Jets quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese works players during OTAs held at...

Jets quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese works players during OTAs held at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J. on Wednesday, June 8, 2022. Credit: Noah K. Murray

The demotion of Zach Wilson hit the quarterback hard.

It must have been tough on his position coach, too.

Rob Calabrese has been the quarterbacks coach throughout Wilson’s tenure with the Jets. He helped guide him through his rookie year, helped him return from the knee injury that cost him time on the field at the start of this season, and yes, helped him cope with the onslaught of negativity that hounded him following his miserable start in New England and subsequent benching by Robert Saleh.

That last part was a failure surely felt by both of them. A momentary one, they hope, but a failure nonetheless.

In Calabrese’s first job as an NFL position coach he was given the keys to the second overall pick and less than two years later he’s blown out the hot rod’s transmission.

But now it is time for them to get to work on pushing Wilson back to a physical and mental place where he can return to action, where he can be the starting quarterback again. It may not happen this season, it may not even happen here, but it will be an important journey that will define whatever legacy Wilson winds up making for himself in the NFL.

And Calabrese will be along for the ride.

The coach was asked on Thursday how personally he takes Wilson’s career arc.

“We’re all driven individuals,” he said. “I want to get him to be himself. He’s gaining confidence back and we're working every single day. He's a driven individual who is motived and ready to show up every day.”

Calabrese is, too.

The former football slinger for East Islip High School has no shortage of passion and determination to right wrongs and try to mop up messes, some of which he had no part in creating and others he almost certainly did. Saleh said one of the main reasons Wilson was benched was because his fundamentals were out of whack, a clear indictment on a position coach whose job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. There are certainly other elements that went into the call to give Wilson his time out from the rigors of guiding a playoff-caliber team and try to correct his foibles both as a passer and as a teammate, but making him a more technically sound player seems to be the most critically anticipated outcome from his forced furlough.

“You can always fine-tune your technique,” Calabrese said. “He’s still a young quarterback and he has grown with each and every rep that he has taken. We’re just working to get better every single day. That’s every quarterback. And I’m sure every player at every position on this team. They’re all working on something to improve. It’s the same thing with Zach.”

The difference is Wilson was supposed to be the centerpiece of the team — of the franchise — and now he’s running the scout team and staying after workouts throwing to practice squadders in the team’s “Flight School,” a remedial course for those who can’t get enough snaps in the regular workout.

Calabrese says all of those reps will help. They’re not against an actual opponent, but they are allowing Wilson to work on his craft.

“That’s the most important thing is to play the actual position,” Calabrese said. “That entails a lot of things. Take each rep and bank it and understand what happened in front of him and use that throughout his whole career … Those are reps in our system, those are our plays, so it’s getting back to our scheme and our verbiage and with live reps. He is out there all the time so it’s good.”

It’s been a little over a week since the Jets announced their intentions of playing Mike White. Calabrese said Wilson has already shown improvement since then.

“He’s playing a little more freely and not overthinking things,” Calabrese said. “He’s continued to grow in that aspect. But there are multiple things that pop up during the practice, good and bad, that he can work through and stay positive through the whole thing. Which he has. He’s been really good.”

“He’s handling it the best he can in terms of he’s approaching it every single day just trying to get better,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said of Wilson. “That’s just Zach’s approach. Zach’s approach is trying to get better every single day and that’s what he’s doing. You can see the improvements every single day. That’s just something that we got to trust with our process with him.”

Wilson isn’t Calabrese’s only charge. He works with the entire room, of course, and has had a hand in the positive development of White over the last two seasons as well.

But when you are the quarterbacks coach of a team that used a No. 2 pick at your position, there’s really only one pupil anyone cares about.

His success or failure is your own.