FLORHAM PARK, NJ — New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco describes himself as the kind of guy who doesn’t dance at wedding receptions. You know the type: They hang around the dinner table and dance while discreetly tapping their feet to the beat of the music.
“Cool Joe,” as his teammates call him, stepped out of character last Sunday in Cleveland, bursting into the locker room and dancing in the center of a massive mosh pit after a stunning win over the Browns. The 6-foot-6 Flacco, surrounded by teammates, jumped so high that he almost hit his head on the ceiling, watching tight end Tyler Conklin. It was captured on video and tweeted by the Jets’ official account.
Joe Flacco baby pic.twitter.com/p3jfrUWMIn
— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 18, 2022
When Flacco called his kids from the plane, “they were all laughing because they were watching the video from the locker room,” he said. “They all laughed at me and said, ‘Dad, why did you do that when you got to the locker room?’
Why? Because Flacco knows those moments are precious. He also knows that he won’t get many chances. The 37-year-old Super Bowl XLVII MVP, in his 15th season, is working week-to-week at this point in his career after Sunday’s home game (0-2) against the Cincinnati Bengals. throwing
Flacco will make his third straight start for the Jets (1-1) against the Bengals, but Week 4 isn’t guaranteed because quarterback Zach Wilson could rejoin the team six weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery. Before the season started, the Jets identified Week 4 as Wilson’s earliest return date, and they didn’t budge. They keep saying that he will play as soon as he recovers.
“Zach is the future of the company, we all know that,” coach Robert Saleh said. “Once the doctors clear him, we’ll put him on the field.”
Clearly, the Jets want to avoid a quarterback controversy, but if Flacco upsets the reigning AFC champions it could become a fascinating outcome. Will Salah send him back to the bench on a two-game winning streak? One of the jets is missing after 15-16 weeks in 2020. Wilson’s knee may need another week of rest to be 100% (wink, wink).
Either way, Flacco said, he’s good.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead our team over the last two weeks — and this coming week — to win, all year long,” he said. “That’s my job. That’s all I can do and I’m happy with it.”
The Jets are happy with him.
After an ineffective debut, Flacco became the first Jets quarterback to pass for 300 yards and four touchdowns in a game since Vinny Testaverte (2000), leading the Browns to a 31-30 victory. In the final two minutes, he went 7-of-11 for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns, erasing a 13-point deficit and winning his first start since 2019.
“He saw everything,” Saleh said. “In the fourth quarter, the game plan is already out and they know how they’re going to play everything. So, when we got that onside kick, he knew where to go with the ball. He knew what was going to happen and the big guys could see that.”
Saleh believes him. The players trust him. He had a league-high 103 pass attempts, but only one interception. He spreads the ball around and makes sure everyone is fed. In fact, running backs are tied for the league lead with 20 receptions.
“I’m happy for him,” Conklin said. “I’m glad he’s out [in Cleveland] And show everybody that he’s still Joe Flacco, he can still do this.”
Saleh said Flacco is a “calming force” in an offense filled with so many young players. Running backs Michael Carter and Brees Hall and wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore are all under 24, meaning they grew up learning about Flacco in the Madden video game.
Now they are creating their own highlights with him. Next up is a statistically solid defense in the Bengals, ranked 15th in points and seventh in yards, but never truly tested. They faced Mitch Trubisky (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Cooper Rush (Dallas Cowboys) in the first two games — not exactly a Pro Bowl lineup.
Flacco will try to become the second straight backup (rush) to beat the Bengals. If he does, he deserves another start. Maybe he’ll do another locker room dance, to the taunts of his kids. He recently teased about his struggles over the past two years. He tried to explain to them that he had won a lot when they were too young to remember. Then, in a quiet moment, he Googled some of his old highlights. Maybe he needs visual reinforcement.
Last Sunday, he gave his children a show. And so are the young men in the jets.