Wilson’s steeper development curve has been visible all along
Jets’ offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur finally said out loud what most have known for a while.
It just might be too little, too late—both for Zach Wilson and for the Jets.
LaFleur was asked about the success of Geno Smith and Sam Darnold (okay, that one is a stretch) after years of sitting and watching and whether Zach Wilson could have benefited from that, as well. He finally gave a straight answer: “Yes.”
Mike LaFleur says, in hindsight, that Zach Wilson would've benefited from sitting and learning behind a veteran quarterback: pic.twitter.com/W4eInd7QFW
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) January 5, 2023
LaFleur compared the situation to Jordan Love’s current position of having sat and learned behind Aaron Rodgers for three years, just as Rodgers did behind Brett Favre before him. As his brother Matt is the head coach of the Packers, Mike has some inside information about Love’s development and has heard how much improvement Green Bay has seen.
The Jets came into the 2021 draft fully intending to start Wilson from Day 1, so much so that they did not even carry another viable QB on the roster. When Wilson got injured and Mike White had to play, the Jets frantically scrambled to trade for Joe Flacco again just to have some quarterback with NFL experience available.
Most other franchises will hold at least a pretense of a QB competition, even if they very much hope to see one winner. That’s what the Jets did in 2018 with Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater. A guy like Bridgewater might have been the perfect candidate to have on the roster together with Wilson, to push him or possibly give him a professional to learn from.
Wilson did come out of a small-time college without having faced consistent quality competition. The chances that he was going to need some time to develop were significant. Even giving him just half a season to work out some kinks and adjust to the NFL would have been helpful. Instead, he was thrown to the wolves on a roster totally bereft of talent.
LaFleur and the offensive staff compounded that issue by not giving Wilson any shortcuts along the way. Most highly drafted quarterbacks who start immediately are eased into the offense, with coordinators incorporating some of their college plays or at least the parts of the offense that they are most comfortable with. The Jets did none of that; they threw the entire playbook at Wilson from Day 1 in a “sink or swim” style. Wilson has clearly sunk.
It’s always refreshing to hear a coach admit that they made a mistake. The question is if LaFleur will have the opportunity to start over again and whether Zach Wilson will actually be around to see that. Robert Saleh keeps insisting that Wilson is part of the Jets’ future plans, but it’s difficult to see such a scenario after the fans and the team completely turned on Wilson.
The sunk cost fallacy is alive and kicking. It’s up to the Jets not to fall into that trap.