No one needs to endure a trip through the entire catalog of downtrodden and embarrassing moments in Jets history — even and perhaps particularly the recent chapters of it — to know that there have been plenty of lame moments. Most result in anger from the fans and observers of the organization.
However, something took place on Sunday that went beyond those all-too-typical harsh emotions that tend to simmer for three or so hours every weekend and certainly accompanied most of the on-the-field portion of this latest Jets debacle. It went from being maddeningly frustrating to something worse.
It came as Robert Saleh stood looking out at his postgame firing squad and tried to defend his reasons for sticking with Zach Wilson as the team’s quarterback even though nearly every snap he played in the 15-10 loss to New England screamed that he should never again be on the field for this franchise.
Saleh talked about the pocket presence and the accuracy he claims to have seen improve (even though statistically that last part is untrue; he was at 55.6% as a rookie, 54.5% last season and 54.2% this season). He noted the growth in maturity that he has witnessed. He even touted Wilson’s decision-making and said some offensive hiccups with a new system and new coordinator were expected even if Aaron Rodgers had been able to play beyond the four snaps he lasted.
Consider that last part the comedic relief.
Saleh went on to say he will be sticking with Wilson as the starting quarterback. Sigh.
But it was when he was pushed to give his reasoning for that decision that he changed the tenor of the entire postgame ambience, maybe even the rest of the season.
“He’s who gives us the best chance to win,” Saleh said.
Play the pathetic trombone whomp-whomp-whomps in your head as you contemplate that last sentence.
That he blurted it out after first trying to find the right words made it feel more like a breakthrough in a therapy session, something that finally got to the heart of his troubles, than what he actually thought he was going to say.
Out they tumbled, though, and now those few words may come to stand as the most depressing, sorrowful, damning thing ever said about this organization.
The Jets are a team that has been buried under decades of misery and had its fair share of contempt shoveled upon it, but this sentiment, it seems, finally could bring them close to the forever unreachable rock bottom.
Because it’s true.
Because Saleh is absolutely right.
Rodgers isn’t walking back into the facility ready to play anytime soon as he recovers from an Achilles tear, and Wilson probably is a better option than backup Tim Boyle.
They’re going with Wilson for the same reason all bad relationships continue, because they feel as if they are stuck with him and can’t see a way out.
Much of this mess is of their own making. They did draft Wilson with the second overall pick. And they did keep him around for a third season after last year’s complete mental and physical breakdown, believing that a few months as Rodgers’ caddie might rehabilitate him to the point of a functioning NFL player. Those were miscalculations.
They also apparently had the opportunity to think about other options. Reports surfaced on Sunday that Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan reached out to the Jets since Rodgers’ injury to see if their services might be needed, but the Jets rebuffed those offers. Presumably they have had similar chances to connect with Nick Foles or Colt McCoy and come to the same conclusion. They have yet to make any roster move to add any quarterback since putting Rodgers on IR after Week 1.
They have scored a combined 20 points since then.
So here they are. Ready to live through this sequel to the 2022 season that collapsed because they couldn’t squeeze even barely competent play from the most important position on any football team.
At least this time there doesn’t seem to be any chance that Wilson will lose the locker room, mostly because he never really had it back in the first place. The rest of the players talk as if they have Stockholm syndrome regarding him, brainwashed by the coaching staff and front office’s misguided confidence in someone who has repeatedly failed.
Cornerback Sauce Gardner said it’s up to the defense to “show love” to the struggling offense and noted that if his group had not allowed any points, the Jets would have won Sunday’s game.
Running back Michael Carter tried to take some of the blame on himself and the other offensive players.
“People put this [expletive] on Zach, but come on now, it’s not like he’s playing bad football,” he said. “But he’s the quarterback. It’s kind of what happens when you go No. 2 overall to one of the biggest cities in the world and everybody is watching you. If you don’t play picture-perfect football, then they’re ready to get you out of there.”
That’s just a sound bite that Carter, already in hot water for a sideline argument with his position coach caught on camera, knows won’t bite him (or anyone else) back. It’s a balm for Wilson’s fragile ego.
Nobody expects Wilson to be “picture-perfect.” Mediocrity would make these Jets instant contenders.
Instead they are stuck with a one-time gun-slinging quarterback who looks too scared to pull the football from his holster, a player who once scrambled to “make things happen” but who now sticks around in collapsing pockets way too long.
Now the Jets are faced with the prospect of trying to win by playing around their quarterback rather than through their quarterback for the second straight season, all while knowing full well that it didn’t work last year and, friend, it ain’t gonna work this year either.
Opponents are stopping the run because they know Wilson can’t pass. They are playing conservative, mostly turnover-free offense because they know they need not take risks. As long as they can keep the running backs and defense at bay, they know Wilson can’t beat them.
The Jets know it too. They just can’t do anything about it.
Wilson does give them “the best chance to win,” as Saleh so succinctly and pitifully admitted. Really, then, they have no chance at all.