Nothing like a little second-week-of-the-season quarterback quandary to rev things up for the Green & White and Jets Nation. But in reality, head coach Robert Saleh, who left the door on a QB change open just a crack during his conference call with reporters Monday, slammed it shut on Wednesday about Joe Flacco:
"Joe's our quarterback. We're focusing on Cleveland. We're just trying to get through this one, then we'll see what happens."
What happened in the 24-9 home loss to Baltimore wasn't all on Flacco's 37-year-old shoulders, Saleh explained.
"When he had a clean pocket, he was very, very efficient," the coach said. "Part of the clean pocket is the O-line's responsibility to give it to him, and then for him to just deliver the ball where it needs to go and get off certain reads. So it was a bunch of different things. It was more than just him. There's the O-line, there's route-running, there's dropped passes, there was a fumble that stalled drives. It was just a comedy of errors that led to what looked like a bad performance by him.
"Now it wasn't the best performance, but I don't think it was as bad as people think it was."
One wouldn't think the 15-year veteran signal-caller would be throwing anyone under the bus, and he didn't.
"Listen, my job as a quarterback is to put the ball in the end zone and score points," Flacco said. "Anytime that doesn't happen, that starts and ends with the quarterback position, and that's myself. Obviously a frustrating day, not being able to do that as well as we wanted to."
The Jets also heard the chatter from outside One Jets Drive about play-calling balance. Flacco's 59 pass attempts were a focus of that.
"I don't know if I've dropped back and thrown it 59 times, so that's not the recipe you want," Flacco said.
In fact, he threw 62 passes in a game twice as a Raven, in the 2013 and '14 season openers. In all he's thrown 52-plus passes in 10 games and his teams are 0-10. So no, not a winning ticket.
See the top photos from Wednesday's practice leading up to the first road game of the 2022 season.
But even before Flacco dropped back on 36 of the Jets' last 37 plays, when the Ravens opened their 24-3 lead late in the third quarter, the Jets had a 26-16 pass-to-run imbalance. Saleh suggested the play-calling plans broke down on the Jets' opening offensive series of the second half.
"In hindsight, shoot, just run the ball, but that sequence really derailed the entire game," he reflected. "We had the sack, the screen goes for nothing, checkdown on third down, shanked punt, they go down and score. We try to establish the run game, I think it's a quick three-and-out again, they get the explosive for a touchdown. Now we're 'all right, let's catch up.' "
All of the talk and practice this week will be geared toward getting into more of a balance and flow against a different kind of defense in the Myles Garrett-powered Browns. And as Saleh emphasized, leading the Jets offense at First Energy Stadium won't be Mike White and won't be Zach Wilson, who will practice only in position drills with his receivers this week as he continues his knee rehab.
It'll be Joe Cool. And one bit of history that really has nothing to do with this game and yet says something about the success Flacco has enjoyed during his long NFL tenure is that his career record as a starting QB against the Browns is 17-3 (and at Cleveland it's 9-1).
"The quarterback gets celebrated and gets all the negativity, too," Saleh summed up the week past and the week ahead. "But there were a lot of things we as a team could've done to help him out a lot during the game, too. So we'll give it another run. and I think Joe will be a lot better."