New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas discusses what he would have done differently with Zach Wilson
When the New York Jets selected Zach Wilson second overall, the reactions were mixed. Some saw shades of Patrick Mahomes in Wilson’s game. Others believed that Wilson’s college success stemmed from a great offensive line and scheme that helped hide his weaknesses as a quarterback.
Leading up to the draft process, Wilson enamored plenty of people with his arm talent. His ability to perform off-platform throws was truly remarkable.
This throw from Zach Wilson at his Pro Day was silly 🤧 @zachkapono1 @BYUfootball pic.twitter.com/U5J70GhZ87
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) March 26, 2021
Fast forward two years, and Wilson’s performance on the field has been anything but remarkable. Wilson had produced the lowest EPA per play among quarterbacks in the last two seasons. Now, he’s lost his job as the starting quarterback after the Jets traded for Aaron Rodgers just days before the 2023 NFL Draft.
A big criticism against the Jets was the way they handled the Wilson situation. Many believed that the team should have had a veteran presence in front of Wilson during his rookie season.
When the Jets and then-offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur parted ways after the 2022 season, LaFleur admitted that the team should have done things differently with the young quarterback.
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
Now, Joe Douglas appears to be echoing that sentiment.
Speaking with Pro Football Talk, Douglas discussed the Wilson selection, his philosophy on first-round quarterbacks, and the mindset of the team going into Wilson’s rookie year.
“I go back and I look at a lot of things and things that can be done differently, things that were in our control, out of our control,” said Douglas. “And every situation’s different. I feel like in today’s NFL, when you take a quarterback in the first round, and you take a quarterback high, time’s against you. And you need to see what you have so you can make a decision in that four-year window, three-year window.”
Douglas continued, “I think going back, it would have been great to have a veteran quarterback like a Joe Flacco that first season. But ultimately, we made the decision to jump in head first with our youth movement. We had so many first- and second-year players, new staff. Let’s go in and attack this thing with youth. We know there’s going to be some growing pains, but we’re all going to grow together. I think we saw some of the benefits of that last year. But sometimes you don’t take into account the ramifications of playing a young quarterback early in his career. And so, I think if I had to do everything over again, I would have probably had that veteran presence in the room early for Zach.”
For what it’s worth, it’s hard to fault Douglas for this philosophy. A player taken that high in the NFL draft should be a player capable of being a contributor the moment they’re selected. After all, we saw Trevor Lawrence struggle as a first-year quarterback only to play significantly better in his second season.
Despite the risk, Douglas and the Jets held firm on their belief in Wilson.
“Those were all the things we talked about,” Douglas said in regards to the team potentially taking a player that was more ready to perform from day one. “We went through, just like we did this offseason, we went through every single scenario in terms of not using pick number two on a quarterback, trading pick number two to acquire more talent, using pick two on a quarterback and keeping Sam [Darnold] as a veteran presence. We went through every scenario. Ultimately, we decided to really attack the youth movement and go young and we didn’t look back.”
Despite the early failures of Zach Wilson, Douglas seems undeterred.
“When the change was made in the second half of last year, the intent was for Zach to reset and really get back to basics,” Douglas said. “And that’s carried over into this offseason so far. . . . Zach has an unbelievable ceiling and Zach is wired the right way in terms of his love of the game, his work ethic, his attention to detail. And so, this is a great opportunity for him to shadow one of the best passers of all time in Aaron Rodgers and pick up every little thing he can from him and get better every day. And so, I know he’s attacking this offseason like no other. His energy level is unbelievable. It’s good to see him with a huge smile on his face and really working every day to get better.”
Depending on the results of this season, Zach Wilson may get his chance to be a starter once again. After all, the Jets will need an heir-apparent once Aaron Rodgers finally hangs up the cleats. If Wilson is able to develop behind Rodgers, the future could be bright for the Jets for years to come.
There are a few problems with Joe Douglas’s thinking. First, I have a hard time believe Zach Wilson comes to work with a smile on his face, knowing his only chance of playing is injury or a garbage time appearance with the Jets having a commanding lead. Second, Sam Darnold as a “veteran presence” is a joke. Sam was having his own issues which he needed to work on and would have been in no position to mentor Zach. Third, and probably most important, by the time Aaron Rodgers walks away, Zach will be off his rookie contract and will look for an opportunity to start. I think he knows it won’t be with the Jets.