The quarterback situation for the 2022 New York Jets has undergone a series of notable turns.
Consider that, at various points this season, Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Mike White have been the starting quarterback, the backup quarterback, and inactive as the No. 3 quarterback. It is difficult to recall another season in which the Jets accomplished something similar.
However, quarterback drama is not new. Back to the argument over whether Richard Todd or Matt Robinson should start, the Jets always seem to have a quarterback controversy.
This year’s drama has been entertaining to cover, and it’s still ongoing. “Will Mike White return as Seattle’s starting quarterback?” is the next section.
The Wilson/White issue reminds me of all the bizarre quarterback situations I’ve covered in the past decade. After all is said and done, this year’s edition may rank among the top five. At this time, we will leave it out and observe the outcome. But here are the five weirdest quarterback scenarios I’ve witnessed since joining the Jets beat in 2011:
In 2012, Tim Tebow’s presence turned Jets training camp into a spectacle.
In 2012, the Jets traded for Tim Tebow in March and then extended Mark Sanchez’s deal a few weeks later. This was followed by a trade for Tim Tebow in April. It was instant chaos, with news helicopters hovering over the Jets’ training facility as Tim Tebow arrived, a strange press conference held in the Jets’ indoor fieldhouse (the only time it has ever been utilized for a press conference), and the subsequent attention.
Sanchez’s displeasure with Tebow’s arrival was immediately apparent, as he was constantly looking over his shoulder. It certainly impacted his performance. Meanwhile, Tebow was unable to enter the field. As soon as the coaches realized Tebow was not a good quarterback, all of the talk about utilizing him in other ways went out the window.
The peak of Tebow’s notoriety occurred during training camp in Cortland. The Jets had a “secret” practice to discuss the many ways they would utilize Tebow. The media was permitted to observe, but we were prohibited from reporting on what we witnessed. At one point, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano instructed the players to construct a human wall in front of the reporters so that we could not see. Tebow and Sanchez were in the backfield together at times during the session, but the Jets never appeared to figure it out during the season.
Sanchez sputtered in December (the Buttfumble marked the beginning of the end), and the Jets benched him, but not Tebow. The previous year’s seventh-round pick, Greg McElroy, started. McElroy made one start, suffered a concussion, and was replaced by Sanchez for the season’s final game. As a member of the Jets, Tebow attempted eight passes but never appeared in another regular-season game. The Jets released him in May of the following year. The Tebow transaction was a major reason in the 2012 season-ending dismissal of general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
Tebow’s tenure with the New York Jets was brief, painful, and unforgettable.
The punch struck home.
Geno Smith (left) suffered a broken jaw in 2015 when IK Enemkpali (right) assaulted him in the Jets’ locker room.
Bill Kostroun, together with Anthony J. Causi
A few days prior to the Jets’ first preseason game in 2015, head coach Todd Bowles stepped into the media room for an unplanned session with reporters, which seldom occurs. Bowles stood at the podium and reported that starting quarterback Geno Smith’s jaw had been fractured by a punch from linebacker IK Enemkpali. A few months after joining the team, Ryan Fitzpatrick was now the starter.
Smith’s failure to pay Enemkpali the $600 he owed him was quickly identified as the source of the punch. Then, television trucks and reporters poured upon the Jets’ training facility, and the team became the top sports story.
Fitzpatrick would ultimately retain the starting position for the entire season, even after Smith’s jaw healed. Fitzpatrick led the Jets to a 10-6 record by passing for 31 touchdowns, a single-season franchise record. Smith, who had been picked by the Jets in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, has left the team. He remained with the Jets for one more season, but made only one more start (more on that later).
It was a bizarre moment that drastically affected an entire season.
Snoopy Bowl blunder
Mark Sanchez writhes in agony on the ground after suffering a right shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of a 2013 preseason game.
In the summer of 2013, Smith and Sanchez were competing for the starting position. After the 2012 season, the Jets became bored of Sanchez and drafted Smith. The Jets were desperate for Smith to be the starting quarterback, but he struggled in training camp while Sanchez performed well.
Smith played poorly in the team’s third preseason game against the Giants, and it appeared Sanchez would earn the job. Then, in the fourth quarter, head coach Rex Ryan reinserted Sanchez behind backup offensive lineman. Marvin Austin, a defensive end for the Giants, smashed Sanchez and dislocated his shoulder. Sanchez would never play for the Jets again following this season-ending injury. Smith had a rough start to his first season.
Ryan defended his choice in a weird press conference after the game, during which he at one point stood on his side while addressing questions. Ryan stated that the club had a chance to win the game, so he inserted Sanchez, as if preseason performance matters. The game was once known as the Snoopy Bowl due to MetLife’s association with the Peanuts cartoon, and the winner used to receive a Snoopy-shaped trophy. Ryan appeared ecstatic to receive the trophy following the 24-21 overtime victory despite damaging Sanchez’s shoulder.
Jets get Falk-ed
In 2019, upon returning from a bout with mono, Sam Darnold witnessed ghosts against the Patriots.
Paul J. Bereswill
The Jets’ 2019 campaign began with a disheartening loss to the Bills, but things only deteriorated from there. In that week’s press conference, head coach Adam Gase informed the media that starting quarterback Sam Darnold had mononucleosis.
The following week, the Jets started Trevor Siemian on Monday Night Football against the Browns, and Myles Garrett shattered Siemian’s leg. This resulted in the Jets playing third-string quarterback Luke Falk, who, to put it mildly, was not ready to play.
Falk started two games for the Jets and threw three interceptions as the team was defeated in both. Darnold returned after missing three games, but the symptoms of the mono appeared to linger for several more weeks. Shortly after his comeback, he encountered ghosts against the Patriots, and it took him a bit to get back on track.
An intriguing addendum to the Darnold mono chapter: after losing Darnold and Siemian, the Jets added quarterback Mike White to their practice squad. White would eventually be involved in quarterback controversies with the Jets.
In 2016, Christian Hackenberg was tackled during a preseason game, although he never played a regular-season snap.
The quarterback room in 2016 was among the most intriguing in recent memory. Typically, clubs have three quarterbacks on their active rosters, however others have only two. That season, the Jets had four.
The strangeness began during the winter, when Fitzpatrick and the Jets were unable to reach an agreement on a deal following his stellar 2015 campaign as Smith’s replacement. Smith was the spring starter because Fitzpatrick was unsigned, but Bowles maintained that Fitzpatrick would assume the position as soon as he signed. It appeared that Smith had no chance.
The Jets then selected Christian Hackenberg in the second round of the draft. Mike Maccagnan, general manager of the Jets, selected Hackenberg with the 51st overall choice despite widespread NFL consensus that he was not draftable. The Jets had also drafted Bryce Petty the previous season.
As a result of Fitzpatrick’s re-signing the day before training camp, the Jets’ quarterback room is now congested with four guys who the team has invested in to differing degrees. The Jets had four quarterbacks on their roster, and Maccagnan expressed his admiration for each of them at every opportunity.
Fitzpatrick turned out to be out of condition when he showed up for training camp, and he had some dreadful early-season games, including a six-interception disaster at Kansas City.
Bowles initially stated that he would not bench Fitzpatrick following another poor performance in Arizona, but two days later revised his position and benched him in favor of Smith when the Jets played the Ravens. Smith did not stay long due to an ACL tear. Fitzpatrick’s return to the lineup resulted in the victory.
A few weeks later, the Jets benched Fitzpatrick once more and turned to Petty, who made four starts and won one of them before being injured. Fitzpatrick began the Jets’ season-ending game against the Bills, his last game with the team.
The fact that Hackenberg never played a down in the NFL after being selected in the second round is unfathomable for a second-round selection.
The Jets’ awful 2016 season marked the beginning of a string of subpar campaigns.
Worried about the worry?
In 2020, during the Jets’ late-season victory over the much fancied Rams, Marcus Maye intercepts a pass.
On Thursday night, the Jets will face Trevor Lawrence, another reminder of what could have been. Prior to their December victories over the Rams and Browns, the Jets were on track for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They ended up with the second overall pick and selected Zach Wilson.
The victory over the Rams is one of the most unlikely victories in Jets history. The Jets were 0-13 and coming off a 40-3 defeat at the hands of the Seahawks. COVID prevented the Jets from practicing in California that week, so they returned to New Jersey following the game against the Seahawks before flying across the country to Los Angeles.
The Rams were favored by 17 12 points, but the Jets won 23-20. The 1-15 Jaguars ended up selecting Lawrence with the first overall pick. After a rough rookie year, Lawrence is emerging and displaying the Clemson-recognized skill. If Lawrence continues to improve and Wilson continues to regress, the Jets’ performance against the Rams will haunt them.
In his final season with the organization, Joe Namath led the Jets in touchdown passes with four in 1976.
Sunday’s two touchdown throws from Zach Wilson gave him six for the season. That is the most on the club, surpassing Joe Flacco’s five touchdowns. Wilson will likely finish with a meager touchdown throwing total, but it won’t be the lowest the Jets have ever seen. Here are the seasons in which Jets team leaders threw the fewest touchdown passes:
1976 Joe Namath: 4 touchdown passes
Zach Wilson, 2022: six touchdown passes
Zach Wilson, 2021: 9 Brooks Bollinger, 2005: 7 Browning Nagle, 1992: 7
Sam Darnold, 2020: 9
Al Woodall, 1973: 9 Al Woodall, 1970: 9
The origin: Stathead
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