There is always hope on Opening Day, even when your team hasn’t made the playoffs for 11 straight seasons, even if your quarterback is the graybeard gunslinger summoned to hold the fort.
So the 2022 Jets have yet to lose a game. The head coach and the offensive coordinator and the latest young franchise quarterback, knee-capped for now, are no longer rookies. The general manager knocked the 2022 draft out of the park. And though much of the talent is young, it is nevertheless talent, arguably more talent than long-suffering Jets fans have seen since the 2010 AFC Championship runners-up, buoyed by a cadre of experienced veterans.
For this tormented franchise and fan base, this can be a day to forget the 53-year-old “Same Old Jets” monkey that claims squatter’s rights on their backs, once the ball is kicked off against the Ravens.
This doesn’t have to be a day when the faithful rail at the football gods for delaying Zach Wilson’s anticipated second-year leap and obsess over Flacco’s 0-5 record as a Jet.
Nobody passed a law that says 37-year-old Joe Flacco can’t show up forever young against the team that drafted him and unceremoniously shoved him aside for Lamar Jackson, the team he led to the Super Bowl XLVII championship when everyone hailed him as Joe Cool.
There are three Week 1 quarterbacks with revenge in varying degrees on their mind — Russell Wilson in his return to Seattle, Baker Mayfield versus the Browns, and Flacco.
Flacco’s pressing challenge is to hold the fort behind an offensive line roiled by recently signed left tackle Duane Brown’s shoulder woes for no fewer than three weeks while the meniscus tear and bone bruise in Wilson’s right knee heal.
“Just enjoy the old guy. … I listen, all the old guys at home? Jump on the Joe bandwagon!” Flacco’s father, Steve, told The Post.
Robert Saleh and the Jets need Good Old Joe Flacco, and they need him now.
Flacco is the anti-Lamar Jackson in the face of chaotic pocket hell, but at least he hasn’t lost his fastball, and he has command of the offense and commands the respect of his teammates.
“We knew when [the Ravens in 2018] drafted the other guy in the first round, the end was in sight,” Steve Flacco said.
Bill Parcells used to label a trusted veteran with Flacco’s experience a hold-the-fort guy.
“They can kind of drive the ship in terms of they can kind of bring everybody back to reality and balance everything out because they’ve been through a lot, so they know that there’s gonna be ups and downs,” Good Old Joe said. “I think it gives young guys a guy to look at in maybe the times that aren’t the greatest in the middle of a game, for a season, whatever it may be.”
All well and good. But Good Old Joe believes in his heart that he is more than a hold-the-fort guy.
“I don’t want to just go out there and manage the game, if you want to say,” Good Old Joe told The Post. “That is part of playing quarterback, so that’s going to be a good portion of the game is always gonna be doing that.
“But I definitely believe in my abilities to help this team win, not just kind of give us a chance to win, you know?”
The Ravens made him the 18th pick of the 2008 draft after a scout named Joe Douglas watched the second half of a game Delaware lost in five overtimes to Richmond. The legend of Joe Cool, the unflappable Jersey kid who fashioned an 11-0 touchdown-interception ratio in the playoff run to the Super Bowl XLVII title and MVP had begun.
“His job here is to hold the seat till Zach gets ready. … He understands that,” Steve Flacco said. “He’ll help Zach, and the other thing he’s gonna help them with right now is hopefully he can play in some of these games so Zach can actually get better before they bring him back, so they don’t have to rush him back. That in and of itself will be valuable to them.”
The playoffs may very well be a pipe dream for the Jets. But is it too much to ask that maybe, just maybe, this can at the very least be the dawn of a new day in which long-suffering Jets fans, teased as they were by Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career year in 2015 and the teaming of Sam Darnold and Adam Gase, can start to believe again?
“A lot of guys are hungry,” Laken Tomlinson told The Post. “There’s a lot of naysayers out there, and we have something to prove. We have a bunch of winners in this locker room.”
After a decade of mostly hell, maybe the football gods will finally relent and allow Flight 2022, with Good Old Joe in the cockpit, to climb high enough to see what heaven looks like.