It doesn’t appear that the New York Jets are giving up on Zach Wilson just yet.
After a tumultuous two seasons in which the second overall pick has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, the Jets coaching staff has been firm that responsibility for Wilson’s struggles starts and ends with them.
“Through two years we haven’t done our job with him. Any player that isn’t producing to the level they are capable of, as a coach you failed them.” Jets’ offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur told reporters Thursday morning.
Wilson is 8-14 as a starter through his first two seasons and has an average completion percentage of 55%. The Jets have benched the BYU product twice during the 2022 season as a way to get him to re-focus on his fundamentals.
Even with New York being eliminated from the playoffs for the 12th straight year, the struggles at quarterback have been well-documented. The Jets have used three quarterbacks this season. The focus, of course, has been on Wilson’s struggles though.
Context matters in the NFL though. And to Mike LaFleur, Wilson’s struggles have more to do with the team not being patient enough around him, than the quarterback’s work.
“In hindsight, it probably would have benefited him to sit back and learn a little bit and watch a veteran, grow in this league. In the backseat watching and getting better at practice. That wasn’t the course we went and from here we have to pick up the scraps and get back to work.” LaFleur said.
LaFleur’s comments are the first public statements made by the Jets organization that they made a mistake with Wilson’s development. There’s also historical precedent that backs up the notion Wilson should have sat his rookie year instead of being thrown to the fire.
Aaron Rodgers, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Daniel Jones, and plenty of other quarterbacks have had success after sitting during their rookie seasons. While New York may be kicking themselves with how they handled the quarterback position the last two years, the coaching staff understands that it’s a different league than when many of the previously stated quarterbacks entered.
“It is what it is in 2023. People don’t want to wait. This is a highly competitive environment.” LaFleur then went on to mention how Green Bay has gone from quarterbacks like Brett Favre to Rodgers, to Jordan Love now sitting on the bench and learning the game.
Wilson is not blameless for his struggles. But where a quarterback is drafted matters more than the overall skillset he brings to the table.
A team who is willing to be patient with a young prospect can usually be stomping grounds for strong quarterback play. Teams that need results immediately are more pressed to put quarterbacks into the fire and live with the results of mediocre and sometimes desperate play.
For the New York Jets, they are now living in a world where the team is ready to take the next step to playoff contention but is just a quarterback away from doing so. While all eyes point to the offseason when many big free agent names will be made available, the Jets coaching staff isn’t ready to give up on their young quarterback just yet.
“We’re going to grind with him, we are, and through hell or high water, we’re going to figure out how to get him to where we know he can be.” head coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday.
The Jets understand the part they played in Zach Wilson’s struggles. The question now is if they can rectify it in time to save everyone’s jobs in 2023.