The common refrain from those who defend NY Jets head coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas for the nightmarish 2023-24 season after the Aaron Rodgers injury stated that their luck was so rotten that no team could string together wins. Joe Flacco and the Cleveland Browns, however, show how proper planning could have prevented poor performance.
After Deshaun Watson went down and both Dorian Thompson-Robinson and PJ Walker struggled, the Browns made Flacco their starter. Not only did the Jets decide on a laughable room of Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian, and Tim Boyle, but they rejected Flacco's overtures.
Flacco has since gone on an unprecedented heater, throwing 13 touchdowns in the month of December and helping the Browns beat his old team 37-20. Cleveland now has 11 wins and a playoff spot locked up, while the Jets will once again lose 10 or more games.
While there's no way to tell if Flacco would have had this level of production with the Jets (almost assuredly not), the fact that Saleh and Douglas believed Wilson, Boyle, and Siemian would be enough to get this Rodgers-less team to the postseason will be a black stain on their resume forever.
Not signing Joe Flacco haunts NY Jets in TNF loss to Browns.
Even fully healthy, the Jets and Browns have similar paths to victory. Running the ball, leaning on a tremendous defense, and making enough timely big plays, as Cleveland has shown, is a recipe for success. The Browns have a QB who can execute that vision, and the Jets do not once again.
The Browns got competent quarterback play from Flacco, and the Jets had to shuffle between a bunch of also-rans. The defense tried everything they could to hold on throughout the year, but the pressure of it all got to them and they have snapped in the last few games. Can you blame them?
At this point in the season, the losing has spread to the rest of the team, and even the mighty defense is breaking down. Flacco became the first quarterback in 33 games (Tom Brady in the game where Antonio Brown quit mid-game) to throw for 300 yards, creating a very tough scene for defenders of Saleh's defense.
Saleh and Douglas will be back with Rodgers next season, and a healthy Aaron should help paper over many of the cracks this team had. However, this power structure did throw a season away when they chose not to go after Flacco, as Cleveland is showing that an injured offense with passable quarterback play can complement a terrific defense and get the job done.