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Forget QB, Jets playoff hopes die directly at the hands of their coaching staff

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson passes the football.
Jets quarterback Zach Wilson passes the football.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Boos rained down on Zach Wilson throughout Thursday’s miserable 19-3 loss for the New York Jets that essentially knocked them out of playoff contention for the 12th straight year. 

The Jets’ second overall pick just last season completed just 9/18 passes for 98 yards and a pick. He was benched later in the game for prospect Chris Streveler as New York’s struggling offense only got worse as the game continued. And while blaming Wilson is the obvious choice, the Jets’ fifth loss in six games has highlighted more of the failings of their coaching staff than any one player. 

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New York as an offense gained just 174 total yards of total offense on a rainy and windy night at MetLife stadium. They weren’t helped by the bevy of slow pass calls and unimaginative run designs from offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and the staff. 

In reality, that is the true failing of the 2022 Jets. New York has an early opportunity against Jacksonville Thursday when the defense forced and recovered a fumble deep in Jaguars territory to start the game. But two run plays were followed by a long-timing passing play that was cut shortly down thanks to a blitz that sandwiched Wilson for a third down sack. 

By Wilson’s first incomplete pass of the game, fans of the Jets were demanding a quarterback change. By the third quarter, the change was in full effect.

“We were trying to get the run game going. One thing led to another. He (Streveler) gave us a spark.” head coach Robert Saleh told reporters after the loss. “I feel like Wilson has gotten better but you have to show it on the football field.”  

The belief that Mike White could have done better is a fair assumption after the injured quarterback moved the ball effortlessly in his three starts with the team. It also doesn’t tell the full story of Thursday night’s debacle for the Jets and their coaching staff. 

On the Jets’ second offensive drive, Wilson completed a 27-yard pass to a wide-open Jack Conklin and it seemed that New York was moving effectively. Except the Jets then called Chris Streveler into the game and immediately lost five yards on a false start penalty. Instead of using momentum they had already built, the Jets’ offensive staff outsmarted themselves and New York was forced to punt. 

When a coaching staff doesn’t trust a player on their roster, it’s evident on the field. But the signs of a good staff are using the strengths of their players, and formulating a game plan to better fit their starters.

Not only did Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur not do that for Wilson on Thursday, but it was evident the team was ok with running the same style of offense that their quarterback simply couldn’t run. 

“We have to find better ways to protect better. We have to find better ways to call the game better. We’ve got to a lot. It’s not just him, it’s a collective.” Saleh later added. 

Much has been said about the game being too fast for Zach Wilson. To a point, that assumption is correct. Wilson isn’t confident in his abilities or his technique and it shows every time he drops back in the pocket. In fact, the only time he looks like a competent passer is when he is rolling out and looking to make a play. 

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Instead of moving their quarterback out of the pocket consistently, the Jets used Wilson outside the pocket just twice in the entire game. 

These things may seem trivial for quarterbacks. They should be better in the pocket. But the fact of the matter is that Wilson simply isn’t at this point. And the Jets’ inability to not only realize it but ignore it is one of the most alarming headlines of the 2022 season. 

The New York Jets season is almost mathematically over for the 12th straight season. While it’s easy to blame the quarterback, their offensive coaching staff should share the same, if not more for their handling of their quarterbacks all season.

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