Robert Saleh sits in his workplace — name it the Control Room — and watches the monitor. As every place group meets, Saleh supervises, like a safety guard on the mall. But Saleh has extra management than Paul Blart.

Saleh can plug in to any of the place conferences — and he can hear the whole lot being mentioned, in each room, with a click on of the mouse. The quarterback room is on the high of his playlist. That’s comprehensible — if the Jets are going to get the place Saleh desires to take them, out of irrelevance, it’s going to start out in that room, with Zach Wilson. Through a number of weeks of coaching camp, Saleh likes what he’s listening to.

At the tip of a QB session, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur (who leads the operation) and quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese head to Saleh’s workplace. They knock on his workplace door, however he nonetheless hears sounds coming from the QB room. The Jets head coach figures that when a gathering ends, everybody leaves. But when LaFleur and Calabrese stroll into his workplace, Saleh nonetheless hears chatter coming from his monitor, the sounds of Wilson, Joe Flacco and Mike White conversing. He scrambles to hit the mute button.

“It’s funny, (sometimes) the conversation is still going and Rob or Mike might walk into my office, and I’m like, ‘What’re you doing in here?’” Saleh mentioned. “And they’re (the quarterbacks) still in there talking, so I turn it off because I don’t want to hear their conversation. They are a very close-knit group. They ask each other everything. They talk about everything — football, life, trouble, everything.”

That occurs once they go away the ability, too. In White’s expertise, a bunch textual content between quarterbacks dies when the season ends. He anticipated that on the finish of final season when solely one among them (Wilson) was below contract for 2022. White has been in a number of totally different QB rooms: In 2019 with Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush and the Cowboys. And the revolving door of Jets quarterbacks in 2019: Sam Darnold, Luke Falk, David Fales and Trevor Siemian. This one is totally different, he mentioned.

This offseason, White’s telephone stored vibrating throughout the playoffs. It was typically texts from Wilson, reacting to the video games like several fan of soccer, marveling at moments just like the wild Chiefs-Bills additional time playoff sport that had the NFL world buzzing. The texts continued into the offseason, about trip. Flacco texted the group when he re-signed to a one-year deal in March. White too.

And then they stored texting, about soccer, fatherhood — and making an attempt to make Flacco giggle.

“Joe is the old man in the group,” White advised The Athletic, “but when you get an ‘lol’ out of Joe, that’s when you know you said something really funny.”

Wilson stored the group up to date — Calabrese and LaFleur too — when he was in Los Angeles, getting his injured knee scoped final week. Wilson is predicted to overlook a number of weeks after struggling a bone bruise and meniscus tear to his proper knee towards the Eagles on Aug. 12 — The Athletic reported a four-to-six-week timeline to return — and so now Wilson will likely be spending most of his time in that QB assembly room, taking “mental reps”, watching movie and staying concerned. He’ll be round a tight-knit group of quarterbacks and coaches working collectively to maintain him prepared for when he returns, all whereas carrying on with out him.

“The show goes on,” LaFleur mentioned.

Wilson has carried out this earlier than, as a rookie final 12 months when he missed 4 video games with a sprained PCL. But the group wasn’t as shut again then. Flacco had simply been acquired in a commerce with the Eagles in Week 8, Calabrese was thrust right into a extra outstanding function within the room proper earlier than coaching camp when Greg Knapp handed away, and LaFleur was in his first 12 months as a play caller. White was nonetheless an unknown and had but to throw a cross within the NFL. Now, he has individuals affectionately yelling his title in quick meals drive-thru lanes.

Everyone is aware of one another now.

“That’s the main reason why I wanted to come back,” White mentioned. “We do have a really good dynamic in there and every opinion matters. We work off each other well. You don’t have to spend time learning each other. Learning how your OC thinks, or how your QB coach thinks. When we came back it was like no time was lost.”

Said Calabrese: “It’s a special room.”

Here is an inside have a look at the Jets’ “special” QB room: The individuals, the personalities, what they do — and what they’ll do.


Chris Streveler signed with the Jets simply earlier than coaching camp, an additional thrower for follow. A 27-year-old soccer vagabond, Streveler began his profession within the CFL and has been in quarterback rooms with Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy, Lamar Jackson and Tua Tagovailoa. He used to spend hours after Cardinals follow watching movie with McCoy. He didn’t know Wilson, or Flacco, or White, or LaFleur, or Calabrese, earlier than his first day in Florham Park.

One factor Streveler seen straight away: Everyone is working collectively to assist Wilson.

“I did notice from Day 1 just the comfort level. They’ve all been together, so we just have conversations about anything in that room,” Streveler mentioned. “There’s a lot of teaching going on with Zach, back and forth with Mike and Rob, and then Joe is a veteran so he’ll jump into those conversations.” LaFleur will typically flip to Flacco, Streveler mentioned, and ask him what he thinks. White and Streveler chime in, too.

“Everyone has a voice in that room,” Streveler mentioned.

The dialog typically makes its solution to fatherhood. White, Flacco and Calabrese share battle tales about elevating their youngsters — White’s twins simply turned one — and Wilson, 23 and single, doesn’t have a lot to contribute on that matter.

“Zach will be the odd man out like: ‘Well, I went to the movies yesterday,” White mentioned, laughing. “Zach is definitely the — I don’t want to say little kid, but he’s the young one so he’s experiencing life for the first time.”

For Wilson and the Jets, it’s all fingers on deck, gamers and coaches. It must be that manner. The Jets picked him second total final 12 months out of BYU, hoping they lastly unearthed their franchise savior, the quarterback to guide them out of the doldrums they’ve skilled for the previous decade. Wilson seemed able to take a second-year leap throughout coaching camp, stringing collectively a handful of spectacular practices in a row earlier than the preseason opener towards the Eagles. His teammates had raved about his progress, pointing to a rising confidence and extra assertive management. He gathered his offensive weapons (and Flacco) for a staff bonding journey in Idaho this offseason. He’s identified to tug teammates apart — like rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner — after follow to commerce notes, too.

Wilson is well-liked all through the constructing, and higher-ups had been impressed with how dealt with some undesirable off-the-field consideration simply earlier than coaching camp began (by ignoring it). And most individuals — each in Florham Park and across the league — agree that Wilson’s potential is critical.

Then Wilson went and sailed a cross over broad receiver Garrett Wilson’s head and threw an interception on his first drive towards the Eagles within the preseason opener. On the following drive, he injured his knee on a scramble when, his coaches have admitted, he ought to’ve run out of bounds as a substitute of making an attempt to achieve extra yards. “It’s a hard lesson,” Calabrese mentioned. “Zach had to learn the hard way. We need him out there. That rep right there, it’s going to flash back in his mind and the next time it pops up, he’ll get down and protect himself.”


Zach Wilson is helped off the sector after injuring his knee towards the Eagles earlier this month. (Eric Hartline / USA Today)

So, Wilson is lacking helpful follow time, an opportunity to construct on-field chemistry in an offense full of recent faces. There are new starters at 4 of 5 offensive line spots, at tight finish and the Jets are incorporating a brand new operating again (Breece Hall) and broad receiver (Garrett Wilson) too. Wilson spent the joint practices with the Falcons on Friday and Saturday driving round a cart, a spectator, gingerly strolling into the ability on the finish of the day.

Most individuals — contained in the constructing and across the league — agree on Wilson’s tantalizing talent set. But questions stay if he can put all of it collectively — he didn’t reply them as a rookie, when he was one of many worst beginning quarterbacks within the NFL by most metrics. He threw 9 touchdowns and turned the ball over 12 occasions (11 interceptions) in 13 video games, finishing simply 55.6 p.c of his passes. Football Outsiders had him graded because the worst of 34 quarterbacks to throw a minimum of 200 passes. Pro Football Focus had him twenty seventh of 30 with a minimum of 400 dropbacks.

The Athletic’s Austin Mock has an NFL projection mannequin which simulates the season 100,000 occasions, game-by-game. He plugged within the Jets to see how the season may play out if Flacco has to start out a number of video games and Wilson began the remaining, versus if Wilson began all 17.

The end result: Mock’s mannequin had the Jets profitable a mean of 4.7 video games with Wilson because the starter for all 17 video games, with a 1.2 p.c probability to make the playoffs. If Flacco began the primary two video games, and Wilson the ultimate 15, that bumped up barely to 4.8 wins. The mannequin, Mock mentioned, initiatives Flacco as the higher possibility — and Wilson because the worst beginning quarterback within the NFL.

Wilson, clearly, nonetheless has so much to show — and there’s a prepare of thought that LaFleur might need a neater time operating his advanced offense with Flacco on the helm somewhat than Wilson. Last season, the Jets offense was simpler with Flacco and White — and Wilson presumably lacking Week 1 (or extra) will present one other alternative for that narrative to hold weight. When he began, the Jets averaged 16.3 factors per sport. When he didn’t, they averaged 24.5.

“Like any young guy he’s a work in progress,” an NFC scout advised The Athletic, talking on the situation of anonymity to permit him to talk freely about one other staff’s gamers. “I think for that coaching staff, the challenge is finding the right balance of what can be asked out of him. How do you maximize the talent while putting restraints on so he doesn’t turn into what we’ve seen with Carson Wentz? I can see that very easily happening with Zach Wilson.”

“With Wilson, you can just tell he doesn’t process everything yet,” the scout continued. “There are issues they don’t have stats for — you see interceptions, these are inaccurate balls. That’s simple to identify. But what they don’t have stats for are throws that had been just a little off schedule however nonetheless full, so what ought to’ve been a 20-yard acquire is now a 12-yard acquire. Coaches see that as a minus-8 play, they don’t see that as a plus-12.

“There’s those, and then also throws that should be made but are not attempted. Those don’t show up on TV, you can’t criticize guys easily for it, but the coaches probably hate that more than the interceptions. I think with Wilson, he’s still trying to find the right balance of where all that is and the timing is not quite sharp yet. That offense is a very, very timing-oriented offense — and his timing is off.”

The scout had a caveat: “To be clear, it’s LaFleur’s job, Saleh’s job, and everyone’s job to fix that,” he mentioned. “Wilson is not the first young guy that doesn’t have innate timing in his second season. It’s on them to find that balance and figure it out.”

That will wait till Wilson returns.

Until then, it’s Flacco.


The day earlier than Wilson injured his knee, C.J. Uzomah sat down with Flacco. The dialog went on for an hour.

“We talked about ball, we talked about life, we got to know each other more,” Uzomah mentioned. “I always say this: Joe is the funniest person on the team, just because he’s carefree.”

Flacco has unwittingly change into a father determine within the Jets’ locker room. The Jets signed left sort out Duane Brown just lately, one among solely seven gamers remaining from the 2008 draft class on NFL rosters. Another: Flacco, picked by the Ravens. He’s 5 years older than Calabrese, two older than LaFleur. And when Flacco began his profession, Wilson was 9 and Calabrese was graduating highschool.

He’s been round lengthy sufficient to inform tales about what it was prefer to play with Ray Lewis, who retired 10 seasons in the past — “I’ll never forget the first time I touched his shoulder,” Flacco mentioned. “It was like the hardest surface I’ve ever touched in my life.”

He has 176 profession begins — and a Super Bowl win — to his title. Some of his teammates can’t even imagine they’re taking part in with Flacco, who wasn’t precisely a Lewis-level star, even at his greatest.

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Joe Flacco and Zach Wilson speak on the sideline throughout a November sport final season. (Brad Penner / USA Today)

“I watched him all my life,’’ Jets broad receiver Elijah Moore mentioned. “When he obtained right here (in 2021), I used to be amazed that it was him. Last 12 months earlier than a few of the video games, he’d … share a few of his tales. You hear a few of the guys on the sideline saying like, ‘That’s Joe Flacco. He’s a legend.’ All of us had been born in 2000, so we’re younger.

“Man, he’s a great dude — and still a great player.”

Even when his profession began almost 15 years in the past, Flacco mentioned he was assured sufficient to imagine that he’d be nonetheless taking part in after his thirty seventh birthday — however perhaps by no means envisioned himself because the elder statesman, the chief everybody turned to. He’s admitted to an absence of need to mentor younger quarterbacks, each right here and in Baltimore, and but stays one of the crucial common figures within the Jets locker room — and Wilson turns to him for recommendation anyway.

In the QB room, Flacco “is the father”, White mentioned.

“I don’t view myself as an old person,” Flacco mentioned, “however once in a while when these guys come as much as you and say one thing to you, I’m like, ‘Oh, OK you think I’m like 50 years previous, I obtained it …

“I feel like I’m like a Dad that is easy to pick on, and they like laughing at me because of that so I embrace it.”

When the Jets introduced him again final season — he began 4 video games for New York in 2020, dropping all 4 — after which once more this offseason, they didn’t envision that he’d be their Week 1 starter in 2022, towards his previous staff no much less. That wasn’t the plan. But the Jets additionally introduced Flacco again exactly for that reason — so that they wouldn’t panic if/when Wilson obtained damage, like he did when his knee buckled in Philadelphia on a non-contact harm.

It’s not simply speak, both — Saleh, LaFleur, Calabrese and Jets gamers all imagine Flacco can deal with this process in entrance of him. He’s been on hearth in follow since Wilson went down, his first reps with the starters. He accomplished 14-of-17 passes in 11-on-11 drills on Tuesday and outplayed Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota in joint practices with Atlanta on Friday and Saturday. His arm power hasn’t lagged with age, and he’s on level with most of his passes — even when his mobility nonetheless resembles extra tortoise than hare.

“There’s definitely a difference” in the best way Zach Wilson and Flacco throw passes, rookie broad receiver Garrett Wilson mentioned. “It’s a lot of experience with Flacco. … He takes some pace off, can put pace on the ball. He kind of does a good job of making the passes receiver friendly, that’s the best way I could put it into words. They’re pretty easy to catch. He’ll take something off the ball when you’re running a slant route, versus an out route, he’ll put some zip on it, because it’s gotta be. Things like that.”

It’s not as if this model of Flacco is similar one who received Super Bowl MVP in 2013, although. He is 2-16 in his final 18 begins courting again to 2018, which spans stints with the Ravens, Broncos and Jets, the place he’s 0-5 as a starter. He’s thrown for 1,202 yards, 9 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 57.3 completion proportion in seven video games with the Jets.

Flacco is a “very robotic quarterback and he wants to be told where the ball should go on each play,” the scout mentioned. “Coaches will say what you don’t want is a quarterback who doesn’t do what you tell him (what to do), and another thing you don’t want is a player who only does what you tell him. Flacco is a little bit of that ‘only does what you tell him’ type.”

Wilson is susceptible to improvisation. Flacco is just not.

And then there’s White.

Or, as he’s identified amongst Jets followers: Mike f–king White.


White was strolling along with his spouse Mallory, and their twin infants, Millie and Maddox, when a fan yelled from throughout the mall.

Mike effing White! You’re the GOAT!

It occurred down in Tampa Bay this offseason, too. White was in a Chick-fil-A drive-thru and when he pulled as much as pay, the employee requested him: “Are you the Mike White? Mike f–king White?”

“I’m like, no way, you don’t recognize me, no way,” White mentioned. “You do just have to laugh, because it’s just crazy.”

During coaching camp, followers have been yelling his title, expletive included, anytime he takes the sector. He is likely to be the most well-liked third-string quarterback within the league. That’s a minimum of true in New York.

So much has modified since this time final 12 months when White wasn’t even certain if he’d make the staff. The Jets had simply employed a brand new teaching workers, and he had no historical past with this offense — or with Saleh, LaFleur or Calabrese. There was additionally the added stress of his spouse’s being pregnant — she was due throughout coaching camp. He wound up flying to Tampa simply because the Jets had been getting out to Green Bay for joint practices with the Packers. Maddox and Millie had been born at 1 a.m., after which a number of hours later White was on a aircraft, headed again to Wisconsin for practices and the preseason sport.

“You grow up real quick,” White mentioned.

The Jets went into the season with no veteran quarterback backing up Wilson, so White received that job. And then Wilson sprained the PCL in his proper knee throughout a Week 7 loss to the Patriots. The subsequent week, White made historical past in his first begin, finishing 37-of-45 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns in an upset 34-31 win over the eventual Super Bowl-bound Bengals. No quarterback had ever put up these numbers (400-plus yards, three touchdowns) in his first profession begin. It was ok that the Jets despatched White’s sport jersey to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

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Mike White threw for 405 yards and caught a two-point conversion cross in his first profession begin vs. the Bengals final season. (Vincent Carchietta / USA Today)

So, Mike effing White was born.

“It being my first start, I wasn’t even worried about winning the game or throwing for however many yards, I was just like: I want to do my job and give my team the best chance to win,” White mentioned. “Because I knew there was 21 other (Jets) starters that want to win. A lot of their livelihoods depend on it. So that’s what I was first worried about: Not letting my team down. I had no idea I threw for that many yards until after the game. And then the stadium starts chanting my name and I’m like: What is going on?”

“It’s positively one thing I’ll inform my youngsters about at some point.

In the NFC scout’s eyes, LaFleur’s offense by no means operated higher than when White was on the helm, even when he struggled (4 interceptions towards the Bills) after that stellar debut.

“The offense opened up when Mike White was in there,” the scout mentioned. “It looked more like what you’d expect a Mike LaFleur offense to look like.”

White struggled when he jumped in for an injured Wilson towards the Eagles within the preseason opener, solely finishing 10-of-20 passes for 98 yards and no touchdowns, although he did lead two scoring drives — and the Jets teaching workers stays excessive on him.

“We feel like we have three starting quarterbacks,” Saleh mentioned.

That may sound hyperbolic to an outsider — however the teaching workers has been telling White that every one offseason, particularly once they went to re-sign him earlier than hitting restricted free company in March.

White, 27, is the veteran of the Jets QB room — he’s the one one who’s been round since 2019. Personality-wise, he’s extra on the Flacco finish of the spectrum than Wilson. He spends most nights after follow chasing Maddox and Millie round the home. They already began strolling at 10 months, and now “they’re everywhere,” he mentioned. “The best way to describe them when they first started walking: They’re little drunk people.”

When White isn’t asking Flacco for parental recommendation — he’s normally the one cracking jokes.

“It’s just a really good, dynamic group. I enjoy going into work and being in the quarterback room and shooting the shit with them,” White mentioned. “I try to bring the comedic relief. Sometimes it can be really stressful in there.”


Shortly after the Super Bowl, LaFleur had an extended dialog with Rams coach Sean McVay. They traded notes, and LaFleur requested lots of questions. The Jets offensive coordinator likes to do this within the offseason — meet with minds from across the league, over the telephone or by way of Zoom. He has connections to a few of the NFL’s offensive geniuses, together with McVay, his previous boss Kyle Shanahan and his brother Matt LaFleur, the Packers coach.

The NFC scout views LaFleur as one of many brightest younger offensive minds within the NFL and a future head coach. Even if the the Jets offense wasn’t particularly spectacular final 12 months — 18.2 factors per sport, twenty eighth within the league — the play designs nonetheless stood out. They “just didn’t always come to fruition,” the scout mentioned, including that when his staff is evaluating a play design, “it doesn’t matter how the play unfolds. We’re looking for how they approach the game, what we can take, how we can learn from it. Mike LaFleur, I thought, he showed up in that sense. I liked his designs as much as any offensive coordinator I watched.”

A pair years in the past, LaFleur had a type of lengthy conversations with a younger coach from the Broncos, not even but 30 years previous. His title: Rob Calabrese. That dialog caught with him, particularly since he got here with a glowing suggestion from Rich Scangarello, a fellow Kyle Shanahan disciple and LaFleur’s confidant. All of that made it a “no brainer”, LaFleur mentioned, to rent Calabrese as his quarterbacks coach, an important place on a workers tasked with creating Wilson.

“He’s a great coach,” LaFleur mentioned. “I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

Flacco knew Calabrese too, from his half-season because the Broncos starter in 2019, when Calabrese was in his first 12 months as a high quality management coach. Flacco remembers Calabrese doing “all kinds of dirty work”, popping out and in of conferences, handing issues out to gamers.

“I think he does a great job in there,” Flacco mentioned. “You can definitely tell he knows football and he’s excited about it every single day. He’s really into it, and that’s the most important thing.”

Streveler known as Calabrese “awesome” and “just one of the guys.”

“He coaches us hard and tells us what we gotta do but he’s just one of the guys in the room and that’s how it is with everyone,” Streveler mentioned. “It’s a lot of collaboration as opposed to old-school coaching with the old guy demanding everything. It’s all collaboration. It’s a lot of conversation.”

That’s how LaFleur desires it within the quarterback room: dialog, collaboration.

“There’s great conversations and a dialogue that goes on in there,” Calabrese mentioned. “With Mike running it, the open conversations we have on what we’re seeing, what they’re (the QBs) seeing, what they’re feeling, it just benefits everyone.”

The phrase LaFleur makes use of: belief.

“It’s just the trust factor,” he mentioned. “I believe they trust me, and that I’m going to do everything I can to help them be the best that they can be.”

(Top photograph, from left, Zach Wilson, Mike White, Chris Streveler and Joe Flacco: Rich Schultz / Getty Images)



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