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How Good of a Backup Could Joe Flacco Be?

Yesterday, the Jets completed a very interesting move, bringing in former Ravens and Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco on a one-year deal worth $1 million. Flacco comes in a different situation than what he’s previously experienced in his career. For the first time, it’s not him in the driving seat for the starting job. It’s Sam Darnold’s spot to lose and until something goes wrong, he’s the leader of the Jets offense.

In 2019, Flacco’s career took a dramatic turn. The veteran was in a trade to Denver in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Considering the inconsistency at the position and John Elway’s inability to find the long-term answer ever since Peyton Manning retired, the odds were on Flacco’s side to change the direction of the franchise.

Needless to say, that’s not how it went down. First off, he went 2-6 during the first half of the 2019 NFL season, leading the Broncos to the last place in the AFC West. He was then placed on the Injured Reserve list due to a neck injury.

A spark provided by the rookie Drew Lock didn’t help Flacco’s case either. After two straight losses, the first-year player out of Missouri replaced Brandon Allen following a Week 12 loss in Buffalo. Lock put on a sensational performance with a passer rating of 89.7 en route to winning four of five starts.

That put the final nail in the coffin. Now Flacco is in New York and is nothing more than a backup behind Darnold for the time being. The Jets, however, are one of the more interesting cases in the league when it comes to backup playmakers. Therefore, that signing could matter come September.

Here are more takeaways from the signing:

Flacco’s 2019 Performance

Two different figures fail are contradicting as to how good, or bad, Joe Flacco was last year for the Broncos. One of those components is his 2-6 win/loss record, on pace for just 4 wins had he played a full season. In his previous ten seasons as a pro quarterback, Flacco played fewer than 16 games just twice. In the other eight, he never won fewer than eight games.

However, while often being a point of focus, using the win/loss record to evaluate a quarterback is an abysmal piece of analysis. Personnel is different, systems are different and sometimes the quarterback isn’t even what drives the team’s success (see 2019 Titans, 2019 49ers, etc.). That means the evaluation is shifted to a more performance-based statistic, such as the passer rating.

During the 2019 season, Flacco posted an 85.1 passer rating. Although it’s virtually his highest since 2014, the premature conclusion to his campaign means this accomplishment is discredited by a lack of workload.

Even by adding the regression to the mean, his numbers still couldn’t get worse than 73.1 in 2013 (16 games, 614 passing attempts). Also, while Drew Lock outplayed Flacco (89.7 to 85.1), his numbers should be even more discredited (5 games, 156 passing attempts).

In conclusion, Flacco should be more than trustworthy as a second-choice quarterback. Especially after what the Jets experienced in relief for Sam Darnold last year but that’s for the next paragraph.

Backups in Place for Darnold

A backup last won a game for the Jets in December 2016 against the 49ers in Santa Clara. Bryce Petty led the Jets to a comeback and an overtime win, 23-17. Since then they’ve lost all eight games in which a backup started.

Almost like it was meant to be that way, the Jets had to overcome playing without their starting QB again in 2019. They could overcome that in either of these three games, which contributed to an 0-4 start to the season. Sam Darnold was out between Weeks 2-4 battling mononucleosis. This would be just as costly during the Week 1 bout against the Bills, when he had to put up with the illness, as in the following weeks.

Trevor Siemian, another former Broncos hopeful star, got the Week Two start against the Cleveland Browns. On Monday Night Football Siemian completed only three passes for 3 yards before exiting the game with an injury before halftime.

Instead, former Washington State star Luke Falk would start the next two (and a half) games. He would be very short of doing anything significant and the Jets would get beat up by New England and Philadelphia by the team’s Week Five bye. Falk’s final stat line: 47/73, 416 yards, 0-3 TD/Int., 62.4 passer rating – the third-worst rating amongst QBs with 70+ pass attempts, after Josh Rosen and Ryan Finley.

The difference was easy to feel in Week Six when the Jets and a returning Sam Darnold beat the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. But, it’s not like teams hadn’t benefitted from using backups – Titans (Ryan Tannehill) and Saints (Teddy Bridgewater) to name a couple. It was just that the Jets were at fault.

Jets’ Quarterback Situation

As it has been noted, the Jets currently have five quarterbacks on their roster. This means a battle for the backup spot between four players. More than one could have a legitimate capability to contend.

Mike White will probably be the underdog in this race. That leaves James Morgan, a rookie out of FIU, David Fales, and Flacco.

It’s not necessary to release Morgan completely. The Jets could send him to the practice squad if they don’t want more than two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. Either way, Flacco is still the frontrunner to back Darnold up. The best-case scenario for the Jets is to, finally, have Darnold start full season. Flacco certainly can be consistently coming into relief. The Jets could look to improve the running unit to help a possible Flacco stint as a starter.

Follow me on Twitter @TeodorTsenov for more of my content and follow @OT_Heroics!

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