For Joe Flacco, this Sunday is much bigger than just a spot start. The New York Jets backup quarterback getting the nod for Week 5 is an audition before the rest of the NFL.
A chance to prove that he still has got it.
And with his career seemingly washed up a season ago after a season-ending injury and being released by the Denver Broncos, Flacco’s chance to start is an opportunity to revitalize his dream to continue as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
“Well I think I’d be lying I mean if I was to deny that. I mean, I want to play quarterback in this league, there’s definitely some truth to that right there,” Flacco said on Wednesday.
“But just like I was talking about before, you don’t want to overdo it in your head and give yourself situations where you’re going to go out there and try to do more than you should do. I got to go out there and just play within the offense and do the best I can for this team and the situation that we’re in right now and that’s focusing on this week and seeing where it goes from there.”
On Wednesday, the Jets announced that Sam Darnold will be sidelined Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with a shoulder injury suffered the week before in a 37-28 loss to the Broncos.
Flacco already showed last week during his brief insertion into the Broncos game that he can still play. Given four offensive plays while Darnold’s shoulder was being examined, he threw two passes and completed both for a total of 16 yards.
Small sample size but enough to show that the narrative about Flacco being washed up is flawed. And if not flawed, then at least exaggerated.
A former Super Bowl MVP with the Baltimore Ravens, Flacco was signed this offseason to provide depth behind Darnold, who is missing the seventh game of an NFL career that is now in its third season. With a 10-5 record in the playoffs, Flacco is certainly a good mentor for the still developing Darnold, who has been given no favors this year with rampant injuries to the offensive line and at wide receiver.
In 2019, Flacco’s only season with the Denver Broncos was cut short due to a neck injury that required subsequent surgery this offseason. In eight games in Denver, he had 1,822 passing yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
His 2-6 record wasn’t exactly inspiring.
But within those numbers lie some nuggets that show that Flacco, now in season No. 13 in the NFL, can still play and contribute. And most importantly in the here and now for the 0-4 Jets, be a steadying presence and an upgrade for a struggling offense.
The Jets are, after all, last in the NFL in total offense.
His 1.9 percent interception percentage was below his 11-year average with the Ravens (2.4 percent). His completion percentage in Denver (65.3 percent) was up over his career average (61.9 percent). Both are good indicators of the ability to play and contribute.
For what it is worth, Darnold’s projected passing yards (3,168 yards) as well as completion percentage (59.4 percent) are both on pace to be lower than Flacco’s projected output over 16 games in 2019.
“When I watch him throw, the stuff I’ve seen him do on scout team, I don’t see any – the arm strength is still there, I know that,” Jets head coach Adam Gase said.
“Joe seems like he’s going to be fine. It’s just more about just kind of working with the guys that he’s got to work with that he’s going to play with on Sunday and just kind of getting into some kind of rhythm.”