FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Trust the process.
That goes for you, me, Zach Wilson, Wilson’s coaches and teammates, Joe Namath, Joe Klecko, Jo-Jo Townsell and anyone else with an interest in the Jets’ fortunes this season and beyond. Even Joe Flacco!
Really, what choice do we have at this point?
On Sunday, Wilson will be thrown into his 2022 regular-season debut on the road, against a cranky opponent, behind a discombobulated line, while testing a right knee injury for the first time under game conditions.
The Jets already have squandered 18% of their schedule on games that did not feature their second-year quarterback, so time is of the essence in developing and evaluating him as a potential franchise savior.
But Wilson must resist trying to do it all in his first time out and his coaches must help him with said resistance.
If he stays healthy through the next game or two, we can start to better assess what the kid can (or cannot) do. But let’s pump the brakes on the all-gas thing.
What should have happened in Weeks 1 and 2 now will unfold in Weeks 4 and 5, and that will have to do.
Daniel Jones is knee-deep into prove-it mode with the Giants because he is in his fourth season and has a new GM and coach to impress against long odds.
But Wilson at least figures to get a third season in 2023 to show what he can do, so he does not have to show it all on Oct. 2.
Of course, Wilson is not thinking in those terms because he is a competitive athlete and not a negativist newspaper columnist.
As for Saleh, he did an effective job on Wednesday of walking the line between expecting a lot of Wilson and without expecting too much.
Will the coaches have to remind Wilson not to overdo things his first time out?
“No, he's in a good mental state,” Saleh said, later adding, “he's excited and we're all excited for him. But at the same time, it's not about him. It's about making sure that we're all doing our part to make sure that we run an efficient offense.”
Receiver Corey Davis: “That’s something that we’ve got to reiterate to him, and just keep telling him that it’s not all going to be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes. But just play fast, come out here and be you. That’s all we need.”
There were times as a rookie Wilson too often looked for big plays at the expense of making correct decisions, something that improved late in the season.
Overall, he threw for nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 games, but he was better after missing four games with a sprained knee. He did not throw an interception over his final five games.
Wilson looked good for the portion of practice reporters were allowed to watch, zipping balls around while not wearing a brace on his right knee.
Above all else, this is a chance to him to get him in a game for the first time since Aug. 12. The idea is to add another next week, and another, and another, eventually for 10 years or so.
“Hopefully, this is one of many, many, many opportunities to step on the football field for this organization,” Saleh said.
Wilson himself spoke to reporters after practice, only the second time he has done so since his injury.
When I asked whether he needs to remind himself not to try to do too much against the Steelers on Sunday, he said this:
“No, no, no that’s thinking too much. I mean, in my mind right now, I’m going to give this everything I have, I'm going to have fun with it and let the result kind of take care of itself.
“If I go out there and I play my game, I do what I'm supposed to, have that short-term memory after plays and move on, I think things are going to go well.”
Jets fans will feel a little extra juice when Wilson takes the field; Wilson himself hopes to avoid such thoughts.
“Once you get out there, it's like being a quarterback your entire life,” he said. “You have to be able to be calm in certain situations. Sure, there are going to be times where I’ve got to be able to bring myself back down, but, you know, it's back to playing ball.”