I know I've shared a lot of nonsense with you before, but this time it's going to be different, I swear. This time, I'm making the conscious choice to give you nonsense rather than doing it because I don't know any better. Even with a guy as dumb as me, I know how to get even dumber when I want to be.
Yeah, I wouldn't read this one either.
The Jets season is upon us. For better or worse, the offseason, preseason and anticipation of the regular season is at a close. Coming up tomorrow, we will witness- for the first time- the fruits of this team's labors these past few months. They've put together the team as best as they could, and though it won't look the way they intended it to look in June due to several injuries, it's still going to look mighty different from the way it did last year. It is my expectation that it looks good, though what does "good" mean here?
Well, that, among other various ramblings, are what I plan to discuss in this post. I'm going to keep this one relatively short, because I waited pretty much up until the last minute to begin writing this one even though I had a pretty good idea for a week about what I wanted the nonsense to look like.
This post will be structured to the count of 10, because I decided for some reason that I was going to stylize this one as if it were the Jets answering the call to action (not just because I beat the deadline), having to pick themselves up from what was a devastating blow last year to rally around this year. There might not be much consistency between each count, but there's always a little fun to be found in switching things up a little; just ask Jets fans how they feel about Joe Flacco starting tomorrow.
Feel free to leave your feedback or suggestions below this post.
There's one day left before the Jets kickoff against the Ravens. I'll be at this game and I'm planning to be at five more this season (though that is a very soft five right now). This is the first time I'll be at a home opener since... ever, actually. I've never been to the home opener before. I've been to a September regular season game before, but never the first one on their schedule at the Meadowlands/MetLife. Hopefully, it'll be one I want to remember rather than one I want to forget.
Though Zach Wilson will not be playing, the Jets are going to have a quarterback I expect to be competent out there in Joe Flacco. If something unfortunate were to befall him, the Jets would have Mike White on the bench to replace him. No, neither of these guys are likely to be with the team next year as best as I can figure right now, but it is a QB situation that would be far worse on other teams.
After Coach Saleh's announcement that Wilson would be out for several weeks (handled in the worst way possible, but I'll put that aside for now in the interest of not getting too negative), I decided to take a look at the Jets' situation in the two QBs behind them. Last year, their backup QBs (White, Flacco and Josh Johnson) combined for 1,625 yards, 13 passing TDs and 9 INT in five games (I'm not counting Johnson's 1 offensive snap against the Texans). Obviously, there's a lot of missing context when I'm just throwing those numbers at you (almost all of the offensive production against the Colts was in garbage time, for instance), but if the Jets' backups this year can average 325 YPG, 2.6 TD and 1.8 INT in whatever time Zach Wilson misses this year, that should honestly be good enough to get the Jets to at least one win.
There are four teams in the NFL that are spending more 2022 cap on their backup QBs than the Jets are at just about $6 million: the Panthers (Darnold is extremely expensive as a backup at close to $18.9 million), the 49ers (Garoppolo currently accounts for nearly $14 million, though a lot of it will be refunded to the team next year if he doesn't play a snap), the Steelers (who planned on rostering three QBs like the Jets did, unless they trade Rudolph to some other team) and the Dolphins (Teddy Bridgewater probably should be the most expensive backup, but he's not). If the Jets are spending more on their backups than 27 other teams, they need to be getting a return on their spending. Going winless without Wilson simply cannot happen this year, or else they screwed it all up.
As previously mentioned, Saleh made an announcement this week that Wilson would be out for three games minimum. That sucks.
These are three games he never needed to miss. I rarely ever want to blame players for injuries because there is always a mitigating factor, but this was an injury squarely caused by his decision to cut in bounds in a preseason contest. It was stupid, trying to pick up pointless yards in a meaningless game. As a consequence, he is now going to be on the sidelines for several weeks.
Let's just hope it doesn't carry more big picture impacts. I'll go into more detail in a moment, but his status as the unquestioned starting quarterback upon his return should not be secure if he's out for too long.
Since moving to Baltimore in 1996, the Ravens have opened the season four times against an AFC East opponent. Those games saw them play the Bills twice, the Dolphins and Jets once each. They won all four of them.
In their last two such games (against the Bills in 2018 and Dolphins in 2019), they won by a combined score of 106-13.
When they played the Jets, they narrowly defeated them by a score of 10-9 in Baltimore, back when Flacco was their quarterback instead of our quarterback. That was in 2010, back when the Jets last made the playoffs. Maybe they can recapture whatever magic they had that year with the same Week 1 opponent.
Okay, so this is where it gets really uncomfortable. As I said before, Zach Wilson's job as starter should not be absolutely safe right now. His injury was entirely avoidable, but- though it requires some management as I said in my last post- it is relatively minor and not something that should sideline him for longer than September. I was expecting him to miss the first two games of the season anyway, so the news that he would be missing the first three was not that much of a problem for me.
The part where it gets tricky was the fact that Saleh said that Week 4 was the earliest he could come back. That means they’ve essentially already made the determination that he needs a few weeks, but they don’t know if he’s going to be ready at that point. They gave Wilson the full 4 weeks from his initial 2-4 week timeframe from his PCL injury last year, and Wilson would go onto to say after his return against the Texans that his knee was in fact still injured, but he would play through it.
I think they made a mistake letting him play like that last year, but since he would go on to show some improvements in his play down the stretch, I won’t say that it was a huge mistake. They can’t do that this year, though; the time for him to learn behind a veteran was last year, and the Jets opted to have him only do that when he physically couldn’t be playing football. There is no reason for him to be learning behind Flacco when healthy unless the Jets have decided that Flacco gives them a better chance to win games, which in itself would spell the end of Wilson's chances of being a franchise QB here.
My thinking about his injury in August when the initial (unofficial) 4-6 week timeframe was circulated was this: it depends on how long he actually needs to recover. If he only misses one game, he definitely goes back out there unless Flacco has the greatest quarterbacked game ever against the team that drafted him. Ditto for two games: Flacco would need to be leading the league in passing yards or look like a legitimate top 10 QB in 2022 through two games to remain out there. For a three-game absence, unless the Jets are undefeated and Flacco still looks like a top 10 QB, Wilson would play week 4. That’s the situation where I am right now and am currently hoping it goes.
If he’s not ready in Week 4 though, at that point, it all comes down to Week 5 for me. Week 5 is the point where I might no longer care about his development as the top priority of this season should he still not be ready. Depending on the Jets’ record, the job might belong to Flacco at that point. If he’s missing 5 games this season due to an injury that should cost him no more than 3 games, we’re probably talking about him being fragile. It’s hard to deny that he’s injury-prone right now, considering that he’s missed multiple games in four out of five playing seasons with BYU and with the Jets. If he’s not healing properly, you’d really have to wonder if permanent damage has been done to that knee.
If he can’t play until Week 6 and the Jets have a winning record while he’s gone, no, I would not go back to starting Wilson unless Flacco and/or White are falling apart before our very eyes. Five games, in my opinion, is enough to know what this team should look like for the remainder of the season. If they’re 3-2, that means they have at least two tiebreaker wins over AFC opponents, all of whom expecting to be competing for the playoffs this season. Though they would have two tough matchups at Green Bay and at Denver the following two weeks that could get them back below .500, their remaining 10 games would provide ample opportunity to get back above .500 and possibly even into the playoffs. A good start this year would lend itself very well to that purpose, so if Flacco has got this team to a winning record, I would let him have the reins until he can’t hold on anymore, even if that means we can’t evaluate Wilson this year.
And for Wilson’s sake, he’d best heal quickly, because the early evaluation on him is already at the tipping point between him being on the team next year and not. Through 13 starts and 12 complete games, plus another preseason, he looks like a quarterback who is inaccurate, inefficient, injury-prone and an idiot. That’s harsh, but he’s proven very little and has a long way to go before he can silence any of those doubts. I don’t care how good an athlete he may be or how much talent is in that arm, since if he can’t harness it to overcome the doubts, it should be Flacco's team.
For all practical purposes, Wilson has five games. Maybe the Jets don’t have a winning record through five games anyway, which would definitely make it easier to go back to Wilson because a losing team shaking things up is nothing new around here. The Jets shouldn’t be thinking like that this year, expecting to lose. They need to be beyond that, or the losing will continue.
Back to something not as depressing as the Jets' never-ending search for a QB: the Jets' never-ending search for a kicker! Nick Folk has found a nice late-career revival playing for the Patriots for most of the last three seasons (and he’s still there now), but ever since he left the Jets in 2016, the team has not had a kicker in place for Week 1 in consecutive seasons to this point. The Jets' six Week 1 kickers since Folk departed are:
2017: Chandler Catanzaro
2018: Jason Myers
2019: Kaare Vedvik (he has not played another game in his career)
2020: Sam Ficken
2021: Matt Ammendola
2022: Greg Zuerlein
Will Zuerlein break that trend? It’s impossible to say. He’s had a good career, but there’s a reason Dallas cut him this offseason. Though Nick Folk will turn 38 in November, his presence on an NFL roster at his age is abnormal. Zuerlein turns 35 in December. Now, I don’t know if he will make it through one season with the Jets, but as a veteran who has succeeded for most his career, he could be the guy we’re looking for… for now.
If you want a reason to be optimistic about Zuerlein, here are his career stats at MetLife Stadium: 13/13 FG, 7/9 XP (both misses were with the Cowboys last year). Also, he’s been good to great on kickoffs all throughout his career, never having kicked the ball out of bounds and having a touchback rate of over 83% (though it was below 75% last season for a team that plays indoors).
Right now, even with the injuries they’ve suffered that have legitimate arguments to be among the most impactful in the NFL (I don’t think they are myself; the Cowboys have it worse), I am still expecting a season of at least 7 wins from this team. My official prediction is 8-9, but 7-10 is the bar I am setting. 6 wins probably won’t be good enough. I will absolutely not accept 5 wins or fewer, not unless the Jets do what no team has done since 1979 and has multiple ties this season. For playoff purposes, draws count as a half-win and half-loss, so if the Jets were to go 5-10-2 this season, their official record for playoff seeding would be 6-11. I assume that they wouldn’t be getting in with that record, so they really should try to win more than 5 games this year, a total they have eclipsed only once in the last 7 seasons.
The Jets have to face Lamar Jackson this weekend, who dons #8 for his a team after a decade of Flacco donning #5 for them. Forget about Jackson for a second, though; this one’s about Flacco (and somehow not about Kenny Pickett).
Flacco has played against all 32 NFL teams in his career, except for the Baltimore Ravens. He has beaten every NFL team he’s ever faced, except for the Seattle Seahawks. He has a career 36-25 record when playing against the AFC North, though that’s buoyed by a 17-3 record against the Browns, who he will face in Week 2. Though he did not play in any of those games, his team (Ravens, Broncos and Jets) has defeated the Browns each of the last three times his team faced them with him on the sidelines. He lost to each of the AFC North teams the last time he was on the field playing them.
Good luck, Joe. Please beat one or two of them this time.
The Jets have lost 12 consecutive games in September, Joe Douglas presiding over a 0-9 run since taking over in 2019. The last time they won a game in September was Sam Darnold's NFL debut, when they beat the Lions so bad that there was genuinely a reason to think the Jets might have been worth something that year. Things quickly fell apart when they lost their other three September games, but they then clawed their way back to 3-3.
Their awful September record is a big part of the reason why they’ve been so unwatchable the last few years. Even if they’re not mathematically eliminated, having your team be dead by Halloween every year is so deflating because you get the sense that they never really had a chance. Todd Bowles actually had a somewhat decent pre-Halloween record in his career; even if you take out his peak season in 2015, his team was always 3-5 before Halloween before a second-half regression struck. It’s been the opposite every year since, with Gase and Saleh having better records on October 31st and beyond than before it. Maybe this is just recency bias clouding my judgment, but it’s hard for me to imagine that the Gase-Saleh trend is reversed this year; their schedule is easier in the second half than the first.
That's no excuse to lose, though; don’t be dead by Halloween again. You have eight games before Halloween; find your way to Bowles 3-5 start or better.
The Jets’ bye week comes in Week 10 this year. Now that NFL seasons are 17 games long, that’s about as even as you can get: 9 games before, 8 games after. Just like last year, their first post-bye game will see them visit the Patriots. I hope all the Jets players who were on this team last year have that game circled on their calendars. Though they will be playing the Patriots for their final pre-Halloween game, the trip back to New England should be particularly hateful.
The Jets need to beat the Patriots at least once this season, but even if they beat them at home on October 30th, they cannot go on vacation for their bye and forget to show up the week after again. Even if they win 30-20 in Game 1, getting blown out by six scores nullifies any good feelings you might get from snapping a 12-game losing streak to this team.
Winning the game is obviously the goal, but even if you don’t, under no circumstance are you allowed to roll over. Make them take you seriously from now on or they never will as long as you’re with the team.
That’s it. I’ve got nothing left to say before the season begins. Other than please don’t embarrass me like that again, Hokies.
And, of course, let's go Jets.