Dancing Joe Flacco mocked by his kids but hailed by Jets as Zach Wilson nears return

Jets QB Joe Flacco went 7-for-11 for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the last two minutes of Sunday's comeback win over the Browns. Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco describes himself as the kind of guy who doesn't dance at wedding receptions. You know the type: They hang at the dinner table and survey the dance floor while discreetly tapping a foot to the beat of the music.

"Cool Joe," as his teammates call him, stepped out of character last Sunday in Cleveland, bursting into the locker room after the miraculous win over the Browns and dancing his way into the center of a giant mosh pit. The 6-foot-6 Flacco, surrounded by teammates, was jumping so high that he almost hit his head on the ceiling, tight end Tyler Conklin observed. It was captured on video and tweeted by the Jets' official account.

When Flacco called his kids from the plane, "They were all just laughing because they saw the video from the locker room," he said. "They were all laughing at me, and saying, 'Dad, why were you doing that when you came to the locker room?'"

Why? Because Flacco knows those moments are priceless. He also knows he might not get too many more opportunities. The 37-year-old Super Bowl XLVII MVP, in his 15th season, works on a week-to-week basis as this point in this career, with Sunday's home game against the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) looming as a possible last fling.

Flacco will make his third straight start for the Jets (1-1) against the Bengals, but Week 4 isn't promised because quarterback Zach Wilson could rejoin the lineup after six weeks of recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. Before the season started, the Jets identified Week 4 as the earliest return date for Wilson, and they haven't deviated. They've also been consistent in saying that he will play as soon as he's healthy.

"Zach is the future of the organization, we all know that," coach Robert Saleh said. "As soon as the doctors clear him, we'll get him on the field."

Clearly, the Jets want to avoid a quarterback controversy, but it could turn into a fascinating decision if Flacco upsets the defending AFC champions. Would Saleh really send him back to the bench on a two-game winning streak? The Jets haven't had one of those since Weeks 15-16 in 2020. Maybe Wilson's knee would need another week of rest to be 100% (wink, wink).

Either way, Flacco said he's good.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had the last two weeks -- and this upcoming week -- to put our team in a position to win and put our team hopefully in a position to be in a good spot, moving forward, for the rest of the year," he said. "That's my job. That's what I can do and I'm happy about it."

The Jets are happy with him.

After an ineffective opener, Flacco became the first Jets quarterback since Vinny Testaverde (2000) to pass for 300 yards and four touchdowns in a game, rallying them to a 31-30 win over the Browns. In the last two minutes, he went 7-of-11 for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns, erasing a 13-point deficit and winning his first start since 2019.

"He has seen everything," Saleh said. "In the fourth quarter, the game plan has already been revealed, they know how they are playing everything. So, when we got that onside kick, it was just, he knew exactly where he needed to go to with the ball because he already knew what was going to happen. And the great ones can see that."

Saleh trusts him. The players trust him. He has a league-high 103 pass attempts, but only one interception. He spreads the ball around, making sure everyone is fed. In fact, the running backs are tied for the league lead with 20 receptions.

"I'm just happy for him," Conklin said. "I'm happy he got to go out there [in Cleveland] and show everybody he's still Joe Flacco and he can still do this."

Saleh said Flacco is "a calming force" on offense, which is filled with so many young players. Running backs Michael Carter and Breece Hall and wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore are under 24, which means they grew up learning about Flacco on their Madden video game.

Now they're making their own highlights with him. Next up is a statistically solid defense in the Bengals, ranked 15th in points and seventh in yards, but one that hasn't been truly tested. They faced Mitch Trubisky (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Cooper Rush (Dallas Cowboys) in the first two games -- not exactly a Pro Bowl lineup.

Flacco will try to be the second straight backup (Rush) to defeat the Bengals. If he does, he would be deserving of another start. Maybe he'd do another locker room dance, risking more ridicule from his kids. They recently teased him about his struggles the past couple of years. He tried to explain to them that he used to win a lot, when they were too young to remember. Later, in a quiet moment, he Googled some of his old highlights. Maybe he needed visual reinforcement.

Last Sunday, he gave his kids a show. And the young men on the Jets, too.