Sports

Zach Wilson is Jets future, but Robert Saleh must ride Joe Flacco

Understandably, Robert Saleh didn’t want a share of the question on Wednesday.

The Jets coach just got past last week’s entire “receipts” quote and wasn’t looking to make any more headlines…so when asked if there’s a scenario where Joe Flacco could keep the starting quarterback job once Zach Wilson is healthy, Saleh gave an answer that sounded like he had practiced it in front of a mirror for his press conference.

“Zach is the future of the organization. We all know that,” Saleh says. “Once the doctors clear him, we’ll get him on the field.”

Really? Did Wilson Earn the Right to Get the Runway Back?

Saleh certainly doesn’t want to deal in hypothetical business, but we do. Let’s play this out a bit. Flacco goes out on Sunday and has another 300-yard performance, four touchdowns and the Jets beat the Bengals to improve to 2-1. You tell me Monday morning, Saleh takes the keys from Flacco’s hands?

Joe Flacco passes the ball against the Browns during the first half at the FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday.
Joe Flacco passes the ball against the Browns during the first half at the FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday.
Getty Images
Joe Flacco threw for four touchdowns and over 300 yards against the Browns.
Joe Flacco threw for four touchdowns and over 300 yards against the Browns.
Getty Images

I would not do it. Saleh should ride the hot hand and that’s Flacco.

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The scenario I’ve mapped out is unlikely. The Jets are an underdog against a desperate 0-2 Bengals team on Sunday. But what if? What if Flacco does it again? What if the Jets trigger another shock?

Saleh should then come out on Monday and say that Wilson’s surgically repaired knee needs another week of rest and Flacco will start Week 4 against the Steelers. Keep going until Flacco’s 37 year old wheels fall off.

No one is saying Flacco looked like Aaron Rodgers last week. But there was some magic at the end of the game. Of course, the Browns gave the Jets an opportunity they should never have had, but Flacco made the most of that opportunity. He hit a wide open Corey Davis on a 66-yard touchdown pass, then executed a masterful final touchdown drive after the onside kick.

Everyone calls Flacco “Joe Cool” and it showed on that last ride. He looked like he was in complete control and was a calming presence for a young team.

“I think Joe is a very good quarterback. He’s seen it all,’ Saleh said. “[By] the game plan has already been revealed in the fourth quarter. They know how to play everything. When we got that onside kick, he knew exactly where to go with the ball because he already knew what was going to happen. The big ones can see that, so in those fourth quarters when you have a good quarterback armed with all the knowledge he needs, that’s hard.”

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Could Wilson have led the Jets back? Could be. But he does not have the knowledge that Saleh spoke of. Flacco has been there and has done so. Wilson has a fourth quarter comeback on his resume. Sunday was Flacco’s 19th. Sunday marked the 37th time Flacco has thrown 300 yards in an NFL game. Wilson has not yet reached that goal.

The reaction of Flacco’s teammates after the game shows how much they love the man many saw before the Ravens as a child. In the video the Jets tweeted, Flacco stood in the center of the room surrounded by jumping Jets and you could see how popular he is in the locker room.

But it wasn’t just the magic of Sunday’s comeback. Flacco played well when the offensive line was given time and the receivers don’t pass. PFF has rated him as the third-best quarterback in the NFL, trailing Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts. They credited him with zero revenue-worthy plays. He is third in the NFL with 616 passing yards.

Will it last a season, a month, another two weeks? Who knows? But Saleh owes it to the players, coaches, front office, owners and fan of Jets to find out.

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So, is there any chance that Flacco can continue to work?

Robert Saleh speaks to media before training in Florham Park.
Robert Saleh speaks to media before training in Florham Park.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post
Zach Wilson, center, has been sidelined for the Jets since he had knee surgery in August.
Zach Wilson, center, has been sidelined for the Jets since he had knee surgery in August.
Getty Images

“I don’t want to be a broken record,” Saleh said. “I’ll be happy to answer that question a million times when Zach is healthy and ready to go. Zach is the future of the team.”

No one is going to argue that the 23-year-old isn’t the future. But that doesn’t mean the 37-year-old can’t be the present if he continues to play well.

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