BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
There was talk Zach Wilson could be starting for the Jets at quarterback on Sunday in their home opener against the Baltimore Ravens. Jets head coach Robert Saleh raised that possibility by saying it was possible a few days ago.
The second-year quarterback worked out the other day for the first time since he underwent successful knee surgery on Aug. 16. He suffered a meniscus tear and a bone bruise in his right knee in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 12.
That talk came to an end Wednesday. Saleh announced Joe Flacco would start Week 1 and Wilson won’t be available until Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the earliest. However, the Jets starting quarterback will practice with the team, so he won’t be on the injured reserve.
It could have been tempting to start Wilson, but it would not be wise. He couldn’t possibly be ready to go all of sudden. He still has work to do before he starts. He needs to be in game shape just to be under center. He can’t just take snaps at practice and be ready on game day just like that. He played only nine snaps in his only preseason game of the season. It doesn’t work that way.
The more anyone thought about it, it’s clear it was likely more than gamesmanship that Saleh pulled on the Ravens to make them think about who was starting. It’s hard to believe the Ravens fell for it.
It made sense for the Jets to start Joe Flacco under center on Sunday. He’s the right guy in this spot. At this point, he’s more ready than Wilson is. The Jets’ chances of winning are much better with Flacco than Wilson on this given Sunday.
Flacco has been there and done that in starting season openers. He knows how to handle the pomp and circumstances of Opening Day. With a team featuring so many young players on the roster, they need a leader who can be even-keel in a big spot, and that’s where he becomes invaluable. In a home opener that will have fans expect instant dividends right away, this experienced quarterback should be the way to go.
Plus, Flacco has picked up on the offense a lot better than Wilson, who has to be behind after missing most of preseason and joint practices. He showed he can throw in the preseason games that he played. This should be good enough for Saleh and Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to be comfortable with.
To make it short and sweet here, Flacco knows what he is doing. He is more durable and accurate than Wilson is right now.
The Jets talk about getting off to a good start this season so that they can play meaningful games in December. With the Jets playing three of four AFC North playoff contenders to start the season, it makes more sense to start Flacco since he knows about those teams that the Jets are facing.
It wouldn’t make sense to rush Wilson to start off these games. He can always come in next month and be fully healthy and ready to go.
The Jets are invested in Wilson. They want him to start as soon as possible. They feel if he sits down for a long period, he could regress. But the problem with that thinking is if he reinjures his knee, then he is out for the year and it would be much worse.
There’s a school of thought that if Flacco gets on a roll, the Jets could stick with him until his luck runs out. This wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It gives more time for Wilson to recover and be fresh.
Right now, the Jets had to make a decision based on who will win on Sunday, not because of sentimental reasons. Flacco received many reps this preseason to show he earned the right to start Week 1 at least.
What was the rush to start Wilson anyway? He’s going to play this season one way or another. He might as well learn from watching Flacco. He hasn’t exactly been Aaron Rodgers or Jimmy Garoppolo out there in his rookie season. Shoot, he isn’t even Kirk Cousins. Right now, he needs the game to slow down for him. It can’t do harm for him to watch from the sidelines for a month.
If the second-year quarterback really is not ready to play, the Jets would do him and everyone on offense a disservice. This is why it was crazy to talk about him starting on Sunday.
The Jets talk about wanting to play meaningful games in December. They need to stick to it by playing the best guy that can win them games, especially when it comes to naming a quarterback.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6