By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots might be the best team in the NFL. The New York Jets are … not the best team in the NFL. And so, with a Week 3 matchup on tap, not many football folks are getting too jazzed up about New York’s second team making a trek to lose at Gillette Stadium for the ninth straight time.
The fact that the Jets have lost by an average of 31 points in their last three treks to Foxboro? Not helping matters. Nor is the fact that the Jets will be starting their third-string quarterback.
By virtue of losing Sam Darnold to mononucleosis and Trevor Siemian to a gruesomely broken ankle, the Jets will be rolling out second-year QB Luke Falk to make his first career start against Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots’ suffocating defense, in a building where most every rookie QB has crumbled before him.
To say expectations are low for Falk is to make a grave understatement.
However, there remains a slight chance that the jokes and ridicule directed toward the Jets for their current predicament is a bit misguided.
We can start here: There’s no way he can be worse than Trevor Siemian. With all due respect to Siemian (not trying to pick on a man when he’s down here), he is the absolute baseline for what an NFL quarterback can be. He’s started 25 games, he’s completed under 60 percent of his passes, he’s averaged under 7 yards per attempt, and he’s thrown 30 touchdowns to 24 interceptions.
That NFL career came after he threw just 27 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his collegiate career at … Northwestern. As a senior in 2014, Siemian had exactly zero (0) games where he threw a touchdown without throwing an interception. He finished the season with seven touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a 58.2 percent completion rate. His collegiate career ended with a torn ACL.
Siemian didn’t fully believe an NFL career was in his future, so he started hunting for a job in commercial real estate. John Elway, though, saw a bright NFL potential, and thus took a flier on Siemian with a seventh-round pick. The aforementioned NFL performance is all that’s happened since.
Now we can look at Falk. His NFL experience thus far consists of exactly 25 passes thrown Monday night in a loss to Cleveland. He was drafted by the Titans in 2018 but was cut after the preseason, before linking up with the Dolphins (and Adam Gase) and ending up on IR. His rookie season a wash, Falk was claimed by the Jets in the offseason, cut by the Jets after the preseason, added to the Jets’ practice squad after that, before being thrust into duty on Monday Night Football in the first NFL game for which he’s ever dressed in uniform.
That’s a pretty crazy ride. Equally as crazy was the fact that he completed 20 of those 25 passes for 198 yards. He didn’t throw any touchdowns, but he also didn’t throw any interceptions. He entered the game likely a bit stunned, with the Jets trailing 13-0. His first pass didn’t count, due to a holding penalty, and his second drive began with a pass delivered right on the money to an open receiver; Josh Bellamy dropped it.
Come on, Josh. Trying to get some feet wet over here.
The Jets’ offense then took a delay of game, ran it up the gut, and punted, taking that 13-3 deficit into the locker room to regroup. When Falk’s first dropback of the second half ended with a Myles Garrett sack, it looked like a disastrous night was taking place. Falk completed a seven-yard pass on the third-and-17 on that drive, leading to another punt.
To that point, Falk was just 2-for-3 for 8 yards. His next drive began with a false start and another Garrett sack on almost the same exact spot on the field. The drive ended with a punt, too. Falk was 3-for-4 for 17 yards. If you turned off the TV, opting for an early snooze, you could be forgiven.
But the next Jets drive began with Falk letting it rip a bit, lobbing a pass up the right sideline to Robby Anderson off a play-fake. The pass may have been underthrown, but it was also completed for a 36-yard gain. Falk then completed a short pass to Le’Veon Bell before connecting with Anderson for a 10-yard gain on third-and-5.
From there, Falk looked like … a quarterback who might just be an NFL quarterback. He was smart enough to get the ball into Bell’s hands as often as possible, and he also throws a very nice looking ball while also looking poised in the pocket (despite a monstrous man wreaking havoc on his team all night long):
And if Falk is to become a real NFL quarterback, he certainly has the collegiate resume for it.
In his three years as a starter at Washington State, Falk threw for 12,622 yards with 106 touchdowns and 32 interceptions in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Washington State went 26-11 in games started by Falk. He completed 68.3 percent of his over-2,000 collegiate passes, and he currently stands as the Pac-12’s all-time leader in completions, passing yards and touchdowns.
That’s a solid resume for someone who’s only being described as “the Jets’ third-string quarterback who was just activated for the first time of his career.”
At this point, we should probably cut to the chase: Falk was drafted with the 199th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. There’s another quarterback who was once drafted 199th overall in an NFL draft. His name was Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr., and he turned out to be pretty good.
I got a chance to hold my draft card a few hours ago. Never forget where you came from. pic.twitter.com/sqBgAbWLCZ
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) August 4, 2019
Brady also got his first crack at starting an NFL game after entering for an injured starter in Week 2 … and then starting in Week 3 against a future Hall of Famer. In Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Brady’s first career start came against Peyton Manning, in Foxboro, in 2001, for those of you who somehow don’t remember every single thing about Tom Brady’s football career.)
Falk and Brady are also both 6-foot-4. And they both played some high school football in the state of California.
That all may be a coincidence. It’s actually quite likely that Luke Falk will not become the greatest quarterback of all time. Seems like a safe bet to say he’s more likely part of the 99.99999999 percent of quarterbacks who don’t end up being the greatest of all time. Fair enough.
But the point is this: With the prevailing narrative this week being that the Jets are walking into Gillette this week with their third-string quarterback and thus do not deserve to be taken seriously, it’s worth at least noting that the third-stringer is almost certainly better than the second-stringer. And while the Jets may have the same chances of actually winning the game as Falk does of becoming a Hall of Famer, the third-stringer narrative need not be pushed any further.