James Morgan has been a literal bystander to the New York Jets’ demise. He should at least get a chance to stop it.
It’s hard to find anyone truly blameless in the ongoing disaster that is 2020 New York Jets football. Everyone on the Jets’ game day manifest has come up short in some way, shape, or form. Arguments can be in how much blame individual members have accumulated, but the Jets are 0-6, the NFL’s last winless team, for a reason: they’re losing as a team. Le’Veon Bell was labeled the de facto first scapegoat when the Jets released him earlier in the week. That did nothing to solve the Jets’ woes, as the first post-Bell session saw them fall in a 24-0 shellacking in Miami.
The Jets’ universal woes make it hard to truly assess the quarterback position. Things have gotten bad enough that legitimate conversations are being had about moving on from Sam Darnold in the franchise quarterback spot. But, with Darnold injured, 2020’s cesspool has also sucked in the career of former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who capped off the most recent loss by taking a 28-yard sack that took the Jets out of field goal range and carried on a South Beach shutout effort.
It’s understandable why Flacco was brought in. While showcasing the occasional flash of brilliance, it’s fair to say that Darnold has struggled to stay healthy over his first two NFL seasons (six games missed over that span). Bringing a veteran like Flacco, a guy with championship acumen and a little bit of professional effectiveness, gave the Jets a sense of security if/when the unthinkable happened to Darnold again, a player that could keep the team afloat in case of emergency.
But with emergency and chaos established as the evergreen settings in New York, Flacco no longer has a purpose in New York. Thus, it’s time to turn to one of the last blemish-free players on the roster: rookie thrower James Morgan.
Morgan’s “innocence” is perhaps solely supported by the fact he has yet to wear a Jets game jersey. Chosen in the fourth round of April’s draft out of Florida International, a preseason showcase was denied to him by the ongoing health crisis. Some saw his selection as questionable, with the Jets seemingly set on a young quarterback, but others justified his New York arrival as the team bringing in a young project to situate and develop behind Darnold. Putting him in a 2020 contest would be a transaction of dire circumstances, an occasion of only extreme desperation.
We’ve long made it to that point. It’s time to let Morgan show what he can do.
Like the Jets as a whole, Morgan is in a situation where he has nothing to lose. Despite quickly climbing up the passing leaderboard at FIU (he ranks 2nd in most major categories despite spending only two seasons in Miami after a transfer from Bowling Green), no one’s seeing Morgan as a franchise quarterback, especially in New York. But the team did use a fourth-round pick to bring him in, so they might as well get their money’s worth and allow Morgan
Flacco’s purpose is long gone. He can still provide mentorship from the bench, but subjecting him to more of this New York torture is sullying an otherwise strong NFL career. The Jets might as well use whatever opportunities they have left…ten games remain on their schedule, unfortunate as that may be…to empty their vaults of young talent and see what they have before the ongoing purge (one that began with Bell’s release and a postgame trade of veteran defender Steve McLendon to Tampa Bay) presumably hits apocalyptic levels in the offseason.
A Morgan promotion is part of a youth movement the Jets should be embracing on a full-time basis. Frank Gore shouldn’t still be getting more carries than La’Micael Perine and Ty Johnson combined. The receiving corps can showcase the talents of Jeff Smith and Braxton Berrios, with Jamison Crowder (another candidate for an unblemished resume in terms of New York endeavors) overseeing as a reliable veteran prescience on the field. Morgan could perhaps make his NFL debut alongside other rookies who have had trouble seeing the field, like Denzel Mims, Cameron Clark, and Bryce Hall (all of whom have been injured at the onset of their pro careers).
The Jets have nothing to lose. Their playoff hopes ended before those of the Yankees and the smallest mistake, no matter how trivial, will earn headlines and hashtags like “#LOLJets” no matter what they do. If this season from the darkest depths of the football underworld allows them consequence-free opportunities to see what they have in the youth reserves, you might as well take it.
Of course, Morgan’s opportunity should perhaps become null and void if/when Darnold becomes healthy. The franchise man should perhaps get another chance to protect his title, especially if they go through on finding a new coach before or after the year lets out. But if Darnold is still down..or even if the Jets want to hold him out of the toxicity of 2020 football…there’s no use in subjecting Flacco (or even Mike White, a traveled veteran seeking his first regular season snaps) to more of this. At the very least, the Jets should also see what they have so they know exactly what needs to go on their offseason checklist. Their MetLife Stadium co-tenants dealt with the rising of a Davis Webb cult during the 2018 offseason, if only because it was never proven that he wasn’tÂ the answer under center.
The Jets need something, anything, to help leave this season on any level or form of comfort. Giving Morgan an opportunity could be a desperate, yet effective, way of doing so.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags