and voiced my opinion on a article Written by Rivka. Since then I have come to realize that Rivka and you are right. Even though Joes yards and TD’s are more than Wilsons. Joe is nowhere near as mobile as Wilson is and can not throw on the run like Wilson can. The Jets O-line would have a lot more Sacks on there stat sheet if it wasn’t for Wilson’s Mobility. The Jets would definitly not be 5-2 as well. Wilson had very small windows to get the ball out against Denver. He just did not see them. Losing 3 starters on offence did not help as well. Its a new week and a new opportunity for Lafleur to game plan against the Pats pass rush. Hopefully some short routes tailored to get the ball out of Wilson hands faster. Especially early in the game. If Moore plays this week putting him in the slot would make the most of his talent and to get him involved statistically. If the new RB Robinson plays then that should help ease the load for Wilson. I noticed the Bears played a lot of Shotgun on MNF. Could this buy Wilson an extra second to find the open receiver?

Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Palazzo

The Jets passed out of shotgun 12 times against Denver. The 2 times they did not Wilson had to scramble as soon as he dropped back. 1 being a sack and the other an incomplete pass.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
1 month ago

It’s really sad that you had to write this article.