Jets’ Joe Douglas has to get quarterback decision right

Derek Carr was the first man through the door for the Jets’ great quarterback search of 2023, making him the unofficial leader in the clubhouse. Maybe the first impression he made Friday night during dinner and Saturday during his visit will ultimately separate the released Raider from the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Tannehill.

Or maybe the presumed frontrunner, Aaron Rodgers, will emerge from his darkness retreat with a burning desire to win the big one for a franchise that has been on its own darkness retreat for the better part of five decades.

If the 39-year-old Rodgers engineers a trade from Green Bay to New York and wins the Jets their first Super Bowl title since January 1969, he will erase all of his Packers postseason sins (11-10 career record, only one ring), make up some legacy ground on seven-time champ Tom Brady and become ultra-relevant again in a league now controlled by the much younger Patrick Mahomes.

But no matter how this fascinating talent show plays out, two things are already certain:

1) Jets general manager Joe Douglas has earned the right to judge this show.

2) Douglas has absolutely no choice but to get this one right.

Up front, it needs to be stated that Jets fans have every reason to doubt the front office’s ability to identify and acquire a championship quarterback, given that no club employee has done it since Sonny Werblin signed Joe Namath out of Alabama in 1965 for the blockbuster price of $427,000.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas has earned the right to make the big quarterback, but he has to get it right, The Post's Ian O'Connor writes.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas has earned the right to make the big quarterback call, whether it be Derek Carr or Aaron Rodgers, but he has to get it right, The Post’s Ian O’Connor writes.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

(Note to all Jets capologists: Rodgers is scheduled to make that sum next season for about every seven minutes of regular-season game time.)

Two years ago, Douglas bet the future of the franchise — and, by extension, his own future — on Zach Wilson, a BYU quarterback who played with an athletic flair and who made a Pro Day throw that would’ve represented his origin story had he, you know, become a franchise player for the Jets.

Wilson most certainly did not do that, forcing his employer to effectively send him to extended spring training while the team played games without him. Now, the Jets will have to replace the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft, while somehow converting him into a willing understudy. Asked if it were a plausible scenario that Wilson could beat out the yet-to-be-named veteran quarterback next summer, head coach Robert Saleh all but laughed.

“I don’t know about that one,” he replied. “Let’s go through that process. You can ask me that one before training camp.”

So with Wilson demoted to the second string, in a best-case scenario, the question needs to be asked: Why should the executive who drafted Zach be trusted to find the right guy to replace Zach?

That is where Douglas’ roster building and drafting (non-QB division) comes into play. Last spring, the Jets did pick the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in Sauce Gardner, and the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in Garrett Wilson. The college players who were ranked as the second, fourth, ninth and 28th best prospects by respected NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah were landed by Douglas with the fourth, 10th, 26th and 36th overall picks.

Derek Carr
Derek Carr
Getty Images

So the Jets ended up with playmakers all over the field. They had a postseason team without a postseason quarterback, which is why a 7-4 season devolved into a 7-10 meltdown. After they convinced many skeptics that they had finally established a winning program, it was a prototypical Same Old Jets finish.

The quarterback position is 75 percent of the sport, and in the drafting of Wilson, Douglas got it 100 percent wrong. Most general managers wouldn’t have survived that kind of swing and miss, but Douglas isn’t most general managers.

He was a valuable front-office voice in Philadelphia when the 2017 Eagles won the franchise’s first championship since 1960. He has a shot here to add the right quarterback to his loaded roster to win the Jets’ first championship in more than half a century.

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers
Getty Images

Carr is an interesting option as an iron-man starter who reached three straight Pro Bowls before delivering four straight seasons of at least 4,000 passing yards. He has never won a playoff game, but then again, Matthew Stafford hadn’t won any playoff games for the Lions before he won the Super Bowl with the Rams.

Garoppolo isn’t as durable or as prolific as Carr, but he’s a winner with four postseason victories and a Super Bowl appearance behind him. Tannehill is Tannehill.

Rodgers? He’s a somewhat diminished all-time great a dozen years removed from his only trip to the Super Bowl.

It’s an interesting and eclectic field of candidates for Douglas to sort through. He might not get the quarterback he wants above all, especially if Rodgers chooses to stay in Green Bay.

But through his ability to recognize talent on both sides of the ball, Douglas has earned this opportunity to right a terrible wrong. The visit by Carr just opened what should be a wild offseason for the Jets, with much at stake.

Will they fail to find a Super Bowl quarterback yet again?

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

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