In the days leading up to the final game of Zach Wilson’s difficult second season with the New York Jets, his coaches are remaining firm in their commitment to developing the embattled quarterback.
That’s even knowing that Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, is expected to be inactive for the team’s regular-season finale at the Miami Dolphins.
“Zach has all the talent in the world, and we have all the confidence in the world in him,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters Wednesday.
“It’s just, like I said, a reset. We’re going to grind with him. We are. Through hell or high water, we’re going to figure out how to get him to where we know he can be.”
“In hindsight, it probably would’ve benefited (him) just to sit back and learn a little bit and watch a veteran and just kind of grow in this league — kind of in the backseat, watching,” — Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur , on Zach Wilson
Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, though, admitted Thursday that Wilson could have benefited from learning behind a veteran quarterback instead of being thrown in as the team’s starter from Day 1 as a rookie.
“In hindsight, it probably would have benefited (him) just to sit back and learn a little bit and watch a veteran and just kind of grow in this league — kind of in the backseat, watching,” LaFleur told reporters.
“Get better in practice, get better through the scout team and all that. But that wasn’t the course that we went.”
Instead, the Jets face plenty of questions surrounding their quarterback position with the offseason looming after the franchise has gone through a QB carousel this year.
What has gone wrong in Zach Wilson’s second NFL season?
Wilson, who missed the first three games of the season with a knee injury he suffered in the preseason, went 5-2 as the team’s starter before things really started to unravel.
The former BYU quarterback has since been benched twice — the first benching came as a way to “reset” Wilson’s development, as Saleh put it, and the second benching came in-game during a humbling loss to Jacksonville two weeks ago.
Mike White has been called on to replace Wilson as the team’s starter, although after a promising start, the former fifth-round draft pick has also struggled.
Amidst the QB shuffling, the Jets have gone from a 7-4 record to a five-game losing streak and eliminated from playoff contention.
On Thursday, even a bit more intrigue was thrown into the equation, as White — who’s been dealing with a rib injury, an injury that put Wilson back into the starting lineup for two games — was limited in practice.
According to Jets beat reportersWhite also skipped his scheduled press availability.
What that could possibly mean, if anything, for Sunday’s finale is yet to be seen.
Wilson’s statistics from his second NFL season have not indicated progression from his rookie campaign — his completion percentage dropped to 54.5% this year (from 55.6% in 2021) and he’s thrown six touchdowns to seven interceptions, while also throwing for less than 160 yards in five different games.
Wilson’s 72.8 QB rating this season is last among qualifying NFL quarterbacks.
He was also criticized earlier this year for appearing to lack accountability for his and the offense’s struggles after a 10-3 loss to New England.
He was benched days later.
Will the Jets continue to develop Zach Wilson in 2023 or trade him?
This all sets up for what is sure to be an eventful offseason for New York in determining what to do at the quarterback position.
White and veteran Joe Flacco are scheduled to be free agents, while Wilson has two more years remaining on his rookie contract, a $35 million deal that extends through 2024, per Spotrac.
The Jets’ 2022 season and how it has unfolded has led to some questioning whether the Jets would entertain the idea of trading away Wilson — Jay Glazer of Fox Sports believes the team will move on from him this offseason.
If that were to happen, Wilson would join only Ryan Leaf (San Diego Chargers, No. 2 pick in 1998) and Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals, No. 10 pick in 2018) as quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 who have lasted less than three years with the team that drafted them, according to ESPN.
Saleh, who along with his coaching staff, has come under scrutiny for their handling of Wilson’s development and the team’s QB situation, said the franchise is committed to helping Wilson recapture his confidence.
“We want to make sure we reconnect with Zach and regain his confidence – regain his confidence in himself and us, and us and him, all of us,” he said.
“Just to make sure he’s back on track, get his footwork down right, get his mechanics right, get his mind right. It’s not a talent thing for Zach. I believe that. We’re going to work our tails off to help him, and we’re committed to that.”
Where does the blame lie in Zach Wilson’s lack of development?
LaFleur, who is in the second year of his first offensive coordinator gig at the NFL level, admitted to his own shortcomings in developing Wilson.
“In two years, yeah, we haven’t done our job with him, right? Any player at any position that isn’t producing to the level they’re capable of, as a coach, we failed them,” he said.
“There’s a two-way street with it. The player has to meet us in the middle of it, but you want all these guys to play at their absolute best. We all know Zach hasn’t played at his absolute best. He has shown spurts. He has shown the talent. Like Saleh said yesterday, through hell or high water, we’re going to work with him.”
Saleh referenced some positive flashes Wilson has shown this season, including when he led a fourth-quarter comeback against Pittsburgh in his season debut and completing a season-high 66.7% of his passes for over 200 yards playing in a win over divisional rival Miami.
“It just slowly got away from him a little bit, for one reason or another. How do you find that consistency? It starts with knowing one’s self,” Saleh said.
The head coach believes that getting some time away from football would help Wilson’s ability to reset, and refocus on the fundamentals of his game.
“Go read a book, go do something, get away from this game, just reset,” Saleh said. “I think the greatest gift you can give yourself as a human is to figure out what’s important to you. What do you value and how can you stick to those values day in and day out?
“That is the greatest gift you can give yourself, is to discover yourself. I think Zach needs to get away, read a book and figure that out.”