What Will the Jets do if They Have to go Without Zach Wilson?

In the first week of the 2022 preseason, the New York Jets were in Philadelphia playing the Eagles, and second year quarterback and the 2021 second overall pick, Zach Wilson, was starting the game. In the second series, Zach Wilson was running to his right to evade a sack and was sprinting up toward the sideline. Wilson then juked back to his left to make a defender miss, then awkwardly lost his footing and fell to the ground, without even being touched. Wilson got up and began to limp. Wilson limped all the way to the locker room, and was put on the injury report with a right knee injury. It was later believed that Wilson would miss the entire season due to a torn ACL, something that has not yet been confirmed, but unfortunately the conscience is preparing for the worst. An MRI on Saturday August 13th will tell us the whole story, but for now everyone is left wondering what the Jets will do next, no matter how. long Zach Wilson may be out.

Hopes were high for the Jets. Having a good free agency, a spectacular draft, and having a new swagger surrounding the team thanks to their starting quarterback, Zach Wilson. Jets fans began to worry when it was revealed just days before the season that 2020 11th overall pick, offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, would miss the entire 2022 season due to a broken kneecap he suffered in practice. Now the entire league is feeling sorry for the Jets because of the incredibly huge loss of their starting quarterback, and Jets fans can’t catch a break. This was supposed to be a year of improvement for the Jets. Maybe they weren’t seen as a high threat to make the playoffs, but they were seen as a team that could get six or seven wins, but play a lot of good teams close. Something that would be the best thing the Jets have seen in at least seven years, when Ryan Fitzpatrick nearly took them to the playoffs with a 10-6 season. Now the Jets seem like they will be trying to avoid picking within the top three for the third time in five years. But will the Jets be able to even win five games this season now? Who will even be playing quarterback for them? Mike White? Joe Flacco? Someone else? Well depending on who the Jets decide to play quarterback will show what they view this season as. If they acquire someone, or even try to acquire someone can show if they are still trying to be competitive. But which quarterback can the Jets be most competitive with?

Joe Flacco

Flacco seems like he should be the obvious choice for the Jets to roll with. He’s already on the roster. He has over a decade of starting experience in the league. Flacco even has a Super Bowl MVP award. At his peak he’s arguably elite. At his worst he is a solid backup. The only problem is, Flacco is old. This should be a red flag for Jets fans for at least two reasons. Firstly, the Jets have a very young team. The Jets should now be trying to give young talent a chance to gain experience in the NFL while their quarterback heals up, and trotting out a 37 year old quarterback with, who has changed teams five teams in the last five seasons, and hasn’t thrown for more than ten touchdowns in a season since he was with the Baltimore Ravens, which leads to the second red flag. Flacco will not be getting any younger, and he will not be having any new tricks up his sleeve, or any Tom Bradyish eternal youth. While Flacco can win two or three games against teams on their schedule like the Bears, Seahawks, and a divisional opponent, it’s incredibly hard to imagine his ceiling being much higher than that. The rest of the AFC East seems significantly better than them, at least on paper now. They also face the AFC North, the NFC North, as well as the Broncos, Jaguars, and Seahawks. A week ago, it seemed as if the Jets could’ve been competitive in at least 12 of those games, now it seems like they’ll only be competitive in eight or nine of their games, and that’s if they can hang with the Dolphins and Patriots, or their roster can play as if they have years more experience than their ages suggest. Joe Flacco’s age combined with the rest of the roster’s youth seems like a move that would clash with what they Jets have been building all offseason. They are a New York team after all, even if they play in New Jersey, they are still built to be young, flashy, and talented, with a new infusion of swagger, even if obviously lacking experience. They are built to be fun, and Joe Flacco does not fit the mold.

Mike White

Mike White did have a legendary performance in 2021, upsetting the Bengals, who would go on to play in the Super Bowl, with a score of 34-31. White threw for over 400 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions, and a completion percentage of 82.2. That was the only time White would ever throw multiple touchdowns in a game, and following the game against the Bengals, White would throw one touchdown against four interceptions and loose twice in two games. White has an incredibly small sample size, only starting three games and appearing in four, before being sidelined for the rest of 2021 due to both injury and the return of Zach Wilson. In so little time Mike White has seen some of the highest of highs, and lowest of lows. He has some swagger to him, and he definitely is a fan favorite, but unfortunately White really does feel like a one trick pony. He could show great flashes of something special like he did against Cincinnati, and possibly upset a team, such as the Bills, who did drop a game to the Nick Saban Jaguars in 2021, or even a middle of the pack team like the Vikings if their young defense can wear out Kirk Cousins, and their quarterback himself isn’t so similar to Kirk Cousins the way Joe Flacco is, where he often fades into the tone of the rest of the game rather than making the play to steal the show himself. This is where Mike White offers something Joe Flacco cannot, but Mike White’s combination of skill and moxie still seems like it would still only see the Jets to a record of 4-13 or 5-12, far less than what could’ve been. So if the Jets executives still feel worried for their jobs with only five or less and the promise of talent in 2023, they might look to make a trade. However, Joe Douglas has done a phenomenal job rebuilding a horribly built Jets roster suffering from a series of toxic coaching staffs, and I doubt he will loose his job if the Jets struggle after losing Zach Wilson. Robert Saleh’s job should also really only depend on if he can get all of his highly talented young players on defense to develop into star players or not. Still, the Jets shouldn’t simply throw in the towel for 2022, at the very least for the sake of their fans, and there are options of players the Jets can bring in, while still making it known Zach Wilson will be the starter when he returns in 2023. But who?

Jimmy Garappolo

Jimmy Garappolo stands out as the first phone call the Jets should make. Jets head coach Robert Saleh spent time in San Fransisco as a defensive coordinator, so he knows how Garappolo plays, and is familiar with 49ers General Manager John Lynch. Garappolo wouldn’t be a bad fit for the Jets, as he was the odd man out on the 2022 quarterback carousel, and unfortunately everyone knew it was a matter of if, and not when, that a quarterback would go down or be suspended and Jimmy G would be front and center for a job again. A career record of 33-14, as well as appearances as a starter in two conference championship games and one Super Bowl, which Garappolo and the 49ers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. Garappolo also has 71 career touchdowns, against only 38 interceptions, a career passer rating of 98.9, as well as ten career fourth quarter comebacks. While all of these numbers are appealing to Jets fans, as they should be, Jimmy Garappolo has built a reputation of being a very bland passer, who often looks for dump-offs and check-downs, and relies on the talent around him to give him his good statistics and earn him wins as a starter, after all, Deebo Samuel was second in the NFL in 2021 in total yards after catch with a total of 779 yards, with an average of over ten yards after the catch per reception, as well as a career average of 188 yards per game. While the truth is likely somewhere in the middle of Jimmy being carried or not, Garappolo can win games in this league, and can help bring along young talent. Even if he is bland, he could still bring the Jets into the realm of being between a six and eight win team in 2022, if all of the young talent on the Jets can pan out. But is there even a better option for the Jets than Jimmy G? A passer who has something Jimmy Garappolo doesn’t? A quarterback who is also on the trade market, who is younger and has a fraction of the salary that Garappolo does?

Gardner Minshew

If I was Joe Douglas, I would be doing everything I could to get Gardner Minshew on the Jets, and they could probably do it with less draft capital and less of a salary cap hit than if they were to trade for Jimmy Garappolo. Minshew has expressed that he feels he should be a starter in this league, and his numbers back him up. While he has a career record of 8-14, one win and seven losses can be credited to the 2020 Jaguars team, that was actively trying to ruin Minshew to justify tanking for Trevor Lawrence. Minshew also has 41 career touchdowns to only 12 interceptions, an average of 221 yards per game, and a career passer rating of 93.9. Minshew also has over 500 career rushing yards, and averages 4.9 yards per carry. Minshew also has swagger, and the undivided love of just about every football fan you can find. Minshew would be an electric addition to this Jets team, and to the big apple. Minshew is 26 years old, is entering his fourth NFL season, and has appeared in just 27 NFL games. When comparing this to Jimmy Garappolo, who is 30 years old, entering his ninth NFL season, and has appeared in 63 games, Minshew fits significantly better with the Jets roster. The Jets currently have the sixth youngest roster in the NFL, with an average age of 25.88 years old, with their players averaging 3.55 seasons of experience in the NFL. Minshew fits the mold of what the Jets need at quarterback in the absence of Wilson perfectly. Minshew is electric. He is youthful, fun, and lovable, and seems like he could more easily win over a locker room, fanbase, and coaching staff than Joe Flacco, Mike White, and even Jimmy Garappolo. Jets general manager Joe Douglas was even the assistant GM in Philadelphia under Eagles GM Howie Roseman from 2016 until being hired by the Jets in June of 2019. Minshew provides the Jets with the personality they will need in the absence of Zach Wilson, and is still someone who wouldn’t be stepping on Zach Wilson’s toes come 2023, but still could get the Jets some breaks they otherwise wouldn’t get. Despite a difficult schedule I believe Minshew has quietly developed the past two seasons, and while the Jets still would likely be facing between five and seven wins, Minshew gives the Jets a ceiling of eight to nine wins that I don’t believe any other quarterback on the market can give them.

Jacoby Brissett

This could be an option if Deshaun Watson ends up with a longer suspension than anticipated, and the Browns win the Jimmy Garappolo or Gardner Minshew sweepstakes, and ultimately decide they no longer need Brissett. This would be a bit of a head scratcher, as Brissett has a career record of 14-23, and a touchdown to interception ratio of 36-17. He isn’t better than Garappolo or Minshew and there isn’t a likely scenario where neither of the two are still on the trade block, and isn’t better than anything the Jets currently have, thus there isn’t much else to dive into for Jacoby Brissett.

Sam Darnold

This one would be make Jets fans riot in the streets, and may actually lead to some Jets higher ups being fired, even if it panned out for the Jets, just based on how foolish it would make them look. If it were one of the 30 other teams needing a quarterback to fill in, Darnold wouldn’t be a bad option, as he is still only 25, and despite a losing career record a throwing 54 touchdowns against 52 interceptions, Darnold may have some unfinished business in the league, just not with the Jets.

The Rest

Mitchell Trubisky would be perhaps the best option for the Jets, but it is incredibly unlikely that he is both not starting before the trade deadline, and that the Steelers would feel comfortable with trading him. Jordan Love would be fun, but Green Bay’s asking price is likely still just too high for the Jets, and Love also presents a conflict with Wilson in 2023 if he performs up to his expectations that he had coming into the NFL. Finally, Nick Foles would be a fun option to see start again in the league, and the former Super Bowl MVP has expressed interest in starting again, unfortunately there’s just too many options that would. make more sense for the Jets, and Foles may be quite happy in Indianapolis with Frank Reich playin the role of a reliever.

All in all, the Zach Wilson injury is devastating for Wilson, the Jets, and the league as a whole. Wilson was a young talent many were looking forward to see in 2022, and he will be missed, but the show must go on. Despite the bitter taste in their mouths, the Jets will have to decide on who will be their starter to fill in for Zach Wilson, and no matter if it’s Mike White, Joe Flacco, Jimmy Garappolo, or Gardner Minshew, the Jets should still be a fun team to keep an eye on in 2022. The sheer number of young players who are playing big roles is exciting to see. In the 2022 draft they were able to get four players who are hugely talented and will be getting lots of snaps this season, and when Zach Wilson returns in 2023, it may be time to see gang green return to the playoffs.

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