FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets don’t have a quarterback controversy. They have quarterback confusion.
Coach Robert Saleh’s stunning decision to start Joe Flacco on Sunday, only two days after insisting he hasn’t lost faith in Mike White, is puzzling on a few levels. White played a bad game against the best defensive team in the NFL, the Buffalo Bills, and now Saleh is doing what he accused the media of doing.
“This market fascinates me in the sense that [White] was anointed The Next Coming after one game, and now everyone wants to throw him away,” Saleh said Monday. “He deserves better than that.”
Two weeks ago, they were ready to write songs about White. Now, with QB1 Zach Wilson (knee) still not 100%, he has been replaced by a 36-year-old statue who hasn’t started a game since Nov. 22, 2020. Talk about a quick fall.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with something positive.
The Jets are being ultra-cautious with Wilson, recognizing his long-term importance to the franchise. Good for them. Saleh & Co. are trying their best not to sabotage their quarterback of the future, something the previous regime failed to do with Sam Darnold.
This will get lost in the hysteria fueled by the Flacco-over-White decision, but Wilson’s well-being and development are the top priorities in 2021. It’s important not to lose sight of the macro view. They’re protecting their No. 1 asset.
As for the micro view, yes, Saleh looks indecisive. There’s also the whole rebuilding aspect to consider. As everybody knows, the Jets are in the midst of a youth movement, experiencing painful growing pains, and the idea is to play the kids and give them a chance to develop.
Flacco is no kid. Half the players on the Jets’ roster were preteens when he won the Super Bowl MVP for the Baltimore Ravens after the 2012 season. Basically, Flacco is a one-game punching bag, a placeholder until Wilson returns.
It also looks weird because, for several months, the Jets stubbornly refused to sign a veteran backup, insisting they were fine with Wilson and White. Suddenly, they traded a 2022 conditional sixth-round pick for Flacco three weeks ago, after Wilson’s injury, and now he’s starting against the Miami Dolphins.
Saleh made it sound like this was an opponent-specific decision, saying Flacco’s experience makes him better equipped to handle Miami’s blitz-heavy defense. In last week’s game, the Dolphins blitzed a defensive back on 24 dropbacks, confusing and frustrating the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson. They sacked him four times. If the league’s most mobile quarterback couldn’t escape, what will happen to Flacco?
The Jets’ belief is Flacco’s veteran presence will have a calming effect on the rest of the offense, even though he has barely practiced with the team. Saleh’s football reasons might be sound, but when viewed through the prism of the entire quarterback picture, the change comes across as a head-scratcher.
What the Jets need now is a healthy Wilson in the lineup, showing improvement and making the rest of this quarterback nonsense fade away.