It’s time to go all-in on 2023
What happens if the New York Jets miss out on the future Hall of Famer?
The New York Jets have an uncanny ability to plug themselves in some uncomfortable spots. After the 2022 season affirmed the fact that Zach Wilson is not (at least for the foreseeable future) the guy to lead Robert Saleh’s squad to the promised land, New York is once again on the lookout for a signal caller.
And the said search is once again the main topic of the Jets’ offseason.
Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, and Jimmy Garopolo seem to be the three main targets, be it via trade or the open market.
Rodgers, 39, is a first-ballot Hall of Famer with an unquestioned resumé. Carr, a former second-round pick, seems to be the favorite option from a cost-benefit perspective. Jimmy G, in his turn, is perceived as a system QB who won’t find success away from Kyle Shanahan.
The Jets have already made clear which scheme they are going to run after hiring Nathaniel Hackett, the former Denver Broncos head coach and Rodgers’s former coordinator, to be the team’s offensive coordinator.
Hackett, 43, is a coach with an unimpressive resumé: his best days came in Jacksonville, coaching the 2017 offense that made it to the AFC Championship Game with Blake Bortles under center. His days in Green Bay come with an asterisk, as former offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur called the plays and probably was deeply involved with game planning.
Bottom line: Hackett is a settled coach who’s bounced around and has never been “exceptional.” He’s not a coach that will help elevate the unit’s ceiling.
After hiring Hackett, something became even clearer: despite the optimism surrounding Carr, when considering the New York Jets’ particular context, the soon-to-be former Raider is closer to Garapolo than he is to Rodgers.
Carr, 31, comes with more question marks than Jets fans want to think.
First, Carr has never played on the East Coast: his high school and college days passed in California, while he only played for the Raiders (Oakland, Las Vegas) in the NFL. Does Carr even want to play in the New York cold while also having to travel to Buffalo and New England every year?
Second, yes, Carr has had four seasons with over 4,000 passing yards, and he has posted better overall numbers than Garoppolo. But one has to keep in mind that the same circumstances that might stop Carr from having team success help him reach better individual stats: the Raiders’ bad defenses made Carr play catch-up football often. When you look into Carr’s four 4,000-yard seasons, three of them came with negative or even records (4-12, 2008; 7-9, 2019; 8-8, 2020).
Third, after the Hackett hiring, It’s safe to say that Carr has never played on the scheme that the Jets will deploy.
All in all: the prospect of Carr’s success in New York is more uncertain than fans want to think.
Garoppolo, on the other hand, might be lifted due to the specific New York Jets context: he’s played in cold weather in college (Eastern Illinois) and early in his New England career. He’s got scheme familiarity with Hackett, who, like Kyle Shanahan (albeit not nearly as well), wants to manufacture open space over the middle on play-action throws, at which Garoppolo excels.
Also, despite never having thrown for over 4,000 yards (he did throw for 3,978 in 2019 when the 49ers had a 13-3 record), Garoppolo has played his entire career under a scheme that relies on the ground game and with a good defense on his back, which depressed his passing numbers.
Garoppolo’s major question mark is health: he played a full season only once, in 2019, and has suffered from numerous injuries over the past few seasons. Still, portraying him as a major downgrade to Derek Carr is not true.
A word of caution: This article doesn’t say Garoppolo is as good as Carr. He is not. Carr is an above-average-to-good quarterback, while Garoppolo is an average player. But he’s not as far behind as many people think.
Football fans have to understand that there’s something in between the “great” and the “bad,” and that’s where both Garoppolo and Carr are. Neither of them has to be pushed to either category: Carr isn’t great; Garoppolo isn’t bad. One is an average quarterback (Garoppolo) and the other is an above-average quarterback (Carr).
Considering the Jets’ context, It’s fair to wonder if those guys aren’t even closer to each other than the isolated tape watch might indicate.
Rodgers, unquestionably, has all the tools needed: the resumé, the scheme familiarity with Hackett, and has played his whole career in the Green Bay cold.
Rodgers’ cost is his only minus: it might be pricey. Still, It’s hard to think of a value that wouldn’t make it worthwhile for all parties involved on the Jets’ side.
For Saleh and Joe Douglas, it increases the likelihood of keeping their jobs. To fans, it’s the most concrete hope for the team’s first playoff win since the 2010 season (and, who knows, maybe even the Super Bowl). For Woody Johnson, it means full stadiums and a lot of media attention – which is everything the Jets owner could hope for.
But if Rodgers says no… Well, the Jets will have to forget the great and live with the average, no matter if Jimmy G or Derek Carr comes aboard: average expectations, average play at the quarterback position, and, for Woody, average attendance.
It would put extra pressure on Douglas to build a competitive roster and Saleh to coach his players up.
Quarterback play-wise, it will certainly be better than what 2022 had for them. Still, Saleh might want to keep Mike White around. Who knows … just in case.