NY Jets QB, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Sam Darnold
Zach Wilson, Sam Darnold, Justin Fields, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

NY Jets QB Zach Wilson should be allowed to develop at his own pace

It might be a hard pill to swallow for New York Jets fans, but Justin Fields has arrived, and the emergence of the Chicago Bears’ second-year signal-caller in recent weeks has been a sight to behold.

In a Week 9 game against the Miami Dolphins, Fields, 23, set the regular season record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game with 178. This broke the previous mark of 173, set by Michael Vick in 2002. Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards in a playoff victory over Green Bay during the 2012 season.

Even before his explosion against Miami, Fields had been steadily trending upwards over the previous few games. That has been due, in large part, to the offensive coaching staff, led by Luke Getsy, utilizing Fields’ legs and athleticism more. In the three games preceding his explosion vs. Miami, Fields registered rushing-yardage totals of 60, 82 and 88, also logging two rushing touchdowns during that time.

The purpose of all of this isn’t to dog on Zach Wilson or to discourage Jets fans — in fact, Wilson has probably been the next best quarterback from the 2021 class so far this season, and that truly bodes well for the future.

Rewind to 2019, when Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen were all in their second year. It was that season that really started to reveal who the good and bad quarterbacks were from that class.

Jackson, in just his second year in the league, won MVP. It was inarguably his breakout year.

For Allen, it was an up and down season, but the important thing was that he showed promise and was progressing in his development.

Darnold was the concerning one. Whether it was the mono, the “seeing ghosts” game, or even just his turnovers week after week (after week), that was really the year where it started to become apparent (or at least it should have) that Darnold wasn’t the answer for the Jets.

The 2022 Bears, like the Ravens in 2019, are quickly discovering that their gamble on a run-first quarterback was a smart one. Fields, like Jackson, is already setting NFL records in just his second season. He probably won’t win the MVP like Jackson, but he’s certainly proven himself an impressive, dynamic NFL signal caller.

But don’t let Fields’ year 2 similarities to Jackson convince you Wilson must be another Darnold.

People progress at different rates, and one of the most encouraging things we’ve seen out of the 23-year-old Wilson is his ability to take direction — something Darnold seemed to struggle mightily with. A perfect example of this for Wilson could be seen just last week against the Buffalo Bills.

After Wilson’s horrific showing against the Patriots, the consensus came down to a couple of things: first, he needed to get rid of the ball quicker — his average time to throw against New England was 3.51 seconds, comfortably the highest in the league. And second, he needed to take off and use his legs more — he had one rush attempt for two yards in the loss.

The very next week, against arguably the best defense in football in the Buffalo Bills, Wilson’s average time to throw was down to 2.31 seconds — significantly faster by football standards. He also rushed five times for 24 yards and protected the football, finishing with no interceptions. Most importantly, though, he got the win.

And before knocking Wilson too hard for his performance against New England, remember that Bill Belichick is one of the smartest football minds in the history of the sport. Belichick, more than any other coach in the league, knows how to mess with young quarterbacks and get in their head with defensive tricks. Look no further than his stout record of 42-4 against rookie and second-year quarterbacks at home.

That’s why, when you add in the additional context of how much Belichick hates the Jets, it really isn’t all that surprising that he came out with a particularly strong gameplan to mess with the young Wilson’s head.

But hold up Wilson’s Year 2 Patriots disaster next to Darnold’s, who threw for 86 yards and four interceptions. Darnold was so bad in fact, that his “seeing ghosts” quote (caught by ESPN’s broadcast during the game) has since become an entirely new saying to represent poor QB play.

Wilson on the other hand, as bad as he was with his decision making and the three picks, threw for a career high 355 yards to go with two touchdowns — there’s absolutely no comparison.

It’s also worth noting how each QB responded the following week.

Darnold, in a losing effort against Jacksonville, threw another three interceptions. Wilson, against the big bad Bills, got the win for his team, while also improving dramatically in the areas he struggled most in.

Yes, Wilson had three awful interceptions against New England. So did Josh Allen in his second year. Lamar Jackson threw four picks against the Browns last year. Joe Burrow threw four against Pittsburgh in Week 1 of this year. The point is, a bad game doesn’t make or break a career. It’s about how you bounce back.

Jets fans can’t allow Fields’ rapid ascension to speed up their clock on Wilson. Human beings progress in different areas at different rates, and Wilson is still in only his second year, showing an impressive ability to take direction. He’s head and shoulders above where Darnold was by this point and is leading an arguably playoff-caliber football team.

Wilson gets another crack at the Patriots defense following this week’s bye.

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Ian Roddy is a football writer currently working towards his masters at USC. He brings a versatile journalistic skill set to Jets X-Factor with both writing and audio. Email: roddy.ian66@gmail.com
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DFargas
DFargas
18 days ago

Does Belichick really hate the Jets? I thought he resigned the HC job just because he wanted to get out from Bill Parcells’ shadow. If he does hate the Jets, then why? Anyway, he has destroyed young Jets QBs long enough. It is imperative for Mike LaFleur to come up with a game plan that aggressively anticipates Belichick’s likely moves and counteracts them, and throws out some tricks of his own. For example, after watching the film of the Jets-Bills game, Belichick is likely to want to take away Zach’s favorite target, G.Wilson. LaFleur should turn the tables and play with Belichick’s head by maybe holding out Wilson, since they do have excellent alternatives like Cory Davis and Moore, or faking to Wilson and going to someone else. Or, maybe just running the ball right down the Patriots’ throats, or going to Mims on go routes throughout the game. The Jets now have all the weapons they need to turn the tables on Belichick and they should use them.

Psi
Psi
19 days ago

My Jet trauma goes back to the old days of Richard Todd. Wasn’t a fan of his. Kenny O was better than given credit for and Chad could have been really good here if not for injuries and a poor decision to let him go for Farve. Zach has more natural talent than all of them, but we will need continued patience. I underestimated the growth needed after playing at BYU. That schedule do not prepare you for the NFL nor NY. This year should be about the fundamentals for him. The Buffalo game, like the Tampa game last year is the object lesson. Master the basics first, then the natural highlight reel capabilities will complement it. A win next week will set them up for the possibility of a special second half. Getting over the Belichick hurdle would be huge for this organization.

ncjetsfan
ncjetsfan
19 days ago

Excellent article. In general, most Jets fans have been too harsh on Zach, and imo, they don’t deserve to see the Jets become a winner. They’re too damn impatient and critical. They are unrealistic in their expectations and cynical.

Believe me, I get it. I’ve been a Jets fan since the Jets drafted Namath. There has been way more bad than good. Horrible hires, horrible decision, inept play, incompetent ownership, you name it. It has Jets fans too negative, too cynical, too afraid of being fooled again or disappointed again. That fear is controlling them, overwhelming common sense, and any football knowledge they have. If I can move past 50 years of almost total incompetence and disappointment, and now have hope, and see the brightness of our future with Zach, others can certainly do that who have been a fan for a shorter (or much shorter) period of time. Ironically, some of the worst/most impatient Jets fans are the young ones.

Some players take 2-3 years to develop. That used to be common knowledge among football fans, but today’s fans seem to expect immediate greatness or the player is a bust. That’s not real life and it’s dumb. Those fans need to do some research into NFL player history. Steve Young was pretty awful for Tampa Bay for a number of years, then was traded to SF and he sat on the bench learning behind Montana for years, but he became a great QB and SF’s patience paid off. Look at Geno Smith. Look at Josh Allen. Aaron Rodgers probably would have struggled mightily if he had to start immediately, rather than sitting for 2-3 years behind Favre. Peyton Manning was awful his rookie season even with all that talent around him. There have been other QBs and players at other positions who took awhile to develop as well, and they became great players, if not HOF players. Joe Burrow is the exception, not the rule, but too many fans expect all young QBs to be great immediately like he was.

Zach is the most talented QB we have had since Namath. He has all the arm talent in the world, has a high football IQ, has a burning desire to be great, and is a hard worker. He’s athletic. He’s making a big adjustment from BYU and a system where he knew it backwards and forwards and had freedom to change plays at will, to an offense that’s much more complex, where he doesn’t have all that freedom, and where he has to play within limits. That can be a very difficult mental and emotional adjustment. He is making it and showing progress/development. Like it or not, Jets fans need to be patient, because he isn’t going anywhere. He is our QB of the future.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
19 days ago
Reply to  ncjetsfan

I agree. I’ve been a Jets fan since the late Namath years. I think it’s a function of the shortening of the American attention span in general, and of the young in particular, who never lived in a world that didn’t have the internet.

I hope you are correct about Zach being the best since Namath. I liked KOB and Chad, and Vinnie probably had the best season ever as a Jet. But Vinnie was short term. I’d love to see Zach in our huddle fo the next 10 years.

Rich
Rich
19 days ago
Reply to  ncjetsfan

That’s prob true Jets fans are too cynical and negative. However, I think it’s part of the NY fan-scape now. Yankee fans were the most vicious, angry, and impatient I’ve ever seen this year, and they were playing nearly .750 ball for more than half a season. Anyway, it’s a bit harsh to say we don’t deserve a winner. The Jets have been bonafide rubbish for way too long of a period, particularly how the nfl is structured to give plenty of resources to bad teams to rebuild. Frankly we’ve been among the worst-run organizations for 2 decades, yet the fans love this team year after year. And using Zach as an example is also a bit condescending. I doubt you blindly supported Browning Nagle, Darnold, Geno, Sanchez, Hackenberg, etc and begged for the Jets to stick with them after years and years of poor performance. No one is saying Zach doesn’t have potential. The stats don’t lie in his case, he’s been about the worst qb in the nfl so far in his short career. I hope he continues to improve and am totally rooting for him, as I believe 90%+ Jets fans do.

Peter Buell
Peter Buell
16 days ago
Reply to  ncjetsfan

NC, Agree and also beleive Zack will be the guy long term.
Seems remember QBs at the top of the draft getting $50m bonus’ then sitting for 2 years learning while a carryover QB ran the club till the bonus baby was deemed ready.
Now they expect the QBs to be finished products by year 2 because the goal is to get them humming before they get paid….just the opposite of years ago.
Wish I could remember the last QB who got the $50m signing bonus before they changed the CBA.
Veteran players were pissed guys who hadn’t played a down made more money than a star LB in the league 7 years.
That’s when it all changed!

Peter Buell
Peter Buell
19 days ago

I like Zack and feel he can be a top 15 QB next year. The six or seven games Zack missed hasn’t helped his development. Neither has all the injuries on the offensive line which played a surprisingly excellent game against Buffalo.
I’m hoping they are going over the tapes with Zack and the differences in the New England and Buffalo games.
With an extra week that should be priority one. Next should be designing a plan to beat Bellicecks D in a tough stadium to play.
Bellicheck will be bringing up his d backs to take away the slants which is why there needs to be some 20+ 30+ passes along with another great game from the line to pit up 150 yards.
Zack has the arm, the elusiveness and needs to develop the game smarts to take advantage of aggressive a Ds.
I never expected us to have 6 wins through 9 games but the main thing we need over the final 7 games, mostly against tough teams is to go into next season confident that Zack is the guy.
..If only Breece AVT and Corey didn’t get hurt this team beats NE.
2023.will be the start of a long run of playoff appearances.

ncjetsfan
ncjetsfan
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter Buell

I think Zach can be much higher rated than that. I think he will become a top 5, if not top 3, QB in the NFL. He has that kind of talent.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter Buell

I think Zach will be Top 10 by next season. And we should have beaten NE despite the injuries. Terrible game by the whole team.