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.