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NY Jets: Is Trevor Siemian better than Zach Wilson?

Trevor Siemian, Zach Wilson, NY Jets
Trevor Siemian, Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Would the New York Jets have a better chance to win if they benched Zach Wilson for Trevor Siemian?

The New York Jets have finally added a veteran quarterback to provide security behind Zach Wilson, although he sure isn’t the flashiest name they could have pursued: Trevor Siemian.

Is the 31-year-old journeyman a better option than the former second overall pick? Let’s compare them in various areas to find out.

Trevor Siemian overview

Before we get into the comparisons, here’s a brief overview of Siemian’s career.

Siemian was taken by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round of the 2015 draft out of Northwestern. He only played in one game, simply taking a knee on his lone snap.

After Denver won the Super Bowl in his rookie year, Peyton Manning retired and Siemian took over the starting quarterback job. Siemian started for two seasons. In 24 starts, Siemian completed 495 of 835 passes (59.3%) for 5,686 yards (218.7 per game / 6.8 per attempt), 30 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions. His passer rating was 79.9.

Siemian spent 2018 with the Vikings but never played. He joined the Jets in 2019 and was the backup to Sam Darnold. After Darnold was sidelined due to mononucleosis, Siemian started for the Jets against the Browns in Week 2 but went down with a season-ending ankle injury due to a late hit by Myles Garrett.

Siemian didn’t play in 2020, having brief stints with the Titans and Saints. Remaining with New Orleans in 2021, Siemian finally got another shot to play extended time, and he had a surprisingly respectable year.

In six games (four starts), Siemian completed 108 of 188 passes (57.4%) for 1,154 yards (6.1 per attempt), 11 touchdowns, and three interceptions. He also did a nice job of avoiding sacks, taking only nine, setting a career-low sack rate of 4.6%. His 88.4 passer rating in 2021 remains a career-high.

Siemian went to the Bears in 2022 and made just one start, coming in a loss to the Jets.

For the sake of this article, we’ll focus solely on Siemian’s performance in the eight games he played from 2021 to 2022, which mostly comprises his 2021 season with New Orleans. His last extended action came in 2017 – I don’t think it’s fair to evaluate seasons that occurred so long ago. So, all stats mentioned for Siemian are from the previous two seasons (2021-22) unless otherwise noted.

Without further ado, let’s compare Siemian and Wilson in various areas.

Accuracy

If you look at completion percentage, Siemian has a comfortable lead over Wilson. Siemian is at 57.5% while Wilson is at 54.9% in his career and 52.4% this season. However, PFF’s adjusted completion percentage metric – which accounts for drops, throwaways, spikes, and passes thrown while hit – puts them closer.

Siemian’s adjusted completion percentage is 68.2%. Wilson’s career mark is 68.8%, and he’s at a career-high 72.1%.

While Wilson has a career-high this year, it’s worth noting that the difficulty of the passes he’s throwing is easier than ever. His ADOT (average depth of target) is a career-low 7.9 yards. Only 7.1% of his passes were thrown over 20 yards downfield, ranking third-lowest among 33 qualified quarterbacks.

Siemian’s ADOT isn’t much higher at 8.1, but he throws deep much more frequently. In 2022, Siemian ranked 18th out of 38 qualified quarterbacks with 11.7% of his passes traveling over 20 yards downfield.

So far, Siemian and Wilson seem to be pretty close in this department. We’ll have to narrow it down further to pick a winner.

Deep accuracy

Siemian’s adjusted completion percentage on deep passes is 38.5%. In 2021, he ranked 20th out of 40 qualifiers at 40.9%, and he went 1-for-4 with the Bears in 2022.

Wilson’s adjusted completion percentage on deep passes in 2022 was 33.3%, placing 34th of 40 qualifiers. So far in 2023, he’s tied with Mac Jones for second-worst out of 33 qualifiers at 16.7%. Overall, his adjusted completion percentage on deep passes is 30.8% over the past two seasons.

Advantage Siemian.

Intermediate accuracy

Siemian has a 56.8% adjusted completion percentage on throws traveling 10-19 yards downfield. For reference, that would have ranked 33rd out of 41 qualifiers in 2022.

Wilson was 40th out of 41 qualifiers at 51.0% in 2022, beating only Davis Mills. This year, he’s at 56.3%, ranking 21st of 34 qualifiers so far. Across the past two seasons, he’s at 52.2%.

Advantage Siemian.

Short accuracy

Wilson struggled with short passes in the past but has shown a lot of progress in that area this season. So far in 2023, he’s 17th out of 34 qualifiers with an 81.3% completion percentage on passes thrown 0-9 yards downfield.

Siemian is at a much lower 77.7%.

In this part of the field, Wilson has developed into the trustier passer.

Advantage Wilson.

Ball security

Siemian has five turnovers on 229 dropbacks since 2021 (one every 45.8 dropbacks). Wilson has 24 turnovers on 821 career dropbacks (one every 34.2 dropbacks). He’s been even worse over the past two seasons, turning it over 12 times on 377 dropbacks (once every 31.4 dropbacks).

At Wilson’s rate over the past two seasons, he’d be expected to turn the ball over 15.9 times over 500 dropbacks. At Siemian’s rate since 2021, he’d be expected to turn the ball over 10.9 times over 500 dropbacks.

It’s not even close here.

Advantage Siemian.

While Siemian struggled with interceptions earlier in his career, he’s improved in that area recently, throwing an interception on just 1.9% of his passes since 2021. That’s below the league average of approximately 2.4% across those two seasons. Wilson’s career interception rate is 3.1%. He has a career-high rate of 4.8% this year and was at 2.9% in each of his first two seasons.

Even if you include Siemian’s earlier seasons, his career interception rate of 2.7% is still ahead of Wilson’s 3.1%.

Siemian has always been solid at holding onto the ball. In 35 career games, he has 12 total fumbles with only five lost. Wilson is also solid in this area, fumbling six times and losing two over 25 career games.

Minimizing sacks

Wilson has always been sack-prone in his career.

Since 2021, Wilson has the second-highest sack rate among 34 qualified quarterbacks (min. 500 pass attempts) at 9.6%. This stat is his own doing, regardless of the Jets’ poor offensive line. PFF’s database charges Wilson with the blame for 28 of the 75 sacks he has taken in his career. No QB has been charged as responsible for more sacks since 2021. This is despite Wilson ranking 28th in pass attempts since 2021.

Siemian’s career sack rate is a much more reasonable 6.8%, equal to the 2023 league average, and since 2021, he’s been even better at 4.9% (12th-best out of 62 QBs with 100+ pass attempts since 2021). Granted, the Saints had a very solid offensive line. But even when Siemian was playing behind a porous Denver offensive line, he didn’t get sacked as often as Wilson (7.1% sack rate in Denver).

Advantage Siemian.

Field vision/processing

I watched a decent chunk of film from Siemian’s 2021 season last night, and I came away thinking his field vision is okay. If there is an open window to be found down the field, he’ll usually hit it.

This is the area where Wilson has struggled in his career, especially in his most recent game against New England. Wilson has a stunning tendency to fail to see wide open players down the field, instead opting to scramble, check the ball down, or throw it away. I don’t think Siemian will struggle in that area. He can get through his progressions and locate open opportunities down the field.

Much of this comes from the confidence he has in the pocket, as he repeatedly showed a willingness to stand in the pocket, scan the field, and deliver while taking a hit.

Siemian is not a very fast processor – he can be slow going from read to read, and it sometimes causes him to get sacked or take a hit. But he will stand tall and patiently go through his reads, and he does it with a decent level of effectiveness. When watching through Siemian’s film, I rarely saw a play where I felt he targeted the wrong player or missed an opportunity to hit someone deep.

These are basic aspects of the quarterback position. I’m not going to sit here and claim Siemian has incredible processing ability. He has plenty of mental weaknesses. I don’t see him making incredible pre-snap reads to get the ball out quickly, he has a tendency to take over-aggressive shots into crowded areas, and he rarely ever throws with anticipation.

With all that being said, Siemian showed an ability to do the easy stuff right, which Wilson still cannot do in his third season. From what I saw on Siemian’s film, I’m confident he would have targeted the majority of the open downfield throws that Wilson failed to target against New England.

Advantage Siemian,

Running ability

This one obviously goes to Wilson. Siemian has rushed 60 times for 183 yards and one touchdown in his career. Wilson has rushed 67 times for 330 yards and five touchdowns. You can occasionally dial up a designed run for Wilson, but you’ll never do that for Siemian.

Advantage Wilson.

Summary

  • Deep accuracy: Siemian
  • Medium accuracy: Siemian
  • Short accuracy: Wilson
  • Ball security: Siemian
  • Minimizing sacks: Siemian
  • Field vision/processing: Siemian
  • Running ability: Wilson

It’s pretty clear that Siemian is a better quarterback than Zach Wilson right now, which is sad considering Siemian is highly unimpressive and no better than a mid-level backup at best. But that’s the truth of the matter. Wilson doesn’t even meet the requisite production level for a backup quarterback. Siemian, as boring and limited of a player as he is, would not be as destructive to the Jets’ chances of winning as Wilson.

Siemian’s floor is still essentially the same as Wilson’s average game. Siemian’s worst single-game passer rating in his last eight games (2021-22) is 71.5. That’s higher than Wilson’s career average (69.2). Over Wilson’s last six games, his passer rating has stooped all the way down to 61.6. In four of those six games, he had a passer rating worse than Siemian’s 2021-22 floor of 71.5.

If Wilson doesn’t start showing signs of a significant turnaround in Sunday’s game against Kansas City, the Jets shouldn’t waste any time turning to Siemian.

Let’s stare reality in the face: for all intents and purposes, the Jets’ season ended when Rodgers went down. That’s not to say there is nothing left for them to accomplish this year, but their Super Bowl hopes walked off the field with Rodgers. Nobody the Jets can find at this point is giving them a ceiling to go deep into the playoffs (barring an unlikely trade for someone like Ryan Tannehill or Kirk Cousins).

The Jets aren’t going to find anybody right now who is fun and exciting, giving them a real chance to win a championship. Realistically, what the Jets need to find is a floor-raiser who can maximize the team’s odds of getting something positive out of this season.

Simply put, they need someone who won’t constantly put out performances that are so utterly atrocious that they cause the Jets to lose a game despite many other things going well – which Wilson did in five of his past eight games (three Patriots games, Lions, Jaguars).

I’m pretty confident Siemian wins four or five of those games (maybe not Jacksonville, as the whole offense was bad despite the defense holding the Jags to one touchdown) because all the Jets needed their quarterback to do was not blow it. But blowing favorable opportunities is what Wilson excels at.

Sure, Siemian doesn’t add anything to your team, but he doesn’t take away nearly as much as Wilson does. Siemian likely doesn’t throw those three interceptions in an eventual five-point loss against the Pats in Week 8. He leads the Jets to more than three points in New England when that’s all they needed to win and they had players running wide open throughout the game. He capitalizes on the easy opportunities allowed by Detroit’s terrible secondary to win a game where the defense held an elite offense in check.

The best you can hope for right now is someone who gives the defense, offensive line, and run game a fighting chance to push for 9 wins and a playoff berth without getting in their way. And among the realistically available options, Siemian might be the best fit for that mold.

Personally, I’m okay with the decision to sign Siemian and wouldn’t mind seeing the Jets turn to him if Wilson bombs again – barring an unforeseen chance to trade for someone like Cousins or Tannehill. Let’s be realistic about what the options are here.

The real problem was not signing a backup earlier in the offseason when actual good ones were available (such as Teddy Bridgewater, Andy Dalton, and Gardner Minshew). If you want to harshly criticize Joe Douglas for that, then have it – I completely agree with you. That was an enormous mistake. It can also be said that they should’ve signed someone three weeks ago so they could have learned the offense and been inserted right at this moment, which I also agree with.

But at this point, signing Siemian is about the best the Jets can do. It’s a fine move considering the circumstances. And based on the numbers we broke down today, coupled with the film I watched, I do think he would give the Jets a better chance to win than Wilson.

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Noam
Noam
8 months ago

I would rate McElroy and Clemens better than Wilson. The only Jet QB this century worse than Wilson was Sanchez.

Bird9
8 months ago

Mike F’n White would have won that game.

Robby Sabo
Admin
8 months ago

I rewrote the title: “Is Al Bundy better than Zach Wilson?” After all, he did score four touchdowns in a single game at Polk High.

NCgreen73
NCgreen73
8 months ago

Yes Trevor Simeon is better than Zach. In fact I can’t think of an NFL backup that is not better than Zach. Although, I do think it would be a draw against Hackenburg.

Matt Galemmo
8 months ago

Feels like Mike White with an actual track record.

“If you want to harshly criticize Joe Douglas for [not having a quality backup], then have it….That was an enormous mistake.”

I didn’t think it was a mistake to not have one for most of the pre-season. Once we got to the end of August I was starting to think it was a mistake, but I trusted the Jets to evaluate Wilson’s pre-season properly, and decided he must’ve passed a bar as a capable quarterback. I also didn’t think the Jets would be a very good team with Gardner Minshew (my preference) as quarterback. So to sum up, no big deal.

I was wrong, and now I am pretty angry. Douglas and Saleh should’ve known they have a really good team with literally any capable quarterback. They should’ve known the opportunity cost of Minshew vs Wilson. It’s there effin’ job to know.

Gardner Minshew is being paid 3.5mm this season. WTF? They kept Bryce Hall and Ashtyn Davis for a combined 5.4mm. What is the opportunity cost of Davis vs Dean? What about Hall vs Moreland?

I love the team they built and don’t even mind the offensive line decision (it was an acceptable strategy to me to throw mid-level bodies at it and see what happens), but they should not survive this unimaginable mistake they made at quarterback. With any capable quarterback, the Jets are competing with Buffalo and Miami for the division this year. It was Douglas and Saleh’s jobs to know that.

Last edited 8 months ago by Matt Galemmo
Jets71
Jets71
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt Galemmo

I think they would have kept Moreland over Hall if he hadn’t gotten injured. I agree with you, I thought it wasn’t a big deal, Zach showed signs of improving to a point where if he had to play a game or two maybe 3 he’d give them a chance to win. People will hate me for this but I’m not as convinced as everybody else this can’t get better with Zach .

I haven’t done it but I suspect if we broke down the all 22 for every Mac Jones throw on Sunday there would be a lot of missed “open” receivers, and I’m not convinced if the QB’s were switched on Sunday the Jets would win. Just an opinion of course. They really don’t do much to help Zach. Yes, I get his shortcomings but they don’t help him with the play calling, and guys do drop balls, and even though the OL graded out ok, there are still a lot of breakdowns and free rushers, which just gets in Zach’s head (and before we say all QB’s deal with that, I saw NO free rushers for the Jets Sunday).

They have played 3 games vs. the #2,3 & 5 ranked defenses respectively and are 1-2. I think he and they will improve.

Hidden in all of this “blame Zach for everything mode” we are all in is the usual, “the defense played well enough to win.” Well, this is a defense with potential of historic levels (self proclaimed), a championship defense (universally accepted) that had ZERO sacks and ZERO turnovers against that sh**ty Patoilet offensive line, and QB. ZERO. They gave up 8, third down conversions….EIGHT. They complain that the pass rush can’t get there because other teams are playing with the lead yet I see the Patoilets convert 3rd and 15 deep in their own end.

Yeah, Zach’s not good, he may never be good, however I do think he will get better, and this team will get better. The complimentary football right now stinks, the play calling stinks (Saleh better get to Hackett or he’s going to cost him his job), the use of personnel stinks, once they start putting it all together they will win games. I think they make the playoffs. I know this will cause a lot of thumbs down but that’s just how I feel.

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