New York Jets positional preview 2021: Quarterbacks

ESM opens its New York Jets offseason preview by pondering what they’ll do at the quarterback slot in 2021.

The Position: Quarterback
On the Roster: Sam Darnold, James Morgan
Free Agents: Joe Flacco
Reserve/Future: Mike White

When will green smoke arise from One Jets Drive?

The New York Jets are once again pondering its future at the franchise quarterback slot, as a potentially turbulent stretch awaits. Many still have hope in the potential of Sam Darnold, but new regimes often bring sweeping changes to NFL franchises. The primary quarterback start is often the first spot to undergo a makeover. New York is in the second full year of Joe Douglas’ tenure as general manager, while Robert Saleh is ready to succeed Adam Gase as the head coach.

It’s easy to dismiss the struggles of Darnold as being trapped in a situation far from his own doing. In his three years at the helm, Darnold has eeked out flashes of brilliance despite endless waves of turmoil and turnover. To put things in perspective, only a single Darnold target from Darnold’s rookie season of 2018 was on the Jets roster in this past season, and that one outlier (fellow 2018 draftee Chris Herndon) hasn’t matched the promise shown in his debut campaign. The blocking wall in front of Darnold has seen more names flipped than the departures board at Grand Central Terminal. Long-term options in each spot have appeared to present themselves through Denzel Mims and Mekhi Becton respectively but with so many attractive names through both free agency and the draft presenting themselves, the temptation to start over might prove too great. Darnold’s early misfortunes when it comes to injuries also may not work in his favor, as he has yet to play a full NFL season.

In his opening statements as Jets head coach, Saleh praised Darnold repeatedly, noting the difficulty in scouting him when his former compatriots came to New York for a September tilt earlier this season. But, nothing the gap between winter and training camp, Saleh did leave the door open to change.

“He’s got an unbelievable arm talent. There’s a reason why he was the number three pick in the draft. He’s fearless in the pocket, he’s got a natural throwing motion, he’s mobile, he’s extremely intelligent, and he’s tough as nails,” Saleh said in video provided by the Jets. “We’re just getting the (coaching) staff into the building, so there’s so many things that we have to do from an evaluation standpoint with regards to the entire roster, not just at quarterback. To give you that answer right now would not be fair.”

Also under contract for the Jets is fourth-round pick James Morgan, who did not dress in any games last season.

Free Agents-to-be

Joe Flacco

The former Super Bowl MVP did a respectable job in four starts in substitute duties, throwing for 848 yards and six touchdowns. His Total Quarterback Rating, calculated by ESPN, of 57.9 was his best since 2014.

While Flacco could be brought back as a veteran mentor and backup to Darnold or the new, younger franchise man, the former Super Bowl MVP hinted that he believes he can still be a consistent NFL starter.

“I obviously still believe that I’m a starting quarterback,” Flacco said in May, per Andy Vazquez. “You never know what three years down the line is going to look like, so I still have that confidence and I still have the want, the want to to do that. But at this moment, that’s not my role.”

Will They Draft?

It’s very possible, depending on how the free agency market shakes out. Falling out of the top spot of the draft no longer seems like a tragedy it was made out to be after the College Football Playoff, particularly during its Sugar Bowl leg. Ohio State thrower Justin Fields outplayed presumed top choice Trevor Lawrence en route to a 49-28 victory, leaving the first choosers in Jacksonville a big decision to make while the Jets can swoop in and take who’s left. Of course, if the Jets land one of the names below, drafting a quarterback would be null and void.

If the Jets do decide to stick with Darnold, it’s possible they could use one of their day two picks (owning an extra through the Jamal Adams trade with Seattle) on a quarterback to raise the heat on the incumbent. Options in a relatively deep class could include Kyle Trask and Mac Jones.

Veteran Possibilities

Deshaun Watson, Houston

Not even the chase for the Super Bowl could derail the hype around Watson and his potential next destination. Things hit a green fever pitch over the weekend when Watson reportedly declared that New York would be his ideal destination. Saleh celebrant Richard Sherman has done nothing to dispel the rumors, joining Cris Collinsworth’s podcast to encourage Watson to get to the metropolitan area. It speaks volumes that Watson, who has also reportedly expressed interest in working with Saleh, would be willing to come to a team that is potentially rebuilding.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit

Over the weekend, ESPN Adam Schefter reported that Stafford and the Lions appear headed toward a divorce. The Jets, again, have the cap space to work with a big contract like Stafford’s, but, like Watson, it wouldn’t be fair to subject him to the franchise the way it is now…there is no Calvin Johnson on this team, at least at the moment. But since the Jets have the assets to work with, it would almost be foolish to not consider the possibility.

Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis 

Would the Jets be better off with a placeholder quarterback of sorts as they seek to regain their NFL footing? There are few better options than Brissett if they opted to go that route. Brissett faces a bit of a crossroads in his career, in that he could fight to regain the starting position with the Colts now that Phillip Rivers has retired, or seek a new opportunity elsewhere. He did a solid job stepping for Andrew Luck upon the latter’s sudden retirement and later developed a slight niche for coming in on short-yardage or deep-ball situations.

Outlook

It seems safe to assume that the Jets’ quarterback situation will be different going into the 2021 campaign, whether it’s at the top or in terms of understudies. If prior regime changes across the NFL are any indicator, it seems that the Jets will indeed move on from Darnold, with the only question being whether it comes through the draft or free agency.

Opting to find a new franchise man through the draft might be a conservative but far more affordable option. Adding a name like Deshaun Watson to New York sounds like a lot of fun and the Jets have plenty of assets through draft picks and cap space to negotiate with. But the fact of the matter is that the Jets have many, many holes to fill beyond the quarterback spot…which, in the eyes of some, may not need to be filled in the first place. If there’s little left to spend to fill the other holes, then a player like Watson or Matthew Stafford would be no better off than when they started.

To spend a majority of the offseason budget on a single big-ticket item wouldn’t be smart. There’s time, however, to make the situation more attractive to an incoming rookie quarterback by parceling those assets through building blocking help and more weaponry.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Jets look toward a “stopgap” QB in 2021?

The New York Jets have decisions to make at quarterback. A stopgap can provide welcome stability if they move on from Sam Darnold.

Well-meaning parents who purchased their children New York Jets jerseys bearing Trevor Lawrence’s name for the December holidays have some explaining to do.

The Jets’ endeavor for Trevor is more than likely over after Sunday, as a combination of a New York win and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 14th consecutive defeat sent the top overall pick in this spring’s draft to Duval County. Considering the Jaguars (1-14) opted to play Mike Glennon in place of Gardner Minshew for their 41-17 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bears, it’s more or less assured that they’re planning to select the Clemson thrower set to partake in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Friday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Even if the Jets (2-13) landed the top overall choice…a scenario rendered impossible by their pair of December wins and the strength of schedule tiebreaker…there was going to be debate over whether they should use it on Lawrence or entrust another year to incumbent starter Sam Darnold. With nearly three stanzas completed, the narrative of Darnold’s New York saga is a complicated one. It has been defined by the occasional flash of brilliance too often countered with head-scratching decisions on the field. The story has also been interrupted by calamities that are either an unfortunate part of the game (injuries) or something most go quarterbacks go through their whole career without seeing (mononucleosis). Missing four games with a shoulder ailment hasn’t helped, but Darnold is on pace to set new career lows in most major passing categories, including yards (currently at 1,942) and touchdown passes (8).

 Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY NETWORK

Countless amounts of turnover have like played a role in Darnold’s lack of progress. His crucial developmental years have been staged in not only the Todd Bowles-to-Adam Gase staff transition, but the general manager swap from Mike Maccagnan to Joe Douglas. Nothing drives the point of unstable turnover than the fact that no receiver (with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon) from Darnold’s rookie campaign (2018) remains on the current Jets’ roster. The Jets may be ready to make yet another coaching change with Gase’s win percentage (.290) besting only Rich Kotite amongst green head coaches with at least one full year at the helm.

Tempting as it may be to see what Darnold could do with a new coaching staff (provided Gase is indeed dealt his walking papers), a legal separation, one perhaps involving a trade for draft picks, may be the best for all parties involved. The Jets don’t have time to help pen anyone else’s redemption story…they’ve spent a decade trying to write their own…and Darnold deserves a place that isn’t relying on him to be a one-size-fits-all solution.

If 2020 has proven anything, it’s that the Jets are far removed from being “a quarterback away’ from mere relevancy, much less the Super Bowl. This is a team with many needs, and it’s not fair to Darnold, Lawrence, or an unknown, young third party to expect them to be the savior sought since Joe Namath hung up his green and white paraphernalia for the last time. Even if the Jets are poised to miss out on Lawrence, the 2021 draft has provided solid consolation prizes in the form of Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Kyle Trask.

But what if the Jets took a year off from the franchise quarterback process?

Such a concept has been on the rise in recent years, the phenomenon informally labeled as using a “stopgap” quarterback. Through this endeavor, a talented quarterback helps the team in question keep rolling while other needs are addressed and developed.

The stopgap, as his name implies, is not meant to be the starter for any extended period of time. Rather, they arise out of necessity or in case of emergency. Oftentimes, the stopgap is called upon to clean up the mess or void a retired or departing franchise quarterback left behind. Modern examples on the 2020 circuit include Phillip Rivers in Indianapolis and Cam Newton in New England. Sometines, the stopgap manages to extend his stay. Modern Tom Brady could arguably be seen as a stopgap in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers sought his services to capitalize on a strong team around him in plans to make the most of a window of contentions. The Tennessee Titans perhaps envisioned Ryan Tannehill, fresh off a polarizing stint as Miami’s franchise man, as a temporary solution when they pulled the plug on the Marcus Mariota experiment. Tannehill helped guide the Titans to a pair of surprise playoffs wins and was rewarded with the Comeback Player of the Year Award and a four-extension.

A similar plan could work out for the Jets, a team working on a playoff game drought that’s older than all but two movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The most important thing the Jets need right now is stability. They’re a team venturing off the football rails, where even a mere winning record has proven elusive. This is a squad that needs to get back to a place where a win isn’t the worst thing that can happen to the franchise, as many have declared after the Jets stole wins from playoff contenders in Los Angeles and Cleveland. This isn’t a scenario like the Indianapolis Colts had in 2012, when Andrew Luck turned a two-win squad into a playoff team. The Jets don’t have a plethora of reliable veterans to help the kid, unlike Indianapolis’ haul of Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Adam Vinatieri, among others.

There’s a light at the end of the green tunnel in the form of 2021 cap space. The Jets’ offseason bank currently stands at just over $81 million, once again trailing only Jacksonville. This season, particularly a strong December, has yielded some potential building blocks (Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, Quinnen Williams, Marcus Maye among them), but the Jets are far from a completed project. They still need blocking and weaponry on offense while the defense needs help in the secondary. The pass rush also needs to be bolstered with matchups against Josh Allen on the horizon for the next decade, and their kicking situation needs clarity. It’s not fair to waste further development on Darnold on a situation like this, nor is this any condition in which to subject a top overall pick. As the Jets try to find their footing, a stopgap man could work wonders. A short-term deal is feasible in this cap space surplus, filling one need while diverting attention to more long-term goals. Draft picks obtained from a potential trade of Darnold can be used to net weaponry that can be overseen by a proven throwing option.

Whereas the draft class may loaded with franchise potential, 2021’s free agency class is laden with stopgap potential. Jacoby Brissett had a strong showing in filling the gap between Luck and Rivers last season and would potentially seek a new chance to return to starting duties. Andy Dalton has kept the Dallas Cowboys in contention for the NFC East title since taking over for the injured Dak Prescott. The Jets may even have a stopgap option on their roster in the form of Joe Flacco. Super Bowl XLVII’s MVP may be facing the twilight of his career, but showed that he did have some gas left in the tank while filling in for an injured Darnold earlier this season.

The Jets’ most recent glory days…or the closest thing resembling them in this dreary decade…have come with stopgap guys under center. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 2015 season appears at or near the top of nearly every single-season passing record in the Jets’ record book. Fitzpatrick (as well as fellow free-agent-to-be Tyrod Taylor, who helped end the Buffalo Bills’ eternal playoff drought before Josh Allen arrived) has nearly made a career out of the concept and currently serves in such a capacity in Miami on a part-time basis as they bide their time with Tua Tagovailoa.

 [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]
Two years later, Josh McCown kept the Jets competitive in a year some expected them to go winless. The final ledger read 5-11, but McCown’s brief restablization kept them in ball games.

Of course, the Jets have plenty of time to rectify their current surroundings to make them more desireable to an incoming franchise quarterback. If offseason funds are spent wisely (i.e. adding a strong receiving talent like Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster), the idea of a stopgap man could seem almost laughable. For all we know, Darnold could emerge to pilot his fourth straight kickoff weekend for the Jets, hopefully one packed to the brim with fans this time around. But the stopgap conversation is one the Jets shouldn’t ignore this offseason.

Whatever the Jets have been trying in the franchise quarterback department, it’s clearly not working. Maybe some change would do them some good…if only temporarily.

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: Sam Darnold returns to practice at Florham Park

After Wednesday’s practice, Sam Darnold appears to be inching toward partaking in the New York Jets’ home tilt against Miami.

Sam Darnold returned to New York Jets practice on Wednesday as the team continues to prepare for their Sunday afternoon matchup against the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Darnold took all of the first-team reps under center, relegating Joe Flacco to scout-team duties.

Prior to practice, head coach Adam Gase said that Darnold was a “day-to-day” case, per notes provided by the Jets. Gase added that the plan going into practice would allow Darnold to “eliminate any kind of unnecessary throwing”.

“We’re going in there thinking that he’s going to be able to do quite a bit,” Gase said. “Sometimes during these special teams periods and things like that, a lot of throws are made in those periods. We’ll really limit those. Most of his throws will come either in individual or team periods.”

Darnold is attempting to come back from a shoulder injury originally sustained in an October 1 loss to Denver. He returned two weeks later for a divisional tilt against Buffalo but aggravated the ailment in the next game in Kansas City. Joe Flacco has assumed quarterback duties in the meantime and has overseen the Jets’ best offensive outputs of the year, including a season-best 322 yard in their Week 9 loss to New England leading into their open date. The offensive resurgence has coincided with the first instances of Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, and Jamison Crowder collaboratively taking the field. That trio topped the Jets’ receiving depth chart at the beginning of the year, but injuries prevented them from playing together in the early going.

Flacco has tallied 864 yards, six touchdowns, and an 80.5 passer rating over five games in subbing for Darnold. He confirmed that he took exclusively scout-team snaps on Wednesday and praised Darnold’s progress.

“He was running around out there, throwing the ball well, his arm was live, I mean that’s really most of what you can gather out there today,” Flacco said, per the Jets. “But you know, I thought his arm looked, the ball looked like it was spinning and coming at guys, so I thought he looked really good.”

Darnold spoke earlier this week and echoed Gase’s ideas of viewing things from a day-by-day lens. He also expressed anticipation in working with the revamped receiving corps if and when he returns. The quarterback has had minimal work with Mims, for example, after the first was chosen out of Baylor in the second round of April’s draft.

“Those guys are doing a really good job and are making plays for us,” Darnold said of the trio, per the Jets. “Regardless of their situation and how well they are playing, I just want to be out there, regardless of that. I’m always going to be eager to want to go out there and play football.”

Only adding to the idea of Darnold starting on Sunday is the fact that the Jets (0-10) released quarterback Mike White earlier this week and readded him to their practice squad. The former Dallas Cowboys draft pick served as Flacco’s backup over the past two games.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Don’t fault the New York Jets for defying the “tanking” method

Fans across the tri-state area admonished the New York Jets for the sin of playing better football on Monday night.

Let’s be clear from the get-go that while metropolitan fans have been forced to deal with a lot in the year 2020, it pales in comparison to the issues on a broader scale. If the biggest problem in your life is seeing Henrik Lundqvist in a Washington Capitals sweater or that the New York Knicks fell in the NBA draft lottery, you’re a lot better off than at least 99.999999999 percent of the rest of the world, especially in these trying times.

That being said, it was hard not to send at least a few sympathies to New York Jets fans on Monday night.

If only because New York City skyline shots are ratings gold, the Jets partook in their second nationally televised NFL game this season on Monday night, their AFC East showdown with the New England Patriots streamed to the masses of a football-loving public. Placing such a matchup in a national TV slot more or less explains why Hollywood keeps churning out gory, repetitive interations of franchises like Saw: they’re violent, often one-sided, and unpleasant from anything but a macabre sense, but people keep watching them, so the powers that be continue to make sure they remain in production. Since 2010, seven New York-New England get-togethers have been placed in either the primetime windows of Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night. The Jets have lost each of those meetings, including a 30-27 last-second defeat on the most recent edition of ESPN’s Monday Night Football. It’s the Jets’ ninth consecutive loss to New England and their ledger reads 0-9 for the first time in franchise history…a mark so dubious even Rich Kotite and Co. managed to avoid it.

Yet, when Nick Folk’s 51-yard triple sailed through the uprights as time expired, Jets fans throughout the tri-state area were…relieved?

Yes, the 2020 season has become so wretched for Jets fans that they are actually resorting to begging the Patriots to humiliate them. Such declarations are made in the name of tanking, the supposed art of intentionally losing games so as to secure a better draft pick. As the only winless team left in the NFL and only one single-win left on the docket (the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars), the Jets are well in position to secure the top overall choice, presumably to be used on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Tanking has become a far-too-common entry in the New York sports ledgers recently. The Jets’ case to do only increases due to the NFL Draft’s straightforward method of sorting. Unlike their counterparts on the ice and hardwood, the NFL eschews a lottery system, merely ranking non-playoff teams from worst to best record in determining the first 18 picks. A lower strength of schedule serves as the primary tiebreaker. It’s understandable that fans comfort themselves through thinking of the future, whether it’s via endless visits to Tankathaon or rhyming/alliterating social media tags (#TheEndeavorForTrevor).

. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Jets have had to deal with accusations of tanking after eight straight defeats (with an average margin of defeat at three possessions). A mini fire-sale that bid farewell to touted names like Le’Veon Bell (released), Steve McLendon, and Avery Williamson (the latter two traded for day three draft picks) did nothing to ax those notions. Head coach Adam Gase, perhaps the most common name on the top of many Jets’ fan purge lists, insisted that it wasn’t a sign of a complete 2020 shutdown.

“I never look at waving the white flag. That’s not in my DNA,” Gase said earlier this fall, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. Regarding the departures, Gase noted that “I know it’s not always ideal, but that’s the NFL. That’s what it is. That’s part of what happens when you don’t win. We’re at a part of the season where we haven’t won a game yet, and things like this happen”.

But obsessively, almost masochistically, hoping your team loses is not the way to go.

For one thing, the unpredictable nature of the NFL Draft is too much to hinge every one of your future hopes on. One look at the countless montages all of the football rights-holders play on draft weekend showcasing the Jets’ high-profile misses should tell you that. Even if the Jets do earn the No. 1 pick and the presumed rights to Lawrence, he’s not going to wave a magic wand and make them into a contender again. It should be clear at this point that the Jets don’t seem to be making any major decisions when it comes to the beleaguered coaching staff, at least before the year lets out.

The macabre silver lining of such a woebegone record is the gift of consequence-free opportunities (at least from a franchise standpoint) for your team on game day, chances to work with research and development, see what works and what doesn’t. For their part, the Jets did seem to take advantage of this dark gift and played their best game of the season on Monday night. Sure, the Tom Brady-free Patriots aren’t what they used to be, but the fact that the Jets put up a good effort against a desperate divisional foe should be inspiring to whatever fans have opted to stick around for this.

Yet, what could’ve been a night of hope and inspiration was instead one of fear for the fanbase for the majority of the evening. The mortal sin of a New York sports rooting for a Boston team is often only applied in “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situations. There were probably New York Yankees fans that secretly clamored for the Red Sox to top the Mets in the 1986 World Series. The New York Giants’ faithful donned a new shade of blue for Super Bowl LII, unsuccessfully getting behind the Patriots’ championship cause against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Fans must realize, though: even if games have no consequence in the long run…box scores from the final seven games might week be erased from the New York archives at the end of the season. But to these players, Monday’s game in New England…and the final seven games overall…mean everything.

A combination of health and social factors have served as reminders that these athletes are human. These are not interchangeable parts. Living, breathing men and women partake in these games for our entertainment, a form of amusement we, the sports-loving people, have turned to in these times of turmoil. The dark side of it is that careers and livelihoods are on the line. For some on this Jets roster, it could be the last time they see their names on an NFL depth chart. To tell these players to toss a game aside so your team will be on the clock sooner…potentially taking that player’s replacement…is naive. Tanking is a ludicrous notion in any sport. Asking players to do so in the 16-game nature of the NFL makes it even more callous in the wider picture.

Take, for example, Folorunso Fatukasi. A native of Far Rockaway and now-defunct Beach Channel High School, Fatukasi has been on and off the Jets’ active roster since joining the team as a sixth-round pick in 2018. There was promise on display from Fatukasi last season after missing all but one game in his rookie year, but perhaps nothing to truly solidify his status for the Jets’ future. His case, and perhaps many others, was perhaps hurt by a lack of preseason games, exhibitions canceled in the wake of the ongoing health crisis. The casual observer might not be able to tell whether Fatukasi was more likely destined for the Jets or, say, an XFL roster in the future.

But with injuries and the ongoing purge taking over, Fatukasi has pounced on his newfound opportunity, particularly when McLendon was dealt to Tampa Bay. His Monday output (7 tackles, including a big fourth-down stop that eventually led to a Jets field goal) added to his impressive 2020 resume, one that has him ranked in the top ten of Pro Football Focus’ interior defensive lineman ratings.

Do you really want to tell this guy to quit now for the mere possibility of hope later? Fakutasi admitted that the situation is far from ideal, but he and his fellow Jets are committed to figuring things out immediately.

“It is frustrating,” Fatukasi said, per Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post. “But we’ve still got a lot more work to do and guys are going to make sure that we’re encouraged to get this thing turned around somehow.”

Even before his big Monday night moment, Fakutasi was adamant that tanking wasn’t in the Jets’ vocabulary, without ever having to say those cursed words.

It is Monday night football, but at the end of the day it is another game, another opportunity,” Fatukasi said in a pregame report from Jack Bell of NYJets.com “My biggest objective is to go in and play as hard as I can with my teammates, rally with my teammates, and play a good game.”

“This is what we play for…to get a W.”

Do you really want to tell a guy like that to lose on purpose? Do you really want to tell the Jets’ upcoming free agent group, consisting of 28 players, some of whom will be biting and crawling for a chance to stay in the league, that their futures mean nothing? If and when Sam Darnold returns, shouldn’t he get seven final opportunities to prove he’s the Jets’ franchise man?

The sheer quality of upcoming opponents may wind getting the Jets the top overall pick their fans so desire. Five of the Jets’ final seven adversaries are either in a current playoff spot or at the very least tied for one. The exceptions are a Week 17 rematch with the Patriots in New England and their next immediate game against the Los Angeles Chargers following their bye. Los Angeles is only two wins up on the Jets, but, unlike New York, the Bolts at least seem to have some semblance of hope. Justin Herbert appears to be their franchise man and the six losses on their slate have come by a combined 24 points.

Realistically, the pro-tank party’s philosophy could be the talk of the team as they freefall toward an imperfect season. That outlook involves embracing the positives gleaned…and one could look at young developments like Denzel Mims and smile…while thanking the football gods that the Jets did just enough to add another tally to the right-hand side of the win-loss column. 

But you can be assured that the Jets won’t buy into the tanking philosophy. If postgame comments from Monday’s aftermath ring true, they’re focused on November/December 2020…not April 2021.

At least in the grand scheme of things, Jets losses are heartbreaking again. Guard Greg Van Roten made of this change in a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post. Van Roten made it clear that the best way out of the Jets’ current woes it to go out and win a game.

“A loss like that is heartbreaking because it’s ‘Monday Night Football’ and it comes down to the very last play of the game,” Van Roten said. “I felt like we played well enough to win and just didn’t finish. You lose and you come in on a day like today and everyone’s spirits are down. You have to watch the film, see what you did well and build on that, see what you did not so well and correct it and you have to move on. We have a bye week to kind of recover a little bit, get healthy physically and mentally and hit the ground running when we get out of the break and just go win a game.”

“In this league, you have to play with confidence,” quarterback Joe Flacco added in the same report. “The more you lose, the harder it is to do that. The more you win, you expect to go out there and run for 200 yards and throw for 350 and score five touchdowns. You expect to do that. Right now, the way we’re playing, we’re trying to convince ourselves that that’s going to be the case. We don’t really know. We’ve just got to go out there and continue to believe, continue to take it day by day.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Monday fate vs. New England

New York Jets

Positives emerged from veterans and rookies alike, but the New York Jets couldn’t end their streak of bad luck against New England.

A lost three-point game against the New England Patriots might’ve been cause for celebration in the Tom Brady years. One could even argue it helps the New York Jets’ draft position. But, at least in the immediate aftermath, heartbreak reigns in East Rutherford.

Nick Folk’s 51-yard field goal as time expired gave capped off a stretch of 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the Patriots, who earned their ninth consecutive victory over the Jets in a 30-27 final on Monday at MetLife Stadium. Cam Newton punched in two rushing touchdowns while Rex Burkhead tallied one more. With this loss, the Jets (0-9) have fallen in their first nine games for the first time in franchise history.

ESM looks back on four plays from the Jets’ latest defeat, highlighting one from each quarter that will define their past, present, and future…

1st Quarter: Mims’ The Word

Denzel Mims continued to show exactly why he was worth the long wait, getting off to another strong start. The second-round rookie finally had some assistance on his side during Monday’s action, as it marked the first time he was able to work with fellow depth chart-toppers Perriman and Jamison Crowder. Mims helped the Jets get off to a fast start on their opening drive, breaking free from the coverage of Jason McCourty for a second-down catch from Flacco. He would shake off McCourty for extra yardage, totaling 26 before Devin McCourty was there to clean up the mess. His efforts led to a Sergio Castillo field goal that gave the Jets the early lead.

While Mims is off to a strong start, the Jets’ remaining offensive exploits should be centered on trying to get him involved over the entire 60 minutes. Mims set an infantile career-best with 62 receiving yards on the evening, but all of that production came in the first half.

2nd Quarter: Fourth and Folorunso

We’ve spoken in this column before about the Jets’ propensity to go for it on fourth down. Entering Monday’s game, they were tied for fifth in the league with 13 attempts (converting four). Defending them, however, has been a bit of another problem. Opponents had gone attempted to go for it on six fourth downs against the Jets this season, the concept often rendered null and void because of one-sided leads. But members of the Jets’ defense got a case to show their stuff against Cam Newton and the Patriots’ offense.

While rookies took center stage on defense during Monday’s proceedings (namely Ashtyn Davis, Bryce Hall, and Bryce Huff), veterans seeking football longevity also had a chance to prove why they’re allowed to stay for the long haul. Anyone calling for the already-ludicrous notion of tanking should be immediately silenced by the efforts of some veterans fighting to extend their careers.

Folorunso Fatukasi is one such veteran. A 2018 sixth-round pick that has been on-and-off the Jets’ roster, Fatukasi made one of the biggest plays of the evening in terms of momentum shifting. The Jets held a 10-7 lead after a 93-yard trek by the offense, but New England was threatening to take it right back with a drive on their own. Facing a fourth-and-one just past the Jets’ 40, they attempted to continue their quest to a potential go-ahead score. Knowing what we know about the Jets’ offense, it may have well been insurmountable for the unit.

Instead, Fatukasi plowed through veteran blocker David Andrews in a backfield invasion, not only bringing down James four yards behind the line of scrimmage but forcing a fumble as well. It was recovered by the Patriots, but the Jets took over on downs and later earned a field goal on the earned possession to go up 13-7.

3rd Quarter: Go Joe Go

With Joe Flacco and Frank Gore leading the Jets’ offense, one could be excused for believing we had been transported out of the 2020 nightmare and dragged back to 2012. It was a particularly inspiring performance for Flacco, who threw for 262 yards and three touchdown passes, the last of the latter going to Perriman in the dying stages of the third quarter. It was also the first time he broke the 200-yard plateau this season, and first overall since September of the prior campaign.

While it was nice to see Flacco have some fun, shades of the 2012-13 AFC title game, it raises a question that a lot of Jets fans probably don’t want to have: the Jets’ strongest offensive showing of the season (322 yards of offense) came not with Sam Darnold under center, but the aging Flacco instead. Even if the Jets somehow fall out of the top overall slot, will they need to find a new franchise thrower? Time will only tell, but it’s yet another reason they should not take these final seven games for granted.

4th Quarter: My, Oh, Myers

Following Perriman’s score, the Jets only touched the ball for only 1:24 more during the fourth quarter. Jakobi Myers was the biggest factor, even when he wasn’t the one catching the ball. With the Patriots (3-5) advancing for the tying score, Davis appeared to make the play of the night on a penalty-induced 1st-and-20, knocking a big gain out of Myers’ hands after a video review. Myers, however, would have his revenge. Not only did a massive block allow Damiere Byrd to reach the Jets’ three-yard-line (leading to a one-yard punch-in by Cam Newton), but his 20-yard diving catch on the next passion allowed Nick Folk’s field goal to be booted, giving the Jets a 30-27 loss…vital for those who demand to see them tank.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Joe Flacco prepares for another start

With Sam Darnold still ailing, Joe Flacco will make his second consecutive start for the New York Jets on Sunday.

The New York Jets announced on Wednesday that Joe Flacco will make his second straight start with Sam Darnold still ailing from a shoulder injury.

Flacco will make his first road start in Jets colors, as the New York head to Miami on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). The match previously scheduled for November but shifted forward due to schedule adjustments enforced by COVID-19 outbreaks across the league.

A matchup with Miami could be exactly what Flacco needs to earn what could be a final blaze of glory in a strong NFL career. Numerous celebrities are listed as minority owners of the Dolphins (including tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams), but Flacco could make a case to add himself to that list. He owns a 7-0 record against Miami and owns a 109.4 passer rating over those six showdowns.

Flacco was aware of his success against the Dolphins when fielding questions on Wednesday. When his streak came up, Flacco jokingly accused the inquirer of “jinxing it”.

“I’ve been fortunate to play on a lot of good teams and you know some that maybe weren’t as good outcome wise at the end of the year but we still have some good teams and some good players that showed up to play on Sundays,” Flacco said of the streak, per transcripts provided by the Jets. “So, (I’ve) played down there a few times and definitely know a little bit about getting ready for the heat, doing all those things and I think if we prepare right and hydrate right, then we’re in good shape and then we can be the team that you know tries to wear the other team out, even though we’re coming down there only one time a year.”

The monopoly over Miami began in Flacco’s rookie campaign in 2009 after first-round call from the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco threw for 232 yards and a score in an October win in Miami before managing a 27-9 decision in the AFC wild card playoffs three months later. More recently, Flacco earned his most recent of three career four-touchdown pass games in a 38-6 shellacking in Baltimore in December 2016.

The Jets could use any victorious distraction in these trying times. They’re back in the headlines for the wrong reasons after the release of Le’Veon Bell on Tuesday night, sinking their perpetual rebuild into new levels of woe.

In times of offensive trouble, attention almost always turns to the quarterback. Flacco acknowledged that role in his Wednesday statements.

“You just need to have plays build off of plays. You need to get some chunks here and there. Right now, we are just going the long hard way,” Flacco said. “It’s a good sign to have a long drive, because you know you’re obviously doing a lot of little things right, but it’s hard to do that consistently. And right now, that’s what we’re kind of forcing ourselves to do, is just be so perfect and as soon as one little thing gets messed up by us, or it goes wrong because there’s a good defense, we’re off the field.”

“I think that, you know, we need to try to get some more first downs in first and second down and then once we get in the red zone we really just have to finish, we have to get points.”

To Flacco’s point, the Jets reached the opposing 35-yard-line four times on last Sunday afternoon against Arizona, but emerged with only one touchdown, as the others ended in a Sam Ficken field goal and failed attempts on fourth down. New York lost 30-10 and fell to 0-5 on the season.

Reinforcements will slowly begin to trickle in for the Jets. Breshad Perriman is expected to play this week after suffering an ankle injury in Week 2’s game against San Francisco. Like Flacco, Perriman was a first-round pick of the Ravens and they spent several seasons together in Baltimore (2015-17).

“I think Breshad over the last couple years has gained a lot of confidence and he’s been playing really well when he’s healthy and he’s rolling,” Flacco said. “You know he’s a tough guy to cover. He can bring a lot of explosive plays to your offense, so it’ll be exciting to kind of get him back out there and it was exciting to see him back out there at practice today.”

Further good news came from the Jets in the form of an update on second-round pick Denzel Mims. The rookie receiver has dealt with injuries all season, but was recently cleared to return to practice alongside Arthur Maulet and fellow rookie Cameron Clark.

No matter the on-field activity, the main talking point throughout Sunday late afternoon will more than likely be Bell’s absence, even if it fully isn’t shown on the statsheet. Flacco, of course, is more than familiar with what will be missed in his departure, as the two were on opposite sides of one of the NFL’s most intense, continuous rivalries in the Ravens-Steelers’ battle for AFC North dominance.

But nonetheless expressed hope that an opportunity has arisen for younger players to take on a role, namely fourth-round rookie La’Mical Perine. The development of these young talents, with the help of some veteran leaders, could well give the Jets something to play for over these dire eleven weeks left on their docket.

“I think we got a really good room. I think we got, obviously in Frank (Gore), a Hall of Fame veteran, a really good young kid coming up (in Perine), I think those guys are going to step up and play really well.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs. Arizona

Another painful loss awaited the New York Jets in their return to MetLife Stadium. ESM takes a look at the plays that changed the game.

There was a new quarterback and new men on the offensive line thanks to injuries. But the New York Jets were forced to endure the same result.

Kyler Murray tallied 401 yards of offense, with 131 of his passing haul going to DeAndre Hopkins. Their Arizona Cardinals tallied a 30-10 road win over the hapless Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Jets (0-5) earned a nominal bright spot in the form of Jamison Crowder, who reached triple digits in receiving for the third time this season (116 yards on 8 receptions).

As we do each week…someone’s got to do it…ESM looks back on four big plays, one from each quarter, that are shaping the Jets’ present and future for better or worse…

1st Quarter: Chase Hit

The Jets’ defense rose to the occasion in the early going, forcing Arizona into a three-and-out on their opening drive. A Joe Flacco-led offense was struggling to get things rolling, but Braden Mann helped the defense out with a 54-yard punt that situated the Cardinals on their own 11. Alas, it only signaled the start of New York’s demise.

Arizona would embark on a scoring drive, needing only eight plays to go 89 yards. The Cardinals (3-2) faced only one third down on the drive, and that was only when they needed a single yard at the cusp of the Jets’ 30. It also brought forth a 29-yard touchdown run from Chase Edmunds, giving the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish.

Alas for the Jets, long drives and defensive lapses, even if they’re brought forth by short three-and-outs from the offense, have become far too common. When the inevitable purge comes to both the roster and staff, members of the defense should not be exempt.

2nd Quarter: 4th-and-Done

The Jets should be commended for their reckless abandon on fourth down in recent weeks. They know that the playoffs are but a pipe dream and more than likely will be destined for a high draft pick. With all due respect to Mann, a serviceable draft pick to date, he shouldn’t be seeing the field once the Jets cross their own 40. The same could go for Sam Ficken if it’s a long situation, though he continued his perfect streak in the early going with a triple in the first half.

Faced with a single yard to go on the Arizona 13, the Jets opted for an unusual option, handing the ball off to tight end-turned-fullback Trevon Wesco. The intention was pure…Wesco’s brief time in the backfield yielded a couple of first downs last season…but the execution simply wasn’t there. Starting the 6-foot-6-inches Flacco in place of the injured Sam Darnold, the time was perfect for a quarterback sneak. Flacco even showcased some hidden rushing talents to the tune of 20 yards on a quartet of carries. Instead, they tried to force nearly the exact same play, only this time with Le’Veon Bell. The Jets’ willingness to take risks is admirable, but ended a 14-play trek with no points on two failed rushes only adds to their plethora of embarrassment.

3rd Quarter: Manhattan Jam Crowder

The Jets have been through a lot this season, and there’s still a dozen weeks left on the horizon. Their most consistent silver lining has by far been Crowder, who had one of his strongest games of the season. He came up particularly big in the third quarter, first accounting for Flacco’s longest pass of the day at 52 yards, setting the Jets up in Arizona territory. Three plays later, Crowder dodged a pair of Cardinal defenders to earn an 11-yard touchdown that narrowed things to a single possession.

New York has been through a lot this season, much of it showing just how far they are from mere playoff contention, much less a Super Bowl. But the veteran Crowder is making himself essential as a presumed purge lures on the horizon.

4th Quarter: Buried by Kingsbury

Sunday’s second half featured plenty of instances where one could declare “only the Jets!”. For example, an untimed down at the end of the third quarter led to a false start. That duplicated an incident in the second quarter when they took a delay of game after an interception (on a red zone drive that eventually led to Ficken’s field goal). But a neutral zone infraction after Arizona’s final touchdown (a 37-yard hookup between Murray and Hopkins) led to Kliff Kingsbury opting to go for two despite owning a 30-10 led that became the final margin. Who knows what the Jets did to Kingsbury, who pair of NFL passes came in New York, but it was enough to try and help anyone who had Arizona -21.5 out and goes to show how far the Jets have fallen.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

 

New York Jets: LeVeon Bell to return in week 5

New York Jets, Leveon Bell

The New York Jets have been without their former All-Star running back since week one of the season. In the Jets’ 27-17 loss to the Bills, Bell seemed to have an awkward fall in the midst of running a route.

It ultimately ended up being  a hamstring injury that sent him to the IR. Now, before the Jets take on the Arizona Cardinals, Bell will be joining them.

What’s This Mean?

This is great news for the Jets organization for multiple reasons. The first that tomorrow marks the first start for Joe Flacco while Darnold sits with a shoulder injury, so adding a playmaker like Bell back into the fold could ease some of the pressure. Especially with a veteran quarterback who is coming off an injury himself, having Bell can open up things more for him.

The next reason this is so important, is because of the impact Bell has when healthy. Without Bell for the past few games, the Jets have accumulated only 263 yards on the ground from running backs.

Sam Darnold is currently the team’s leading rusher with 117 yards, while Frank Gore sits at 74 yards on 55 carries. It’s safe to say the Jets need a boost out of the backfield and Bell could provide that.

The last reason this is crucial is because of a potential trade. With Bell likely out the door after this season, the team could use the next two or so games as a showcase for what Bell can do. If he’s the key cog in the offense for the next couple of games, don’t be surprised because that may be an order from management. A trade of Bell could shed around eight million dollars of cap space for the organization and potentially nab a mid rounder. It may not be the route the team goes, but it’s certainly a possibility.

One thing is for sure though, the Jets need some kind of fire on offense right now. That’s a fire that Bell can bring. Who knows, his return may just make this offense competitive.

New York Jets will start QB Joe Flacco on Sunday

New York Jets, Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco will make his first start in green, as the New York Jets prepare to face an angry Arizona Cardinals squad on Sunday.

The New York Jets announced on Wednesday that Joe Flacco will start Week 5’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. Sam Darnold is considered “week-to-week” and will miss Sunday’s game (1 p.m. ET, Fox) with a shoulder ailment.

Flacco, 35, will make his first NFL start for the Jets after signing a one-year deal with the team back in May. He has established himself as one of the more successful postseason quarterbacks in recent NFL memory, earning a 10-5 record as a playoff starter with the Baltimore Ravens. Seven of those victories have come on the road, an NFL record. Flacco was the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII, helping the Ravens top the San Francisco 49ers 34-31. It capped off a trek that saw Flacco tie Joe Montana’s NFL record with 11 touchdowns in a single postseason.

After he was supplanted by Lamar Jackson in Baltimore’s franchise spot, a role he had held since his first-round drafting out of Delaware in 2008, Flacco signed with the Denver Broncos last season. He started eight games, throwing for 1,822 yards, six touchdowns, and five interceptions before a neck injury ended his season. Flacco underwent surgery prior to being signed by the Jets and was cleared to play last week.

Darnold is now set to miss games in each of his three NFL seasons. He left the game late in the first quarter of the Jets’ showdown against Denver on Thursday after getting thrown down on his throwing shoulder during a sack by Alexander Jones. Darnold went to the locker room but returned to finish off the Jets’ next drive before the first half let out. Flacco completed two passes for 16 yards while Darnold was being evaluated. The latter would finish the game, a 37-28 New York loss.

The Jets (0-4) are 0-6 over the prior two seasons when Darnold has missed his starts. Josh McCown took over for three games when Darnold hurt his foot in his rookie season, while a mononucleosis diagnosis saw Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk take over in a matching three-game absence.

Mike White will serve as the Jets’ backup against Arizona, reprising a role he held over the first three weeks of the season while Flacco recovered from neck surgery. 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags