New York Jets legend Joe Namath likes Zach Wilson, but he’s also nervous about the kid’s long-term durability.
Since taking Joe Namath first overall in 1965, the New York Jets have selected six quarterbacks in the first round of the NFL draft. Just last April, the Jets added number six in BYU product Zach Wilson.
Namath, now 78-years-old, has been around for the entire lifespan of the franchise. Retiring after the 1977 season, he’s had the chance to watch all of his first-round successors: Richard Todd, Ken O’Brien, Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez, Sam Darnold, and now, Zach Wilson.
A legendary figure in the team’s history, Namath often has the chance to comment on such successors. And when given the chance, he has been quite outspoken.
On Wednesday, Namath chatted about Wilson on ESPN Radio New York’s “The Michael Kay Show,” during which he mentioned some concerns he has about the 22-year-old.
Joe Namath, a guest today on @TMKSESPN, discussed Zach Wilson. Some interesting comments, especially about his size, so I’m sharing the full quote. #Jets pic.twitter.com/D0OxcNAHKZ
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) February 9, 2022
“I like him, but I don’t know how long he’s going to last,” said Namath. “You’d like for a guy to be 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 back there in the pocket. School’s still out on how good Zach’s going to do.”
To put it simply, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Compared to his past comments on Wilson, this one is clearly a little different. But are his concerns (specifically about Wilson’s frame) fair?
If his points are strictly about his supporting cast, then it’s easy to understand where Namath is coming from, but if it’s about whether or not a 6-foot-2 quarterback can succeed, then it becomes hard to side with Namath.
For reference, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott are just a few other 6-2 signal-callers currently in the league, and it’s safe to say all four are doing all right for themselves. Wilson’s height shouldn’t be an issue.
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Despite these recent comments, Namath was in the party of firm Wilson-believers prior to his rookie season, as he spoke glaringly of the young QB.
“What I’ve watched of him on tape or on television, oh yeah, man, he’s an athlete. He makes the throws, he moves around. A gifted athlete,” said Namath back in June of 2021.
Less than one year after that initial statement, Namath was quick to point out some concerns, which is notably quicker than he had with former Jets QBs.
For instance, nearly three years after the departure of Mark Sanchez in New York, Namath still had words of encouragement for the quarterback, whom he felt was a “quality player.”
Joe Namath doesn't think Ryan Fitzpatrick could beat out Mark Sanchez if they had to compete. Still views Sanchez as 'quality player' #jets
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) May 10, 2016
At the same time, Namath’s skepticism about Wilson’s future didn’t lie 100% on the young QB. One thing he noted was the quality of the team around him.
“Zach couldn’t perform at his best for a couple of reasons,” said Namath. “He’s not there yet, certainly, and it was new for him and his team is not that solid. He needs more help around him.”
Even if you disagree with Namath’s concerns about Wilson, it’s hard to disagree with him on this. As many have said, it should be priority number one this offseason for Joe Douglas to put a competitive offense around Wilson for his sophomore season.
If he can do that, Wilson will have a chance to cement himself as the face of the franchise in 2022. And hopefully, he can prove the doubters wrong.
I think what Joe was saying was that Zach’s slender build may be a problem if he must endure many QB hits. Zach is noticeably thinner than Rodgers, Mahomes, Jackson, etc. and they are also more elusive to prevent the big hit on them. If you watch game film of Joe, he had great pocket presence and he tried to duck down to avoid the big hit.
I do share Joe’s viewpoint that Zach’s thin build may be a problem if he takes too many hits.