Last Thursday, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson made clear his willingness to acquire a quarterback.
Woody Johnson says he's "absolutely" open to Joe Douglas exploring paying big bucks for a veteran quarterback.— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) January 12, 2023
"That's kind of the missing piece. Our defense was an unbelievable story that you saw this year, from last place to close to the top." #Jets
While most Jets fans agree with Johnson that the Jets need a QB upgrade, there is a bit more debate around the latter piece of Woody’s quote regarding the degree to which the Jets are close to contending with their current roster. On one hand, one could argue that the Jets defense and the emergence of wide receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall set the Jets up for success. On the other hand, one could point to other position groups that were less successful this season, such as the offensive line.
Depending on one’s alignment with either of these beliefs, one’s desire to pay a significant amount (in the allocation of the Jets’ limited cap space and/or in draft capital) to acquire a QB may change; this is most notable in the discussion of whether or not the Jets should attempt to acquire players such as Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Lamar Jackson or Las Vegas Raiders Quarterback Derek Carr.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that rosters are rarely filled with all pro players at every position. Indeed, even juggernauts such as the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, and Philadelphia Eagles have weaknesses on their roster. Moreover, these teams all feature strong QB play that may assist teams in overcoming these weaknesses, which is a benefit that the Jets have not had in quite some time.
As it pertains to 2022, an analysis of ‘wins above replacement’ (WAR) as calculated by ProFootballFocus (PFF) absent the QB can provide some potential insight into the degree to which the Jets may be ‘only’ a QB away.
As we can see in the below plot that was uploaded to Reddit, the Jets roster generated the 4th most non-QB WAR among all NFL teams. Notably, the other 7 teams that comprised the top 8 in this statistic all reached the playoffs. Additionally, the Jets were calculated as having more WAR outside of the QB position than Super Bowl contenders such as the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, and Dallas Cowboys, who seem to be buoyed to some degree by the excellence of their QBs.
Additionally, given that we are using this chart of evidence of 2023 Jets may simply need an improved QB to improve their win total by a meaningful amount given the relative strength of the rest of their roster, we want to make sure that WAR is consistent across seasons. Indeed, if WAR is inconsistent across years then a strong WAR this year would give us little reason to expect a strong WAR next year from the non-QB players on the Jets. However, PFF WAR scores are indeed correlated year-to-year, as shown below in a figure from PFF. More specifically, results supported that correlations were estimated to be as high as .62 within a given position, which is typically characterized as a large correlation.
Taken together, this supports that the Jets have a strong roster in place... at least outside of the Quarterback. For me, this provides rationale to support Woody Johnson’s claim that the Jets are “a QB away” as well as justification to attempt to acquire an established QB.
But what do you think? Are the Jets truly a good roster that’s dragged down by a bad QB or does this analysis miss a critical component that is skewing the results? For those that have been against acquiring a high value QB, does this change your mind at all?