Joe Flacco believes he still can be a good and productive starting quarterback in the NFL, but for this year at least he’s embracing being Sam Darnold’s backup.
“Obviously, I still believe that I’m a starting quarterback,” Flacco said during a Zoom call Thursday. “You never know what three years down the line is going to look like. I still have that confidence and I still have the want-to to do that. But at this moment that’s not my role. My role is to help the team get better and to help a young quarterback see things as quickly as possible, and help him on his journey to being a longtime NFL quarterback.”
The Jets signed Flacco to a one-year deal to be the veteran presence in the quarterback room. He also, when healthy, gives the Jets a starting-caliber replacement if Darnold gets hurt.
Flacco, 35, has started all 171 NFL games of his career – 163 with Baltimore and eight last year with Denver. He’s already said he won’t be ready for Week 1 after having neck surgery in April. But he’s looking forward to his new role and to prove he can still play football – after a disappointing 2019 with the Broncos.
“I’m fully embracing it,” Flacco said. “It’s where I am right now. I’m glad to be on a team playing football in some capacity. It’s going to be huge to get in there and know the guys and develop a relationship with the team and do anything I can to help the team get better and honestly to help Sam with whatever he needs help with, take his mind off of something or tell him how I see things or how I’ve dealt with this in the past, even if it’s on the football field or stuff that’s off the football field.
“When you’re on a team and you’ve always played team sports you’re used to doing what’s good for the team and it doesn’t really matter that my role is a little bit different at this point. You’re still trying to help the team and you’re part of a team and that’s all good.”
Flacco, who spent his first 11 seasons in Baltimore and was the Super Bowl XLVII MVP, has been taking part in the Jets’ virtual offseason program this week. He said he’s not entirely familiar with Adam Gase’s offense. But Flacco said the more he learns it, he’ll be able to help Darnold even more.
Flacco and Darnold spoke for about 20 minutes on the phone on Thursday. Flacco said he hasn’t studied Darnold’s game, but he sees a good a young quarterback who will only get better.
“My impression is he’s a young guy that has really good athleticism, can move in the pocket, can move out of the pocket and create things for himself,” Flacco said. “He has the arm strength to do what he wants with the ball both in the pocket and out of the pocket. The biggest thing is to get him to play as fast as possible after talking with him so he can use all those things that he has in his toolbox, all his natural talents that he has. Just go out there and play football the way he knows how to.”
Flacco said there was never a doubt in his mind that he would play again after suffering the neck injury last year. The Jets were appealing to him because he’s from New Jersey, where he and many family members still live. Flacco called it “just a little bit of a cherry on top in this situation.” But general manager Joe Douglas’ presence also made the Jets attractive.
Douglas was a scout in Baltimore and pushed the Ravens to draft Flacco in 2008. They took him No. 18 overall.
“It wasn’t necessarily a hard decision for me to come to the Jets,” Flacco said. “The hard decision for me this offseason was about getting surgery, not getting surgery, and then coming to grips with the reality of what this year is going to be.
"I actually think there’s a lot of good things about going to New York and being on this football team. Joe being the guy that’s there, it definitely makes you feel wanted. Whenever you have somebody that can make you feel that way, it settles a lot for you in your head and makes you feel very comfortable with the move.”