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Ugly truth about Zach Wilson’s failure with the NY Jets revealed

Zach Wilson, Robert Saleh, New York Jets
Zach Wilson, Robert Saleh, New York Jets, Getty Images

There seems to have been gross mismanagement at multiple levels

The inside story of Zach Wilson‘s tenure with the New York Jets has been slowly uncovered throughout the latter part of the 2022 season and offseason.

As more and more of the picture is revealed, the uglier and more ominous it becomes.

Rich Cimini, ESPN’s Jets beat reporter, wrote an article providing some more context for how the Jets came to draft Wilson, to begin with. It’s not a flattering portrayal of the Jets’ top decision-makers.

Cimini states that the Jets chose to trade Sam Darnold for picks in favor of drafting Wilson at No. 2 overall because general manager Joe Douglas was sold on Wilson. That is consistent with what was previously reported from inside the Jets’ building, that Douglas “fell in love” with Wilson (some even called it a crush).

However, according to Cimini, not everyone on the Jets agreed with Douglas’s assessment. While some scouts with the team thought Wilson was more of a project, assistant GM Rex Hogan and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur promoted the Jets’ ultimate decision to draft Wilson.

Yes, you read that right—it was Mike LaFleur who loved Wilson even more than so-called “generational prospect” Trevor Lawrence. This is the same Mike LaFleur who, just one year later, was telling people how much better the offense was when run by anyone other than Wilson.

Ultimately, it was Douglas’s decision to pick Wilson, but LaFleur’s vote of confidence certainly played a part. So much for the idea that LaFleur wasn’t sold on Wilson and was forced into developing him.

Cimini recounts how the Jets did not give Wilson any competition for the starting job unlike the rest of the first-round QBs in his draft class. That has already been hashed out publicly in LaFleur’s last interview with the Jets, Robert Saleh‘s contradiction, and then Woody Johnson‘s blunt admission that LaFleur was right.

Heading into the 2022 season, the Jets internally wondered in hindsight whether Wilson’s lack of quality competition in his final year at BYU was an overlooked red flag that foretold his NFL struggles. After all, Wilson was inconsistent throughout training camp and threw a brutal pick on only his second preseason attempt.

After the Jets’ first loss to the Patriots, in which Wilson threw three horrific interceptions, he followed it up with an equally putrid practice. At that time, most of the locker room apparently assumed that Mike White would take over at quarterback after the bye.

Perhaps unfortunately for the Jets’ season, Wilson played well enough against Buffalo to quiet that talk before the second matchup with the Patriots post-bye, which was when everything truly blew up.

When Wilson refused to take responsibility for his failure, the defense was ready to kick him to the curb. It reminded the Jets’ front office of the questions about his leadership from his college days, as he was not voted a team captain, which is unusual for a quarterback.

More important than anything about Wilson himself within the article is the spotlight it casts on the Jets’ decision-making process. So many questions arise.

  • Why was Joe Douglas so enamored of Wilson?
  • What caused Mike LaFleur to so quickly go from all-in on Wilson to all-out?
  • What did the Jets miss in Wilson’s predraft evaluation?
  • Can anyone in the front office or scouting department be trusted to properly evaluate quarterback talent, specifically mechanics? (This is highly relevant with Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers in the conversation, as both players have some potential mechanical questions at this point in their careers.)
  • Why did the Jets dismiss Wilson’s leadership concerns with nary more than “he can overcome it”?
  • How did the team so completely disregard not only the lack of quality competition that Wilson encountered in his senior year but also the fact that he was a one-year wonder during a Covid-altered season that involved no fans?
  • Why was Wilson not replaced earlier, specifically in the middle of the first Patriots game after his second mind-numbing interception?
  • Is it worth even trying to salvage the Wilson situation considering how much he has lost his teammates?

This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, it casts a pall on the optimism generated by the Jets’ excellent 2022 draft class and places even more desperation in both Douglas and Saleh’s corners to get it right fast, which may lead to rash and unwise decision-making.

The Wilson saga is the ultimate albatross around the Jets’ neck. Cutting their losses and moving on in a post-June 1 trade would likely be the best move for all involved.

If anything spells ‘Same Old Jets,’ it’s the story of epic draft bust Zach Wilson.

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1 year ago

I would add a couple more questions re the Jets dubious decisionmaking. Why has the offensive line been so horrid for 4 straight years? And, How can you so irresponsibly endanger the development and careers of your young QBs with such terrible OLs? JD needs a reckoning wrt the OLs he’s constructed for 4 straight years.

1 year ago

They call the draft a lottery for a reason. I think the real issue with drafting Wilson was that the Jets put themselves in a position where they felt they HAD to draft a QB. Frankly, none of the other QB options drafted after Lawrence look that great either, but the Jets put themselves in a position where they had to take someone, anyone at QB at the #2 pick. So, being forced to have to draft a QB, which was the same position they were in when they drafted Sanchez and Darnold, is just bad process.

1 year ago

The Jets evaluation of Wilson was perfectly in line with the rest of the NFL. Albert Breer who broke the big SI story in March, 2021 that the Jets loved Wilson also posted a survey where he spoke with 22 or 23 NFL team FOs and every single one had TL 1st and ZW 2nd. Breer went on to say the teams had it very close between the two but there was a very big drop off to number 3.

I know it is very popular to rip on drafting Wilson at 2 now but it appears there is no other team that would have done differently. Picking Wilson at 2 was the only choice if a team wanted a QB otherwise it was trade down. Those were the only reasonable choices.

1 year ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

Well said Rivka.