Is clock running down on Zach Wilson's future with Jets?
It was a weird time to be learning lessons about the Jets quarterback, and for the Jets quarterback to be learning lessons about himself.
After all, there was a very important football game going on that ended in a very bad loss for the Jets to the Lions, 20-17, on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
But here we are, 14 games into Season 2 of Zach Wilson’s career, still trying to figure out what he is, even as the team wheezes to the playoff race finish line. And the evidence after his return from a three-game “reset” was mixed at best.
He has a powerful arm and other physical talents, which he displayed in making several big plays en route to 317 passing yards and two touchdowns.
But we already knew that.
He also has a problem with untimely errors — in this case a bad interception that led to a Detroit field goal — and wild inconsistency.
We already knew that, too.
Wilson admitted all of the above in a news conference he handled far better than his last postgame chat with reporters, one that contributed to his benching.
“Have to be better, man,” he said after an 18-for-35 passing day. “I thought we had explosive plays offensively, but it’s the first and second down, just staying ahead of the sticks [plays]. I can think of a number of plays I left out there.”
That he did, missing open receivers in key spots and inspiring several rounds of boos from Jets fans who had embraced Mike White, his replacement.
Now White is out with fractured ribs and presumably will stay out Thursday against the Jaguars, although coach Robert Saleh said nothing definitive about that. So the Jets are back to evaluating what to do with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft before the 2023 NFL season begins.
The presumption that the Jets need to find someone for that position who is not currently on their roster has not changed, nor should it. But the shame of it is that Wilson’s talent is undeniable. He displayed it on back-to-back plays to start the second quarter.
First, he rolled right and found Garrett Wilson down the right sideline for a 33-yard gain. Then he rolled left and threw across the field to hit C.J. Uzomah for a 40-yard touchdown. (Wilson had four completions of at least 33 yards.)
But in the third quarter, he lofted a pass in the direction of Elijah Moore that Jerry Jacobs intercepted, leading to a field goal that put the Lions up 13-10.
“Bad decision,” Wilson said. “I was trying to locate Garrett across the middle. I had E-Moore on the outside, floated one, corner did a good job coming back and getting it. Forced it.”
Asked how he thought Wilson played, Saleh said, “Ebbs and flows of the game.”
Saleh noted Wilson’s good start, poor third quarter and better finish, in which he led a go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter and then got the Jets close enough to try a 58-yard field goal that would have tied the score as time expired. It was unsuccessful.
“I think there are going to be some of that two-minute [drill] that I want back,” Wilson said.
Said Saleh: “I thought he played well. Like I said, there’s ebbs and flows of the game. There’s always going to be things we nitpick at. He moved the ball, created explosive plays.”
Wilson got no help from a terrible running attack and his protection was spotty. Does he think he deserves another start?
“That’s not up to me,” he said. “For me, I think it comes back to how can I watch this film, how can I improve and keep trying to put our offense in the best situation. I didn’t do that today.”
Garrett Wilson had four catches for 98 yards, including a 33-yarder that set up the go-ahead score with 4:41 left. He appeared frustrated at times, as he was in the last game Zach Wilson played, a loss to the Patriots. But afterward he embraced his quarterback, then praised him.
“That boy battled,” the receiver said. “I thought he handled it really well, man. He showed a lot of perseverance, especially at the end of the game, making some of the throws he did, standing in there and giving a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for.”
Is it, though? Wilson gave the Jets a chance to win, but they lost. Even though their vaunted defense collapsed in the final two minutes, it is a championship-caliber unit that deserves a championship-caliber QB.
At the moment, Wilson ain’t that. Is there still time to prove otherwise? The sand is almost out of that hourglass.