Robert Saleh explains decision to start Joe Flacco vs. Dolphins in Week 11

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The New York Jets will start their third different quarterback this season after tapping Joe Flacco for their Week 11 matchup against the Dolphins.

On one hand, the decision makes sense following Mike White’s disastrous performance against the Bills in Week 10. White completed just 54.55 percent of his passes for 251 yards, four interceptions and zero touchdowns in the 45-17 loss. Flacco stepped in at the end of that game and went 3-3 for 47 yards and a touchdown. Zach Wilson, meanwhile, isn’t fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in Week 7.

But Flacco is a 36-year-old veteran who went 0-4 with a similar Jets squad a year ago. He doesn’t offer much of a different skillset from White, and he’s certainly not part of the team’s long-term plans.

So why give Flacco the start?

Robert Saleh has his reasons. Let’s take a look.

Wilson is not healthy

(Chris Pedota-NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Though he’s practicing and hasn’t had any setbacks, Saleh said Wilson is still limited and not 100 percent healthy yet. This is the main reason why he’s not starting or backing up this week (White is QB2). This is the fourth week of Wilson’s recovery from the PCL sprain he suffered against the Patriots, so there’s no reason to rush the No. 2 overall pick back from a lower-body injury.

Flacco's experience

(Adam Hunger-AP)

Saleh harped on Flacco’s experience as the biggest reason for tapping the veteran to start against the Dolphins. This is Flacco’s 14th season in the league and Week 11 will be his 178th career game. Saleh mentioned Flacco’s knowledge of defenses and coverage schemes and his ability to get the ball out quickly as big reasons for picking him over White.

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Miami's defense

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Saleh trusts Flacco’s poise in the pocket against one of the most blitz-heavy defenses in the league. The Dolphins’ 38.2 percent blitz rate is second in the league behind the Buccaneers and Miami ranks first in quarterback knockdowns and second in pressures. Saleh touched on Miami’s “dynamic coverage system” as well and noted Flacco’s processing speed is quicker than White’s.

Flacco didn’t play well in his start against the Dolphins last year for the Jets. He completed just 47.73 percent of his passes for 186 yards, one interception and no touchdowns in a 24-0 loss in Week 6. Saleh discounted this as an issue, though, considering the different places both teams are in this year.

Developing young talent

(Bill Kostroun/AP)

The Jets’ No. 1 priority in 2021 is developing its offensive players. Michael Carter and Elijah Moore have shown promise this season, so starting Flacco ensures they will get the best possible looks from their quarterback.

“If the guy holding the ball can’t get it to the people trying to develop, you can struggle,” Saleh said. “[Flacco] can get the ball to our playmakers.”

Not about justifying trade

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

The trade for Flacco felt odd when the Jets made it. When White played well in Weeks 8-9, it looked useless. Now that the Jets have decided to start Flacco over White, it looks as though they’re just trying to save face after giving up a conditional sixth-rounder for the veteran.

Saleh doesn’t see it that way, though.

“It was a really good opportunity to get a very veteran quarterback in this building at a cost that’s not hard to recoup and I thought Joe made a fantastic move,” Saleh said. “It has nothing to do with justifying something like that.”

What about White?

(Chris Pedota-NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Saleh made it known very quickly that the decision to start Flacco wasn’t an indictment of White. He specifically touched on comments he made Monday about his confidence in White.

“I want to be very, very clear on this one: My comments on Monday were because people wanted him out of New York,” Saleh said. “What Mike has done in three weeks as a starter has proven to this organization and, in my opinion, to the entire New York fan base, that he’s a capable quarterback who can play in this league.”

Saleh explained that White’s inexperience – much like Flacco’s experience – played a major role in who he picked to start, especially against Miami’s defense. Although he struggled mightily against the Bills, Saleh still believes White has a future with the team.

“We’re more excited about Mike as a quarterback in our future because of what he’s been able to do in his three starts,” he added. “His story is not done being written. He’s solidified, in my opinion, his stay here as a Jet.”

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