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Should the Jets Start Rookie QB James Morgan?

If you have been a loyal follower of TWSN for a while and watched my content before the 2020 NFL Draft you may remember me talking about Florida International quarterback James Morgan. If you weren’t a follower of TWSN during the NFL Draft or a New York Jets fan there’s a good chance Morgan wasn’t anything more than a Bleacher Report notification that you quickly got rid of after he got selected in the fourth round and never thought of him again until coming upon this article. 

Morgan was my sixth ranked quarterback prospect during last year’s draft, I knew he wasn’t a pro-ready QB, but his cannon of an arm, 6-foot-4 frame and gutsiness in the pocket made him hard not to love. Morgan was and still is a project at best and maybe he could end up being a nice stash that develops into something. But time to wait for his development is something the Jets are no longer privy to having and the time to start him may be now. 

The Jets season has long been over, sitting only three games away from a merciless end and the team racing towards an 0-16 record and the ultimate prize of Clemson superstar Trevor Lawrence. 

Starting Morgan and putting Darnold on the shelf may sound like tanking the last three games, and that’s because it is tanking, I will say that openly. It’s admitting defeat for the rest of the season in pursuit of the first overall pick, but so is calling an all-out blitz on a Hail Mary and costing your team what may be its only win. 

The Jets sit in a position similar to the Bengals last season when they benched longtime starting quarterback Andy Dalton for rookie fourth-round pick Ryan Finley. The Bengals were a paltry 0-8 and knew they were trending towards a top-three selection and the privilege to select a new franchise quarterback, either LSU’s Joe Burrow or Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

Finley was utterly atrocious in his three games as a starter and it was more than obvious he was not the guy. The North Carolina State product completed less than 50% of his passes and played in more games (3) than scores he was responsible for (2).

Ultimately it was three weeks of pain and borderline unwatchable football, but in the long term it put Cincinnati three weeks closer to landing Burrow, the eventual first overall pick, who looked like the Bengals franchise savior before an injury in November against the Washington Football Team ended his rookie campaign. 

If Morgan gets a three game leash that takes the team to the end of the season it may be blasphemous to call the product on the field professional football, but like the Bengals only a year ago, it will put the Jets closer to long term success.

The NFL Draft is still far from an exact science and the entire process is still a televised guessing game at its core. So, what if Morgan shocks the league and looks like a high-end backup or flashes enough potential to where maybe a team thinks he can be a starter?  

 Even if Morgan over performs and maybe completes 60% of his passes and has some really nice plays, the Jets have a tough schedule to finish the season and will likely still finish winless. Gang Green faces two playoff teams in the Rams and Browns before finishing the season with the New England Patriots, who already beat them once this year. 

There’s a very low chance that the Jets win one of their remaining games with Morgan starting, but if he is a nice surprise, history shows that he may be worth a Day 2 draft pick. 

After a horrid season as the Cleveland Browns starter DeShone Kizer was flipped to the Green Bay Packers for a second-round pick, the same thing can be said about Josh Rosen when the Dolphins sacrificed a second-round selection for him after a poor rookie season with the Cardinals. Both players were selected much higher than Morgan, leading the best example of any hypothetical trade value to be former Bengals quarterback and current Houston Texans backup AJ McCarron. 

McCarron was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by Cincinnati and was called into action in the 2015 season following an injury to Dalton. The signal caller proved to be competent in seven appearances and three starts, throwing six touchdowns and two interceptions. 

During the 2017 season the Browns reportedly offered the Bengals a second and a third round pick for the former Alabama star, even though he had not started a game since January of 2016. 

If Morgan can be relatively successful in spite of being surrounded by a poor Jets team and show that he has NFL talent, then he may not be worth both a second and a third like McCarron, but he may be worth either a second or a third round pick. That would be a win for General Manager Joe Douglas considering the Jets selected him in the fourth and he doesn’t seem to have much of a future with the team. 

The odds are that the Jets don’t put in Morgan and let Darnold finish his tenure on the team as a starter before trading him to another franchise in the offseason and eventually make Lawrence the face of the organization. And there’s a chance Morgan never starts an NFL game and the former-fourth round pick is just another player who goes down as a wasted selection, but fourth-round picks are still valuable and isn’t it worth seeing just how valuable that pick is on an NFL field before it is wasted forever?

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