Zach Wilson #2 of the Jets walks back to the...

Zach Wilson #2 of the Jets walks back to the sidelines during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

There aren’t enough touchdowns, there are too many interceptions, the completion percentage is not high enough and he takes too many sacks.

We get it.

Before the Jets can count on Zach Wilson as their franchise quarterback, he needs to be better, and the improvement can’t come quickly enough.

But Jets fans need to accept the reality that this is going to take some time, that Wilson’s transition to the NFL isn’t going to be as smooth or as fast as they’d like.

Hold up Mac Jones with the Patriots all you like, but it doesn’t do any good to compare Wilson to a quarterback playing for the greatest coach in NFL history, one of the most gifted offensive coordinators in the game and a more fully formed roster than the Jets have.

Wilson doesn’t enjoy those luxuries, leaving him with a far more difficult apprenticeship than Jones, who also had the good fortune of training under the best coach in college football history.

Asking patience of a Jets fan base that has been hit in the collective face with so many moments of disappointment over the years — the decades, actually — isn’t the easiest thing to do. But it’s clear that adjusting to the NFL will continue to be a baby-steps proposition for the baby-faced quarterback, who is just 22 years old and only 10 games into his professional career.

Ten games.

The No. 2 overall draft pick will face the top selection when the Jets host Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars on Sunday. And while this game might not feature the pizzazz of two rookie quarterbacks playing at a higher level, it does offer another chance to see whether either or both of them can make meaningful progress through a difficult first season.

Wilson has only six touchdown passes and 11 interceptions to go with a 56.2 completion percentage, and his team is 3-9. But Lawrence isn’t much better with nine touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 58.1 completion percentage. The Jaguars are even worse at 2-12.

Those numbers are unacceptable in most circumstances but are indicative of how high a mountain both must climb now that they’re on teams with rebuilding rosters and coaching inexperience.

Urban Meyer went down in flames last week after the Jaguars realized they’d made a colossal mistake in thinking the great college coach could make it at the NFL level. So it will be erstwhile offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on the sideline for Jacksonville on Sunday. Jets coach Robert Saleh might not be at the game, either, but only because he tested positive for COVID-19.

Quarterback development is the most challenging part of the NFL, and Wilson and Lawrence are at the beginning of the grind, hoping to emerge on the other side as more accomplished players capable of winning championships. It may feel as if that day will never come, given their current struggles, but going through the apprenticeship is the only way to get the chance.

And none of it guarantees that either or both won’t be abject failures at the NFL level. But this much is true: This is not the time to cast final judgment, and it’s certainly not the time to be using the word "bust" for either of them.

For his part, Wilson has played moderately better since returning from a knee injury. He has thrown only two interceptions in his last four starts, compared to nine in his first five games. Last week, he played competitive football in a 31-24 loss to a Dolphins team that had won five straight coming into the game. That’s progress.

Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said Thursday that Wilson is "improving each and every week, whether or not the naked eye can see it or not." Fair statement. There have been enough moments to make you believe that Wilson is indeed taking important steps in his development, even if there are times when he holds the ball too long or takes unnecessary sacks or hits.

It’s a torturous process that involves mile-a-minute thinking on the fly for a young quarterback, and the game is starting to slow down a little for him. It’s still not enough to satisfy those who demand instant success, but it’s critical to his development.

"Mentally, I’m excited and looking forward to the challenge to play," Wilson said after practice Thursday.

He understands the impatience of the fans who expect so much of him, but he also knows what will get him to the point that the criticism will turn to affirmation.

"Trust your instinct," he said. "Just go make some plays."

He believes that day will come. He’s just not sure when.

Maybe it would be a good idea to give him some breathing room and let him find out.


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