In the early weeks of the 2019 season, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold missed three games because he had Mononucleosis.
A few things are important to note about the time Darnold missed. The Jets had a pretty solid backup plan in place in the event he would miss any time. Trevor Siemian, who had previously been the backup in Minnesota, signed for a one-year deal and was the clear No. 2.
The best-laid plans often go awry, however, as Siemian broke his ankle on a Myles Garrett sack less than a half into his New York debut. It put Luke Falk, a third-string quarterback, under center in a 13-point hole against the Browns on Monday Night Football. The Jets lost that game, 3-23.
The Falk-led Jets lost to the Patriots, had a bye week and lost to the Eagles before Darnold returned. The question to ask is had Siemian not gotten injured, would the Jets have beaten the Browns, the Patriots or the Eagles? Probably not.
Following Darnold's return, New York cut Falk and left David Fales as Darnold's backup. Falk filed an injury grievance against the Jets, which was the second filed following Kelechi Osemele’s dispute.
Once Siemian went down, things went really poorly for New York. So, it makes sense the Jets wanted to shore up the quarterback room, in the event that Darnold — who went 7-6 as a starter last year — had to miss time again. Their move was signing Joe Flacco, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Flacco is definitely an upgrade over Siemian and Fales; there's no doubt about that. Siemian hadn't started since 2017 when the Jets signed him, and in that season, had a completion percentage below 60%, fewer touchdowns than interceptions and an eye-popping 2.8 sacks per game. Even for his struggles in the last two jobs he's lost in as many years, Flacco has a 63% completion percentage, 18:11 touchdown-to-interception ratio and only 2.5 sacks per game.
The problem is, those numbers are still not good. Flacco enters the Jets’ locker room fresh off a neck surgery that may not have him physically ready for play in September, and he has never played in Adam Gase’s system. There's a chance he takes his first snaps in a live, regular-season game with only a few weeks of practice with the No. 2's.
Was Flacco's recent performance in Baltimore and Denver really good enough to encourage New York he'd be a quality spot starter? I don't think it was enough.
Flacco is a veteran, which is nice, but it's not as if he's going to be a mentoring presence for Darnold. Flacco made headlines for his public comments regarding Drew Lock's development in Denver, saying, "I’m not worried about developing guys or any of that — I hope he does develop, but I don’t look at it as my job. My job is to win football games." In that Flacco was signed to compete for the No. 2 job and not the starting spot, as he was when acquired by Denver, perhaps his tone will be different this time around.
With the Flacco signing considered, the Jets remain largely where they were one week and one season ago: screwed if Darnold goes down. Ideally, Flacco never sees the field for the Jets and is able to give Darnold some veteran wisdom, but the danger here is that the New York misses out on developing a young quarterback, like rookie fourth-round selection James Morgan, because of the roster spot that Flacco occupies.
Flacco’s signing is welcome news in the doldrums of May, but hopefully, for the Jets and football fans everywhere, it isn't something we are reminded of for the duration of the 2020 season.