Joe Flacco wasn’t sure if this chance would come again, and it led to some bad thoughts in his New Jersey hotel room.
The 36-year-old Flacco hadn’t played a snap for Philadelphia before the Jets acquired him late last month. He believed he would get the opportunity to play quarterback while Zach Wilson recovered from a sprained right knee. But then Mike White had the game of his life.
Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP, was left wondering whether he would be inactive the rest of the season or if he had thrown his last NFL pass.
"When you’re a backup and then when you get traded, there’s all kinds of things that are running through your head," Flacco said this week. "You want to go out there and you want to play. Not only that, you need to prove to yourself again that you can play.
"All those things, like a lot of emotions come up. If you get in your head, then a lot of bad thoughts can come up, especially when you’re sitting in a hotel room up here by yourself and you’re thinking, ‘All right, what’s going to happen?’"
Then Flacco got the text from Robert Saleh that the Jets were starting him Sunday against the Dolphins. White’s feel-good story ended when he threw four interceptions against Buffalo last week in MetLife Stadium.
This was an unpopular choice with fans, who wanted White for another game or hoped that Wilson would return. That should come next week in Houston.
On Sunday, it will be Flacco’s chance to prove to himself, the fans and the rest of the NFL that he can still play winning football. He hasn’t led a team to a win in more than two years. The last one was for the Broncos, Oct. 13, 2019. Flacco’s last start was last Nov. 22 for the Jets.
"I’m going to be the guy that makes the most of every position that I’m put in," Flacco said. "Obviously, this is the best position, and this is the one you want to be in most, so I’m going to focus on that and do the best I can."
The Jets are 2-7 and haven’t been competitive lately. They’ve trailed by at least 35 points in three of their last four games.
The defense has been the real culprit, allowing 1,890 yards of offense and 175 points in that span. If the defense continues to give up yards and points at the same record pace it has been, it won’t matter what Flacco does.
But the Jets turned to Flacco, believing his experience will help against the Dolphins’ heavy blitzing attack.
All indications are Flacco will be one and done with Wilson nearing his return. The Jets are desperate for a win and believe that Flacco will handle Miami’s pressure better than White could. Saleh said the Jets young players need to develop, and they can’t if the quarterback isn’t getting the ball in their hands
"Joe’s got a history," Saleh said. "He’s in the record books all over the place, he’s a world champion. So he’s got a history of playing good ball.
"He’s just got that veteran experience. He’s seen these types of defenses many times over, there’s a young group that’s out there playing their butts off, and it’s just a chance to get the chains moving, get the ball to our guys."
Some Jets veterans expressed eagerness to play with Flacco, who can still throw a good deep ball.
Corey Davis said Flacco is going to give receivers "some opps." Linebacker C.J. Molsey said Flacco, his former Baltimore teammate, is "ready more now than ever."
Flacco believes he’s ready, also. He knows he may not get many more chances to start, but he also knows he doesn’t want this to be the end.
"I want to keep doing it," Flacco said. "I’m the kind of guy that you’re going to need to kick me out. I still have a desire to play. Obviously, you take it day by day when you’re in the moment, but I definitely want to play this game for long-term."
A win Sunday would go a long way for the Jets and for Flacco.