It’s obvious who the NY Jets’ 2023 QB should be

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By: Michael Nania

All paths point to one man being the New York Jets’ 2023 quarterback

From 5-2 to 7-9.

The New York Jets‘ once-promising season has crumbled to dust. There is a myriad of reasons for the team’s failure despite looking like a clear playoff team for much of the season. But the biggest of them all is the quarterback position.

In the Jets’ nine losses, New York’s quarterbacks have amassed a passer rating of 64.2. That is the worst passer rating by any NFL team in its losses this season. The Jets are also allowing only 21.3 points per game in losses, which is the fewest PPG allowed by any team in its losses.

This tells us that, when the Jets lose, their quarterback is usually the primary reason why. Obviously, this applies to most football teams, but it applied to the Jets to a more significant degree than any other NFL team in the 2022 season. No team’s quarterbacks are playing a larger role in losing games.

Prior to this past Sunday in Seattle, Joe Flacco and Zach Wilson were the primary culprits for the Jets’ woeful quarterback production. Now, Mike White has joined the fray. White stunk it up in Seattle, looking nothing like the savior Jets fans hoped he would be. Perhaps White was not fully healthy. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that he was atrocious in a must-win game.

I was a massive fan of White’s performance over his first three games this season. His body of work against the Bears, Vikings, and Bills was highly impressive and had me believing that he could play his way into being an option to start for the Jets in 2023 if he finished the season strong.

Unfortunately, the Seattle game put an end to White’s bid for the starting job.

And that is not because one bad game erases White’s three previous games. Those three games still exist. Even with the Seattle game thrown in, White’s four-game body of work this season is impressive. I remain intrigued by his potential.

The problem for White as it pertains to the Jets is that they need a quarterback they can trust.

This is a franchise that has missed the playoffs 12 years in a row, suffering through the league’s worst quarterback production throughout that span (this is a fact: New York has a league-low 76.1 passer rating since 2011). With such an excruciatingly long playoff drought, the Jets cannot afford to continue selling their fans on potential and hope at the quarterback spot. Now is the time to start valuing reliability over upside. They need a guy who they know can play at a high level in the NFL.

Additionally, the current regime will be on red-hot seats entering next season. Neither Robert Saleh nor Joe Douglas has ever posted a winning record in New York. They have to make the playoffs next year, or their jobs are gone. Not to mention, they struck out on their big quarterback investment, and if they do not find an answer at quarterback soon, that will eventually lead to their demise one way or another.

All of this information points to one truth: The Jets must acquire a proven starting quarterback.

White, for all of the upside he has shown, cannot be trusted based on four starts in 2022 and seven starts across a six-season career. That is far too minuscule a sample size to bank on as the Jets enter a playoffs-or-bust season.

To me, Joe Douglas and the Jets should have their sights focused on one man: Derek Carr.

Carr brings the proven track record of respectability that New York desperately needs at the quarterback position.

Why Derek Carr is the right man for the New York Jets

Carr was recently benched by the Raiders despite still being mathematically alive for the postseason, and reports followed that Carr is expected to be moved this offseason. Carr also stepped away from the team entirely. It appears likely his Raiders career is over.

The Carr saga figures to move quickly. Carr’s 2023 salary and a portion of his 2024 salary become guaranteed on February 15, three days after the Super Bowl. Las Vegas will likely trade or release him prior to that date.

For the Jets, I believe the expected haste of this situation adds to the appeal of acquiring Carr. By taking care of the quarterback position early in the offseason, the Jets can structure the rest of their offseason around that quarterback move. They will know what financial position they are in and they will know how to build the roster around the strengths of their quarterback. This is similar to when the Los Angeles Rams traded for Matthew Stafford in late-January 2021.

If the Jets wait on their quarterback move, it takes away those valuable pieces of information that can help shape their offseason plan. It’s tough to wait until free agency for a quarterback like Daniel Jones or Geno Smith when you don’t even know if those players will be available – and it’s doubtful those two particular players are shaking free anyway. If you drag out the offseason holding onto a prayer that a star like Aaron Rodgers or Lamar Jackson might become available, it can muddy the entire offseason plan.

Starting the offseason with Carr would be a prudent way to get the ball rolling as the Jets head into free agency and the draft. It removes any uncertainty and allows the team to move forward with clarity.

Carr’s contract looks intimidating on paper but is really not that much of a commitment for his new team. After the 2023 season, Carr’s team can release him to save $29.3 million in cap space while eating only $5.6 million in dead money. The Jets would essentially be bringing him in on a one-year, $34.9 million deal with team options each year through 2025.

I do not think the Jets would have to give up all that much to acquire Carr in a trade. The Raiders have no leverage. If they don’t take what they can get by February 15, they will be forced to either release him for nothing or hold onto a lame duck.

There shouldn’t be much competition for Carr, either. The Colts were recently listed as the betting favorite to land Carr (the Jets are second), which makes sense considering Carr perfectly fits the Colts’ recent love for abandoned franchise quarterbacks. But Indy is in a much different situation than the past few years when they acquired Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan. The Colts are a bad team and will have a top-five pick. Why would they pursue Carr instead of starting over and drafting a new quarterback top-five?

I will leave the speculation of Carr’s exact trade value for another day, but I believe Carr can be acquired for a package that is reasonable for what he’d bring to the Jets.

On the field, Carr is an above-average starting quarterback. He has proven it over nine seasons in the NFL.

Since 2015, here are Carr’s ranks out of 32 qualified quarterbacks (min. 1,750 pass attempts):

  • Passer rating: 93.8 (14th)
  • Completion percentage: 65.5% (13th)
  • Sack rate: 5.2% (11th-lowest)
  • Interception rate: 2.0% (10th-lowest)
  • Touchdown pass rate: 4.5% (19th)
  • Net yards per attempt: 6.6 (13th)

In just about every basic box-score category, Carr ranks in the top half. The only exception is his touchdown-pass rate, where he is slightly below the median.

The eight-year sample size of quality play is what makes this appealing. You can rely on Carr to maintain this production since he has been doing it for so long and is still in his prime at 31 years old. This is a major advantage he has over many of this year’s free agent quarterbacks, who might offer similar numbers in 2022 but are nowhere close to as proven as Carr over the course of their careers.

Durability is another appealing trait Carr offers. He has never played fewer than 15 games in a season.

Carr also ranks well in advanced metrics.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Carr ranks 11th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks in Expected Points Added per dropback this season, despite many pegging this as a “down” year for him. Carr ranked 14th out of 33 qualifiers in EPA per dropback in 2021, 18th out of 36 qualifiers in 2020, and 9th out of 32 qualifiers in 2019.

In ESPN’s QBR, Carr ranks 13th out of 31 qualifiers this season. Carr was 14th of 31 qualifiers in 2021, 11th of 33 qualifiers in 2020, and 10th of 30 qualifiers in 2019.

Overall, it is clear that Carr is firmly established as an above-average starting quarterback. Out of the 32 projected starters going into Week 1 of next season, he will probably sit somewhere in the top 12-16 range.

Yes, Carr places a cap on your ceiling at the quarterback spot. Carr will never be the megastar quarterback that Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are – the type of quarterback that New York hoped Sam Darnold and Zach Wilson would become. (Although Carr did place third in MVP voting back in 2016.)

But the Jets can win with Carr.

Think about what the Jets’ record would be right now if they had Carr for 16 games this season. I have to imagine Carr wins both Patriots games. He probably wins the Lions game and might even steal the Seahawks game (heck, he just won in Seattle a few weeks ago). Is it far-fetched to say Carr would have the Jets at 10-6 right now? Maybe 11-5 if we are feeling bold?

I know what you’re thinking: Carr has a losing record in his career, has only made the playoffs twice, and has never won a playoff game. How could we trust him to win in New York?

My response: Have you taken a look at the defenses Carr has played with?

The Raiders have allowed an NFL-high 26.2 points per game since Carr was drafted. Not only is that the league’s worst mark, but it isn’t even remotely close. Over this span, the 32nd-ranked Raiders have allowed 203 more points than the 31st-ranked Lions (3,596). That margin is nearly equal to the one that separates the Lions from the 20th-ranked Texans (3,390).

The consistent awfulness of the Raiders’ defense is a sight to behold. They have ranked no better than 20th in scoring defense during a single season in Carr’s career. In fact, the Raiders have not had a top-half scoring defense since they made the Super Bowl in 2002.

This is why Carr has a losing record. Carr and his offense have consistently played well enough to make the playoffs. He has been let down by the worst defense in the NFL. It is actually quite impressive that Carr has a .476 win percentage since 2015 with such an embarrassingly terrible defense.

There are 18 qualified quarterbacks (min. 1,750 passes) since 2015 who have a lower passer rating than Carr, and eight of those 18 quarterbacks have a better winning percentage than Carr despite playing less efficient than him. His defense drags his record far beneath what it should be.

In New York, Carr will get to play alongside a top defense for the first time in his career. The Jets’ defense, for all of its recent faults, is still allowing the fourth-fewest points per game in the NFL this season (19.1). Carr has never played with a unit that is remotely close to this good.

It’s also worth considering how large of an upgrade Carr would be for the Jets’ franchise from a historical perspective.

Since 2015, Carr has posted yearly averages of 3,994 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. A season of this caliber would be historic for a Jets quarterback. The only quarterback in Jets history to post 3,994 yards and 25 touchdowns in one season is Joe Namath, who had 4,007 yards and 26 touchdowns in 1967. That’s it. And Namath had 28 interceptions that year.

This is Carr’s average season. The best seasons of Carr’s career are miles ahead of anything the Jets have ever seen. Even his worst years are significantly better than the typical season from a Jets quarterback.

No, a franchise’s historic ineptitude does not justify the glorification of a quarterback who is good but not spectacular. After all, half of the NFL’s current starting quarterbacks are having a season that would be historic by Jets standards. Carr is not unique in this regard.

The point is, ever since Joe Willie skipped town, the New York Jets organization has never known what it’s like to be led by a quarterback of Carr’s caliber, however unspectacular he may be. Yet, throughout their history, the Jets have still made plenty of deep playoff runs and near-playoff bids without a quarterback like him. Even this year, the Jets came close to the postseason with league-worst quarterback production.

So, who knows what this franchise could do if it just had competency at quarterback?

I understand why some are opposed to Carr. The fear is that he is a ceiling-capper – a guy who raises your floor and increases your odds of getting to the playoffs, but might not be good enough to get you to the pinnacle. I fully get that. It’s a valid point.

But what cannot be understated is the fan-happiness aspect of this.

Missing the playoffs 12 years in a row is a slap in the face to Jets fans. That should not be possible in the NFL. At what point will fans get something, anything, to cheer for? Yes, Carr may limit your Super Bowl chances, but after 12 years of misery, isn’t there some value to lowering the bar a little bit and just giving your fanbase some enjoyable playoff seasons for once?

I believe the Jets can win a Super Bowl with Carr, but, again, I fully understand having a quarterback like Carr makes it tougher to win a title than it would be if you had an Allen, Mahomes, or Burrow. That’s a downside you accept by adding Carr.

But adding Carr isn’t even necessarily about winning a Super Bowl in the immediate future. It’s about ending the ineptitude that plagues this downtrodden franchise. Before the Jets can think about winning a championship, they need someone to pull them out of the mud. Carr can be that guy.

Once the Jets climb out of the gutter, then they can start thinking bigger at quarterback if Carr proves he does indeed have a capped ceiling that is below championship caliber. Draft a talented quarterback, develop him, and insert him into a great situation like Kansas City did with Mahomes or Baltimore did with Jackson. Or, use your established winning pedigree to lure in a star veteran like Los Angeles did with Stafford.

None of that is possible, though, until the Jets establish a winning identity and build a sturdy infrastructure that can facilitate consistent contention. They are still nowhere close to accomplishing these goals despite all of the good things they have done this year.

And they will never get close to that until they add a proven above-average starting quarterback.

That is why I believe the Jets should target Derek Carr as their next signal-caller.

Carr can be the perfect bridge quarterback for the Jets – a guy who makes them immediate playoff contenders (with an outside shot at a title) while serving as a connector to their future franchise quarterback.

Next Article: NY Jets’ season review must start with the coaching staff 

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