The New York Jets’ circumstances will never be more in the backup quarterback’s favor
On Sundays (and Mondays), those who wear green have been personally victimized by Wilson, whose continued presence center reflects the reveal of another “Mean Girls” sequel: repetitive, offering nothing new, and longing for the glory days of 2004.
Yet, the Jets continue to place Wilson at the wheel of their rudderless, Aaron Rodgers-less offensive ship and have no apparent intentions of setting a new course. Wilson was 33-of-49 for 263 yards in the Jets’ Monday loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He didn’t turn the ball over through the air but lost two fumbles, which yielded 14 Southern California points.
“There’s some good, some bad that he can build off of,” Robert Saleh remarked of Wilson’s latest dud, per transcripts from the Jets. “I thought, overall, he was distributing the ball… We were moving it at times… Presence in the pocket for every quarterback in football can always be a little bit better, but, like I said, he could be a lot better.”
“It’s lazy to just put it all on him. I think like I said, it was a very, it was collective all the way across the board.”
Saleh is undoubtedly right: Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, or Tom Brady himself would have trouble succeeding behind the Jets’ makeshift offensive line. Aside from Wilson, the Jets’ imports from the NFC North (i.e., Dalvin Cook, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb) have struggled to make any lasting difference, and even beloved franchise cornerstones like Garrett Wilson (fumbling the Jets’ second possession away) aren’t exempt from scrutiny.
But Zach Wilson hasn’t done anything to justify the Jets’ continued, if inexplicable, faith in him. While it’s almost refreshing to see a team stand by an embattled thrower in an era where patience with high-profile quarterbacks is at its thinnest (e.g., Josh Rosen, Trey Lance), the Jets can’t afford any more offensive no-shows.
Of course, if the immediate depth behind Rodgers is Wilson, one can only imagine what lies beneath Wilson. It’s certainly not pretty: Tim Boyle is 0-3 in a trio of showcases with Detroit, and the nomadic Immaculate Grid darling Trevor Siemian lingers on the practice squad.
Whether or not the Jets did enough to bolster the passing game is a discussion for another day. With the hand they’ve been dealt, though, the best card to play is undoubtedly Boyle.
The Jets threw themselves a party on offense but the guest of honor got into an accident on the way over, rendering the decor and activities awkward and uncomfortable. Even though Cobb was inactive against the Chargers, the Jets continue to insist on keeping Lazard as a top target despite some exciting young projects (Xavier Gipson) lingering behind him. Shouldn’t they at least try to see what Boyle, a two-season collaborator with Lazard, has to offer instead of the familiar endeavors of Wilson?
As an undrafted free agent of Green Bay’s in 2018 (lasting until 2020) and a camp body with the Jets this past summer, Boyle’s NFL career could realistically be described as being Rodgers’ stunt double. Between adding Cobb and Lazard, as well as Rodgers’ trusted coaching mind in Nathaniel Hackett, there’s no one in New York better equipped to make things at least somewhat resemble a Rodgers-led group than Boyle.
Even with their drastic gulf in playing time, Boyle said that he has formed an ironclad friendship with Rodgers, who mentioned that he “loved” the Connecticut/Eastern Kentucky alum before the latter made his first NFL start in 2021.
“We’re like-minded,” Boyle said of his relationship with Rodgers. “We have similar interests. We formulated that into a friendship, and it’s very near and dear to my heart.”
Don’t ditch the switch
Before we, or the Jets, go any further here, put aside the idea of the offense recovering well enough to convince Rodgers to come back and lead a playoff run. Switching quarterbacks, particularly if it’s Boyle, gives them at least a shot at such a fantasy, but hardly a guarantee. Unless Rodgers is getting the Avenger cocktail Steve Rogers was served approximately 30 Marvel movies ago, it’s best to keep him on the shelf.
Sitting Wilson offers Saleh and his staff a true example of accountability. Saleh has made his green living as a so-called “players’ coach,” and the approach that was downright necessary after the frequent paranoia and suspicions of the Adam Gase era. That they actually tried to build a plan to help Wilson right the ship is a refreshing concept in the unforgiving arena of NFL transactions.
But the fact that Saleh keeps inserting Wilson in games that still have some semblance of meaning to the Jets can’t be wise or strong for team morale. Playing in green and white, even in a relatively hopeful period on the franchise timeline, is a stressful endeavor. Players who come to help the team win want and need assurance that those in charge will do what is necessary when it comes to pressing forward.
It’s increasingly clear that Wilson, despite his fleeting flashes of brilliance, is not that answer. Removing him from the equation, even if only for a short while, would be a strong showcase of accountability to Saleh. It’s clear that young Wilson has left a sizable impact on Saleh, who is perhaps one of the few left in New York that wants to see him succeed. Removing the supposed favorite for his shortcomings would be an undoubted commitment to the cause and perhaps even solidify his continued wearing of the Jets sideline’s top headset.
Boyle offers temporary relief at best. But, as it stands, the Jets have none on the way if they keep going the way they’re going.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on X @GeoffJMags
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