August 5, 2021

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Jets’ search for Zach Wilson’s backup quarterback…

3 min read
Jets’ search for Zach Wilson’s backup quarterback...

The Jets answered some questions about their plans at quarterback with the Sam Darnold trade. It is clear that BYU’s Zach Wilson will be the pick at No. 2 in the draft on April 29.

Even with that seemingly decided, though, there is a glaring hole in the Jets’ quarterback room. Who will be Wilson’s backup?

At the moment, the only quarterbacks under contract with the Jets are James Morgan and Mike White. Neither has ever taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game. Morgan has not even played in a preseason game.

The Jets clearly can’t go into the 2021 season with three quarterbacks who have no real NFL experience. So, that leaves them sifting through the veteran QB market, which is never robust. It is filled with players whose glory days are either long behind them or never materialized.

General manager Joe Douglas had one such player in for a visit this week. Veteran Brian Hoyer, who is 35 years old, came in on Thursday. The Jets did not sign him, but he is the only known option they have explored right now.

Joe Flacco was the backup last year to Darnold. He went 0-4 in his starts last season, but played much better in his third and fourth starts than the first two. The Jets had some interest in bringing him back, but Flacco signed with the Eagles.

Douglas was asked about adding a veteran quarterback on Tuesday. He threw some praise at Morgan and White, but it sounded like GM-speak.

Alex Smith (l) and Blake Bortles could be among the Jets' backup QB options.
Alex Smith (l) and Blake Bortles could be among the Jets’ backup QB options.
AP, Getty

“When it comes to the quarterback room, I’d tell you that we’re really excited about James Morgan and Mike White,” Douglas said. “And I know you guys didn’t get a chance to really see them. Obviously, they didn’t get an opportunity with no preseason games this year, but really excited about those two guys.

“And I would just say, as in any room on our team, if there is an opportunity to add to it, make it a little bit better, we’re going to pursue that opportunity. So, there’s constant discussion in our pro scouting department with our coaching staff on not just the quarterback room possibly adding to it but every other position as well.”

The options available on the market right now are not exactly inspiring. Alex Smith is the best of the bunch, but he has major health questions after the gruesome leg injury he suffered in Washington in 2018. He returned to play last year, but questions remain about his long-term durability. He would fit the mentor role for Wilson, having done it in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick and Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes.

After Smith, there is a group of career backups like Hoyer, Matt Barkley, Blaine Gabbert, A.J. McCarron and Blake Bortles. None of them are going to get anyone excited, but all are experienced NFL quarterbacks who could teach Wilson about being a professional.

Douglas also might be looking for a quarterback to shake free from another team via trade or being cut. The Panthers are shopping Teddy Bridgewater after acquiring Darnold. It seems unlikely the Jets would trade for Bridgewater, but they could pounce if he gets cut. Bridgewater may be looking for a team on which he can start and not just be a mentor or keep the seat warm for Wilson, though. Other players to watch are the Jaguars’ Gardner Minshew, Washington’s Kyle Allen and the Broncos’ Jeff Driskel as those teams figure out their quarterback rooms.

The Jets have lost their past 15 games with a backup quarterback starting, dating to 2016, when Bryce Petty won a game over the 49ers. Douglas has his plan at starting quarterback. Now, he needs to get the backup straight.