The spotlight will shine on Jets QB Tim Boyle in the NFL's first Black Friday game after HC Robert Saleh said he would replace Zach Wilson for the important AFC East game against rival Miami. And in a nod to being chosen to inaugurate a gameday after Thanksgiving Day, the Green & White won't be wearing green and white. Instead, No. 7 and the Jets on Black Friday will drape themselves in their Stealth Back uniforms from head to toe.
The game against the division-leading Dolphins (7-3) will only be Boyle's fourth start of his NFL career, which presents him with a unique opportunity to keep the Jets in the race for an AFC playoff berth.
"We saw how this team last year when Mike White came in, how it galvanized around him," TV analyst and former Jets player Leger Douzable Eric Allen on this week's edition of "The Official Jets Podcast. "He has an opportunity for the team to buy into him being the guy. Even with what the Jets have been through, they're still in the thick of it. A division foe ... just go out there and let it loose, who knows if you'll have another opportunity. All the pressure is on the Dolphins trying to keep pace with the Ravens and the Chiefs for the top seed. They have all the pressure and have to make the plays. Don't be timid and just go out there and cut it loose."
Zach Wilson was lifted toward the end of the third quarter in Sunday's 32-6 loss at Buffalo. It was the Jets (4-5) third-straight loss, which came after a three-game winning streak, which in turn came after an earlier three-game losing streak.
"I think once you put Boyle in the game [against the Bills], we knew that it symbolized a bigger story," Bart Scott said. "When he did get in, the ball came out on time, but they weren't in sync because he didn't have reps with the first team."
Boyle, 29, grew up in Connecticut and was signed by the Jets in free agency in April. He spent a couple of seasons as Aaron Rodgers' backup with the Green Bay Packers and had his most productive season as a professional with the Lions in 2021. In four games (three starts), Boyle was 61 of 94 (64.9%), 526 yards and 3 TDs. He was with the Bears last season.
"He has an interesting story," Douzable said. "He started at UConn, then went to Eastern Kentucky. When you look at the numbers, this guy is the quintessential story of not giving up. Whenever he had an opportunity, he took advantage of it. Has familiarity with [offensive coordinator] Nathaniel Hackett helps, the ball comes out quick, he's a veteran and knows where to go with the football. The only thing that sucks is that it's a Friday game and he won't have time to build up continuity. This is a veteran guy who has played some football and been around the block. Maybe the offense will execute at a higher level."
Boyle (the 16th player in the past 15 years to start at QB for the Green & White), however, will face some of the same challenges as Wilson has dealt with during his time with the Jets -- an offensive line lacking in continuity. So far this season, the Jets have used seven different combinations on the line (five different combos in the past five games) and employed a staggering 13 different players on the O-line. And now Mekhi Becton, who left Sunday's game with an injured ankle, is questionable for Sunday's contest against the 'Fins.
"When you lose three in a row and the offense has been anemic, you're looking for a spark," Douzable said. "I don't like using that word, but I feel there has to be a reason for something to change. When offense has performed how it's performed, something is going to change.
Scott added: "You have to believe in something sometimes, so that when you make a change everyone is going to try to believe. All it takes is a couple of good balls to get momentum, and I believe that belief was gone.
"They're still not far away, the football gods keep giving you an opportunity. Buffalo has a tough schedule, I'm not saying the Jets don't. But if they can split [with Buffalo and Miami], they have an opportunity to fight another week. People thought teams like Denver, the Raiders were out of it and the Jets can still be alive if they win a couple of games. We've seen the Jets do that. Teams continue to get hurt, but our defense is still together and you have a unit that can dominate."
Scott sees the Black Friday game as an opportunity for Boyle to flash his talent and be the first to etch his name in the Jets' and NFL record books.
"This is more than a game, it's special, an inaugural game," Scott said. "At some point he will be a question on some sports show, the first Jets QB to start on Black Friday. It is a way to be immortalized, this is some way he can be remembered in this game, especially if he plays well, if he's the winning QB. Nobody remembers the losers."