Joe Flacco could help the New York Jets’ offense salvage its season

Joe Flacco’s return allows the New York Jets a chance at offensive development and reconciliation for its young core.

At best, Joe Flacco’s New York Jets tenure will be commemorated when Twitter users facetiously play the “legends” game. Favorite examples amongst users in the tri-state area, for example, include “Boston Bruins legend Brian Leetch”, “Orlando Magic legend Patrick Ewing”, or “Los Angeles Sparks legend Teresa Weatherspoon”.

Even if his destiny lies in competing with Brett Favre and Michael Vick for a roster spot on the “Wait He Played for the Jets?!?!” team, Flacco is back for more metropolitan endeavors. After 11 publicized and discussed seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII is now making his fourth move in three years. His latest was confirmed on Tuesday, as he’s going back to the Jets in a trade that sent a conditional sixth-round pick to his former employers in Philadelphia.

Flacco arrives just in time to potentially save the Jets’ 2021 season.

Allow me to go full Mora before you flock to the comment section: don’t talk about playoffs. Ending the NFL’s longest active playoff drought was a remote possibility when this season started and it’s probably a downright impossibility now. Despite another pre-Halloween elimination, the Jets (1-5) are once again offered a macabre gift: a de facto extension of the preseason.

Their remaining 2021 slate features 11 consequence-free opportunities to get the ball rolling on the future. These games, starting with Sunday’s visit from the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (1 p.m. ET, CBS) are experimental research and development sessions, auditions to see who can stay for the supposedly good times ahead. If they win, it’s a pat on the back. Losses are no big deal as long as the effort was high and draft position is gained.

Such an opportunity would’ve been a godsend for a struggling rookie quarterback like Zach Wilson. Lowered stakes would provide much-needed relief from his freshman season, one where he could make mistakes in a relatively controlled environment. He could take chances, throw deep, and find ways to build chemistry with a young, developing group of receivers without the burden of a potential playoff trip weighing him down.

Then came the injury.

Wilson will miss the Jets’ immediate future after leaving Sunday’s disastrous visit to New England early with what was originally described as a knee injury. The ensuing MRI revealed a sprained PCL that came with a two-to-four week timeline for his return. Under the supervision of backup Mike White, the Jets’ offense got off to a promising start, scoring on two of his first three possessions. Alas, White’s NFL debut spiraled out of control as New England’s lead widened, and he ended the day with 202 yards and two interceptions as well as a touchdown on his first professional pass to Corey Davis.

White performed admirably for someone who was, realistically, never supposed to see a regular season snap. But the 2018 draftee did nothing to vindicate the Jets’ rather bizarre decision to draft to retain him as the primary backup. It’s not like White was a touted college prospect (chosen by Dallas on the last day of the 2018 draft), had a heroic preseason (a career 71.5 passer rating over three summers), or had a connection to the new coaching staff.

mike white, michael carter, jets

There were plenty of opportunities for the Jets to bring in a veteran understudy that could double as a mentor: Brian Hoyer was brought in for a workout but re-upped with the Patriots instead. Nick Mullens worked with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco as a serviceable fill-in but he went to the Eagles and now lingers on Cleveland’s practice squad. The Jets brought in the well-traveled Josh Johnson in the late stages of the summer, but he’s been relegated to the practice squad and holds no gameday value to Wilson.

Simply put, the Flacco rearrival is making up for lost time.

A backup quarterback has two purposes on an NFL roster: hold an off-field role in terms of creating learning opportunities and chemistry and provide emergency services if the unthinkable happens to the starter. Simply put, do not be the reason the team loses a game. Such a gambit has been an awkward endeavor for the Jets, who haven’t had anything of value to play for in a long time.

The closest thing they’ve had to glory days in the new century have been complemented by the veteran contributions of guys like Mark Brunell and Josh McCown. Their statistics weren’t legendary but they left a sizable impact on the would-be franchisee men in front of them. Brunell formed a strong bond with Mark Sanchez while the best numbers of Sam Darnold’s career were earned under the supervision of McCown.

But wins and losses weren’t at stake for the Jets at this point in time. The real concern is the development of their young weapons set to lead them into the next generation. With Flacco, there’s hope that they can get some forward momentum.

The Jets spent this offseason stocking their offensive arsenal in preparation for Wilson’s arrival. Bringing in the big guns like Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, and Hunter Henry was probably out of the question for a two-win team but they nonetheless acquired a talented group of both veterans (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole) and rookies (Elijah Moore). Questions can be raised about how the Jets have used these weapons…Denzel Mims’ 2021 season, or lack thereof, has been particularly ridiculous…but if New York wants to make any offensive progress with Wilson out, White wasn’t going to be the answer.

While White is the likely starter for Sunday’s visit from the Bengals (and, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the planned thrower until Wilson gets healthy), it’s more likely that any professional impact he’ll make will come in another XFL/USFL reboot rather than the NFL. An experienced, accomplished name like Flacco can work with these young receivers and help their development stay on course.

It’s not like Flacco is an inactive slouch as he reaches the twilight of his NFL career. We’re certainly no longer having the infamous “Is Joe Flacco Elite?” debate, but he was arguably responsible for the Jets’ best offensive outputs of the 2020 season. Of note, Flacco’s 128.7 passer rating tallied during a Monday night defeat at the hands of the Patriots last November was the best earned by a Jets quarterback since the 2016 season. Though the Jets lost each of his starts, Flacco at least helped the team gain some offensive traction.

Despite his limited time in green, before temporarily changing his shade for the summer and early stages of fall, Flacco left an impression on the New York landscape.

“I think you saw it, I think everyone saw it, how well he throws the football,” then-Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, now with the Arkansas Razorbacks, said after the New England game in a postgame report from Andy Vazquez of NorthJersey.com. “This guy, he’s gifted that way, and he did some really nice things for us. He’s really accurate. I do think this guy is a starter in this league, and we’re very fortunate to have the quarterback situation we have right now…That’s why Joe was brought here.”

Even before Wilson got hurt, 2021 was meant to be a year of development, growth, baby steps for the fledgling Jets. The injury puts them in danger of losing that as well. With Flacco arrives the rare chance to pick up a win, even if the rewards aren’t immediately reaped.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Does Joe Flacco have a future with the franchise?

Joe Flacco played respectably while substituting for Sam Darnold. It’s possible he can play it into a future with the New York Jets.

Those also writing about Joe Flacco’s NFL career likely won’t be using the word “future” much longer.

That’s no slight toward the New York Jets quarterback. Age is a near-undefeated behemoth that has claimed the careers of countless others before him and, at 35, there’s no denying that Flacco’s time is coming. The polarizing ex-Baltimore Raven has built himself a solid NFL career that turned him into one of the major faces of pro football in the 21st century. But his glory days, like his legendary run to Super Bowl XLVII, are long behind him. Football analysts, amateur and professional alike, will likely view his time in a Jets uniform (as well as his eight-game cameo in the colors of the Denver Broncos) through the same, sarcastic lens of Tom Brady’s ongoing Tampa Bay endeavors.

But if this truly is the end for Flacco, could the final, successful chapters be written in green?

With Sam Darnold set to return on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS) in a situation where his job as the franchise man could be on the line, it stands to reason that Flacco, a free-agent-to-be, probably won’t take the field again unless the former endures yet another injury. Flacco has started four games for the Jets (0-10) this season, all after Darnold injured his shoulder in a loss to Denver on October 1, an ailment reaggravated a month later in Kansas City.

The intent behind signing Flacco was clear: if the unthinkable happened to the developing Darnold (again), the Jets would have a decent-enough substitution to tread water until the younger thrower came back. Additionally, if there was ever an on-field mentor for Darnold, one could’ve done far worse than bringing in a former Super Bowl MVP used to adversity. Josh McCown was the best of both worlds before he chose a brief retirement. Flacco believed he could still start for another team after his reign upon the Baltimore throne ended with the emergence of Lamar Jackson, but willingly embraced such a role.

“It’s where I am right now and I’m glad to be on a team playing football in some capacity,” Flacco said after his signing in May, per Andy Vazquez of USA Today. “I think it’s going to be huge to get in there and know the guys and develop a relationship with the team and do anything I can to help the team get better and in that process, help Sam with whatever he needs help with.”

It didn’t take long for the overwhelmed Jets (0-10) to call upon Flacco to empty whatever was left in his NFL quarterbacking tank. Asking him to fully flip the Jets’ fortunes was a little too much…the New York issues go far beyond the quarterback…but, in a surprising turn of events, the Jets’ struggling offense looked how they were supposed to look in 2020: a rebuilding team that was slowly but surely getting it together.

Over the last two weeks, the Jets have earned 614 yards and 55 points under Flacco’s watch, each of which are season-highs in consecutive games. Flacco has done his part, particularly over the last two games with five touchdown passes and 467 yards, good for a passer rating of 102.6. That made him one of a dozen quarterbacks with at least 50 pass attempts with a triple-digit passer rating over the last two games. Only Patrick Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger have thrown more touchdown passes than Flacco in that span, with the mark tying him with Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert (who had three as his Los Angeles Chargers topped Flacco and the Jets last Sunday).

It’s not like Flacco’s tenure was exempt from 2020 Jets shenanigans; he took a 30-yard sack in a shutout loss in Miami and threw a “really bad” pick-six deep in Jets territory in the most recent defeat in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, the undeniable leadership and defacto spark Flacco brought to the lineup was noticed by his teammates and coaches alike.

“It’s been good for the most part,” receiver Breshad Perriman said of his relationship with Flacco after the defeat in Los Angeles, per Jack Bell of NewYorkJets.com. “Of course it could always be better. But it’s definitely going good.”

Working with Flacco, a fellow former Raven, Perriman has earned touchdown receptions in back-to-back games. Two came in the Jets’ 30-27 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots two weeks ago, good for Perriman’s first 100-yard since last season in Tampa Bay.

“I think you saw it, I think everyone saw it, how well he throws the football,” Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said after the New England game in another report from Vazquez. “This guy, he’s gifted that way, and he did some really nice things for us. He’s really accurate. I do think this guy is a starter in this league, and we’re very fortunate to have the quarterback situation we have right now. And that’s why Joe was brought here.”

. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have some major decisions to make when it comes to their quarterback spot. These final hours of the 2020 season could mean everything to Darnold, whose status as the face of the franchise could be in major jeopardy if they get the top overall pick in next spring’s draft. Surprisingly, there may be a little more clarity in the understudy role, because no matter who starts at quarterback for the Jets come 2021…be it Darnold, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Field, or an unknown entity…is going to need some form of mentorship and stability behind him. It’s highly unlikely the Jets will replicate the Kansas City Chiefs’ idea and sit a potential draftee for a year. Duplicating the strategy that ended Flacco’s tenure in Baltimore, where Jackson came in partway through his rookie season, is equally doubtful. But having a veteran quarterback on the roster is essential on the rookie franchise quarterback shopping list. Protection is a close second, but the Jets have admittedly been doing well in that regard with the Mekhi Becton selection paying dividends thus far. That’s where Flacco comes into the Jets’ future plans.

For all we know, the Jets’ offensive progress stemmed not from Flacco, but from the fact that the Jets were able to use their top three receivers (Perriman, Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder) in the same game(s). But if Darnold is willing to carry on the role of the mentor backup, it could be a perfect match and a perfect way to end his career. The role. of a perfect backup quarterback is, if you are pressed into service, don’t be the reason for your squad’s demise. If you can provide mentorship an intuitive sense of know-how to the lineup, that’s an added bonus. Flacco fulfills both of these roles and gives the Jets security for the future.

Flacco, for his part, has not given any indication toward retirement. If he was willing to come back from a neck injury sustained in Denver last season, then mere losses shouldn’t serve a deterrent in advancing things further. If the calling comes, he well could go to a team seeking a quick fix at quarterback to win immediately (the 5-5 Chicago Bears perhaps come to mind as they’re set to revert to Mitchell Trubisky this Sunday night).

But there’s no shame in serving as a veteran mentor to close one’s career. It worked perfectly for guys like Mark Brunell, perhaps one of the most accurate comparisons Flacco will receive. A Super Bowl as a starter was denied to the left-handed Brunell, but he left a lasting mark on the passing antics of the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise, much like Flacco did back in Baltimore.

After his time in Jacksonville ended, Brunell would later end his career with the Jets and New Orleans Saints, winning a Super Bowl with the former. That followed a stop with the team then known as the Washington Redskins, where Brunell took over in the mid-2000s before overseeing a peaceful transition of power to Jason Campbell. He would later mentor Mark Sanchez during two further seasons in New York.

Even the accomplished veteran Drew Brees knows how valuable a lauded backup can be. Brees was already well known upon his New Orleans arrival, but mentioned that Brunell helped him reach his ultimate heights. The two would go on to win Super Bowl XLIV together, with Brees capturing the MVP honors Flacco would earn three years later.

“You’re talking about a great mentor in so many ways,” Brees told Bill Baker of The Times-Picayune prior to embarking on that championship trek. “He’s started so many games, started so many big games. He’s played a lot of football at a very high level. He’s been to conference championship games before, been to Pro Bowls; he’s done all those things. He’s played in a lot of interesting systems with a lot of great coaches. There’s just a wealth of knowledge that I can draw from.”

Uncertainty continues to loom over the Jets’ quarterback situation, a feeling that has lurked for far too long. Bringing back Flacco, ironically destined for backup duties, would add a tremendous deal of clarity for a franchise in desperate need of it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets Get Adam Gase’s Right Hand Man, Dowell Loggains, as OC

In a widely anticipated move, the New York Jets officially hired Dowell Loggains to be their next offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The move comes as no surprise, given Loggains’ experience working alongside new head coach, Adam Gase. At first glance, this decision appears questionable, due to Dowell’s lack of success with other teams. Regardless, Loggains has a chance to redeem himself with Gase running the show. The team’s redemption will depend on how they guide the true leader of the offense: quarterback Sam Darnold.

The Stats Don’t Tell the Whole Truth:

 Dowell Loggains comes to the Jets with a shoddy track record. None of the offenses he led, the Titans in 2012 and 2013 and the Bears in 2016 and 2017, were ranked higher than 19th in points scored. The 2017 Bears were voted dead last among all 32 teams in play calling during Loggains’ reign as OC. They averaged only 16.5 points a game, placing 29th in the league. Most recently, the Dolphins’ offense under Loggains failed to impress, ranking 26th in total points and 31st in total yards.

However, turbulence among personnel can play a pivotal role for an offense and its coordinator. This was the case for Loggains. In 2017, the Bears opted to throw rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into the fire after giving up on Mike Glennon five weeks into the season. Meanwhile, the 2018 Dolphins offense never had any continuity due to injuries to quarterback Ryan Tannehill and wide receiver Albert Wilson.

Plus, Dowell has achieved some success in the league, particularly as a quarterbacks coach. Manning that position with the Bears in 2015, he guided Jay Cutler to one of his best seasons. Cutler had 3,629 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions, a career-low. Coincidently, the Bears OC at the time just happened to be none other than Adam Gase.

Gase Believes in Him:

 As the new head coach of the New York Jets, Adam Gase would not have brought Dowell Loggains with him if he didn’t have faith in him. He trusts that Loggains can be a competent #2 and help guide his offense. Gase will call the plays, but Loggains will be counted on to help oversee the development of the offense.

These two certainly know each other well. They became a pretty good pair in 2015 with the Bears. Gase guided a rushing offense that ranked 11th in the league that year. Meanwhile, under the tutelage of Loggains, Jay Cutler helped the Bears garner a third-down efficiency of 42.5%, the 6th highest total in the league.

It’s worth noting that Cutler played that entire season. Therefore, Gase probably thought Loggains could work his magic on Tannehill and the Dolphins in 2018. Injuries prevented that from being a reality, but Gase clearly hasn’t lost confidence in Loggains. This opportunity with the Jets gives them both a chance for a fresh start. They’ll also have the services of a promising fresh face, Sam Darnold, making this a golden opportunity.

Darnold Will Be the Key:

 Potential success in New York for Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains will hinge on how they develop franchise quarterback Sam Darnold. He will be the youngest quarterback they’ve ever worked with. They’ll be counted on to help him grow and lead the Jets to new heights in the years to come.

Darnold definitely showed signs he can be the star quarterback that the Jets, Gase, and Loggains need. Coming back from a foot injury, Sam showed tremendous improvement towards the end of the season. He demonstrated better command in the pocket and better results, which included throwing 341 yards and 3 touchdowns in an overtime loss to the Packers.

With the hire of Dowell Loggains, the Jets gave Adam Gase his guy on the offensive side of the ball. Now, they just need to do their jobs and steer this offense in the right direction. If they can help Darnold and the rest of the offense soar, no one will question the decision to trust this duo.