Editor’s note: This post has been updated following the latest Zach Wilson injury update.
Hey Joe, whaddya know? Will you get the cameo? Audubon High School grad Joe Flacco may become the opening-day quarterback for the New York Jets against the team he still holds records with, the Baltimore Ravens, Sept. 11.
Soon enough, New Jersey fans able to secure tickets may well be planning a trip up the Turnpike to watch one of their own. It’s ironic for Flacco to play the Ravens, the team no other quarterback has won with more (98).
New Jersey native Joe Flacco temporarily replacing Zach Wilson
Well, it’s now looking like Flacco will be the Jets starting QB through at least NFL Week 3. A story on the team website included the latest update from head coach Robert Saleh, and that is the earliest Wilson could return to game action will be Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Previous reports had Wilson listed as “will play in Week 1, if he’s ready.”
For now, Flacco is the No. 1 signal caller. He has been given the deference reserved for Opening Day starters – the preseason bench – ever since Wilson went down during the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Flacco didn’t play in that game. Nor did he take any snaps when the Jets toppled the Atlanta Falcons 24-16 earlier this week.
Flacco played in the final preseason game against the Giants. He completed 7 of 16 passes for 76 yards and an interception.
Can Jersey Joe keep Jets resurgence hopes alive?
The signs suggest an encore spotlight jaunt for the 15th-year quarterback, which appears uplifting. Jersey Joe, at age 37, has become one of the league’s more personable elder statesmen.
Flacco downplays it, naturally. He is aware of media pressure in New York to bring Wilson back quickly while knowing that he represents the more calculated view.
In Flacco, the Jets have a one-time Super Bowl MVP, even if that was 10 years ago. He can still play and gives them an alternative to risking a season-long injury to Wilson, the centerpiece of their rebuilding plans.
The Jets had, by all accounts, a strong draft, and carry expectations of pushing upward. They are counting on Wilson to spark the resurgence after going 27-70 since 2015, their last winning season.
The fan base has gone from irate to enthusiastic ever since Wilson was drafted as the second overall pick and anointed the savior in 2021.
But the Jets, of all teams, can’t afford to be wrong about this. Wilson missed four games with an injury last year and is already hurt again. The Messiah can’t lead from the trainer’s room.
The Broadway Joe Lesson
Flacco presents a safe alternative to a scenario the Jets know all too well.
They lost Joe Namath, the architect of their only Super Bowl, in the first exhibition game of the 1971 season. They then suffered a losing season and the start of a steep decline.
Maybe they’ll be cautious before losing another franchise quarterback and possibly the season. The league added a 17th regular-season game last year. That’s a long road to travel without a star quarterback. And a bad one.
Joe Flacco a source of New Jersey pride
Flacco, who has downplayed speculation over starting Week 1, is popular both in the Philadelphia and northern New Jersey areas.
He was a three-sport star – baseball, football and basketball – for Audubon High School, graduating in 2003. When he played for the University of Delaware, that was an easy drive for southern New Jersey residents.
When Flacco joined the Ravens in 2008, that wasn’t a tough road trip either, just a couple of hours from Audubon. He rewarded the faithful over the years by compiling 38,245 passing yards, still a Ravens team record.
A decorated NFL career
Here are some other milestones many New Jersey natives may not know about one of their own:
- He was the first NFL quarterback to register a post-season victory in each of his first five seasons. Russell Wilson later tied that with the Seattle Seahawks.
- Flacco tied Joe Montana’s record of 11 post-season touchdowns with no interceptions in 2012. He also tied Montana and Kurt Warner for most TD passes in a post-season (later tied also by Patrick Mahomes).
- He led the Ravens to six playoff appearances and the 2012 Super Bowl, for which he was named the MVP.
And the Green Wave was more than his Audubon High School nickname. The Super Bowl exploits brought him a six-year, $120 million package, a record for NFL quarterbacks at the time.
Aaron Rodgers is the NFL trendsetter now, with a contract exceeding $26 million for 2022. But, hey, $20 million a year was good money in 2012.
Flacco’s long winding NFL career lands him back in New Jersey
In time, Flacco gave way to Lamar Jackson in Baltimore. Later viewed as a backup, he went to the Jets in 2019 as insurance for Sam Darnold. He played a little bit. The same thing happened in 2020.
Last year, he was selected to back up Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. When the Eagles and Jets practiced together at the Jets’ training camp last summer in Florham Park, Flacco thus had colleagues on both sides.
Flacco never got his opportunity in Philadelphia, just a few miles from his childhood home. The Eagles had a crowded pre-season camp that included Hurts, Flacco and Gardner Minshew. Flacco, the oldest of the three, was considered the most expendable.
And thus, he was dealt back to the Jets last year after Wilson got hurt. This is his third straight year with the team.
Joe Flacco encore for Jets in Week 1?
Flacco is happy to take a reported $3.5 million this year, enjoy the ride, and stay near his roots.
And the ride may put him in the driver’s seat, leading the Jets for one game, maybe a little more.
That means getting sharp on the practice field, rather than in risky pre-season games. Flacco’s work occurred when the Jets and Falcons had a joint workout. He threw a long touchdown completion to Elijah Moore and orchestrated a couple two-minute drills to lead the offense to 10 points.
Flacco completed 10 of 13 passes.
Flacco can’t control what happens with Wilson.
But Jersey Joe looks ready, if the chance comes, for an encore presentation.