We’ve come to the point of Zach Wilson’s rocky and soon-to-be-completed tenure with the Jets that we can debate which is the worse possible indictment of him.
Is it that the Jets, nearly out of viable options, still might not want him to play for them?
Or is it that he might not want to play for the Jets?
Ultimately, these last few weeks (but really the last two seasons) have shown that it doesn’t matter who the Jets’ starting quarterback is. The organization has so botched its handling of the situation that it has reached this point of irrelevance in regard to the sport’s most important position. There has been such limited production from Wilson and Tim Boyle and, in his brief cameo on Sunday, Trevor Siemian, that the gradation between the three has blurred into an awful and impenetrable gray.Not one has done anything to separate himself from the others when it comes to providing a spark. The Jets are looking for an offensive pulse and their quarterback room has become a morgue.
That’s one of the reasons Robert Saleh had to say on Monday that he is “just not there yet” when asked whom he’ll turn to in Sunday’s game against the Texans at MetLife Stadium. From a football standpoint, they are all as interchangeable as they are incompetent. Saleh said he’ll decide which of them the Jets will try to win with by Wednesday.
Wilson was the second overall pick in the 2021 draft. He should be better than the two career backups, one of whom has never won a game he started and the other who hasn’t won a start since 2017. Clearly he’s not.
That’s a huge problem for the Jets, a mess they hoped no one would notice if things had gone according to plan and Wilson had simply faded away as the never-seen backup to a healthy Aaron Rodgers.
On Monday, however, Wilson managed to turn the situation from frustrating to embarrassing with all the cringy drama of an episode of “Real Quarterbacks of Florham Park.” He reportedly expressed reluctance about a return to the starting lineup, theoretically because he might suffer an injury that would interfere with his ability to sign with a new team next season.
If true, this was his cocktail napkin resignation moment — the only difference being that the Jets should gleefully accept it and move on.
Ironically, the mere plausibility of that report from The Athletic should be more damning to Wilson’s future prospects than any torn tendon or lacerated ligament would be. The NFL tolerates a lot of character flaws from its players, many of them crossing legal lines and societal norms. Being a quitter, though, is an unforgivable offense in any locker room — even the Jets’.
“If he was reluctant to play, guys, he wouldn’t be here,” Saleh said, noting that Wilson had expressed no such concerns to him directly.
But Saleh didn’t exactly deny the report either. On ESPN Radio, he speculated that some of Wilson’s hesitations may have been aired to teammates or other coaches in the building. And speaking to reporters, he drew a parallel between Wilson and college players who decide to skip bowl games to protect their draft status.
This, by the way, is what happens when a team kowtows to its quarterback and cedes its decision-making abilities to him, even if he is a future Hall of Famer and one of the greatest passers of all time. If you give one player a voice in big-picture planning, pretty soon everyone will want a say, whether they deserve it or not.
By the end of the day, Saleh said he and Wilson had what sounded like a very emotional meeting, the crux of which was that Wilson, who approached Saleh for the conversation, does indeed want to start for the Jets on Sunday.
“The young man wants the ball,” Saleh said. “He believes he’s the best quarterback in the room and best quarterback for this team, the guy who gives us the best chance to win.”
Saleh seemed to appreciate that show of fire.
He just doesn’t agree with the premise behind it.
So we’re back to the first problem. The one that swirls around the not-very-good quarterbacking skills Wilson often displays rather than the not-very-good personality traits he often demonstrates.
“I want to make sure nobody is acting emotionally,” Saleh said of holding off on making this call. “I want to make sure we are making the right decision for this organization and team moving forward and making sure the guy who is best ready to play is on the football field.”
At this point, though, there honestly isn’t much left for anyone to actually salvage.
Not from this sorry season, which is nearly over for the Jets mathematically.
And certainly not from Wilson’s tired and regrettable legacy with the Jets, which is drawing to a close just as quickly.