After a brief vacation, Joe Flacco is heading back to New York.
According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Jets traded a conditional sixth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 14-year veteran, one that can become a fifth-rounder based on play time.
Flacco, who started four games for Gang Green a year ago, will presumably be the starter for the duration of Zach Wilson’s absence. Wilson’s timetable currently sits at two-to-four weeks, with the Jets still mulling a potential IR designation.
The former Super Bowl MVP completed 55% of his passes for 864 yards for New York in 2020, tossing six touchdowns with three interceptions. HIs three-touchdown effort on Monday Night Football against the Patriots in a loss was the Jets’ best quarterback performance of the season.
Make no mistake about it, Flacco isn’t going to suddenly turn the non-competitive Jets into a good football team. He went 0-4 at the helm a year ago and this roster isn’t much better. He is, however, a big upgrade over Mike White, the would-be starter who has even less experience than Wilson.
For the Jets, the move is better late than never. New York, for months, has desperately needed a veteran backup, someone to mentor Wilson on the sidelines and to be prepared to step into action if needed. Flacco has the ability and experience to do both.
But the timing is particularly curious.
General Manager Joe Douglas passed up every opportunity to sign a veteran backup until now. Flacco was available for cheap in the offseason. The Jets were reportedly interested, but didn’t think he was a good scheme fit. Still, New York declined to sign veterans that were undoubtedly good scheme fits. Nick Mullens started 16 games while Mike LaFleur was in San Francisco, and the Jets passed on him too.
If the plan was always going to be to acquire a veteran should Wilson go down, then why not sign one preemptively?
Why wait until the last possible moment to devise a backup plan?
Why deprive your rookie quarterback of the mentorship that a veteran could have brought the past seven weeks and beyond?
The story of the actual game this past Sunday was a failure to prepare. Despite a two-week long bye, the Jets couldn’t muster up any game plan to jumpstart the offense or to stop New England’s rushing attack. That failure to prepare was a microcosm of the entire organization, though.
New York, like most teams in today’s NFL, wanted to start their young quarterback right away to maximize the window on his rookie contract. Unlike most teams, the Jets didn’t give him someone to compete with, someone to push him, or at the very least, someone to help him learn.
And Wilson has needed that presence more than ever. His head coach is defensive-minded by trade. His offensive coordinator is a young, first-year guy used to viewing games from the booth. His veteran quarterbacks coach passed away in a tragic biking accident just months before the season. If anyone needed a Flacco-like mentor in practice and on the sidelines, it was Wilson.
Luckily, Douglas was able to scramble and find a familiar face from a familiar place when he needed one.
Flacco will have just six days to learn the offense before a home date with the Bengals, who currently hold the best record in the AFC through seven weeks. He is 9-11 in his career with 21 touchdowns and 25 interceptions against Cincinnati, though he has never played Zac Taylor’s version of the team.
After that, he’ll travel to Indianapolis on a short week before hosting the Bills and Dolphins, depending on how long Wilson is out.
Ultimately, the trade is a win for New York. The Jets have accumulated enough picks to justify giving them away when a situation like this one arises. Flacco will be able to teach Wilson on the sidelines, and will keep the offense afloat until he returns. He’ll be able to support Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder and Elijah Moore. He might even give the Jets a better chance of winning in the short term.
That’s what makes it hard to fathom why the move took so long.