Zach Wilson is still chapped from that Patriots game three weeks ago.
Not over the way he played, apparently, but more over the way he was treated.
Asked on Thursday about his emotions following that 22-17 loss on Oct. 30 and the postgame news conference in which he gave some very terse, chippy responses to questions about his role in that result, the Jets’ second-year quarterback said he saw no issue with his behavior.
“I thought they were good emotions,” he said. “I was frustrated.”
But then, without even taking a breath, he kept going.
“I still believe nobody outside of this building knows what they’re talking about,” he said.
That may be the case for a lot of the technical adjustments and reads required to play the most critical and demanding position on a football field. Quarterbacking at any level — nevermind the NFL — is a mosh pit of information processing, muscle memory and instinct that has to somehow be choreographed into a ballet.
But most of us can say with the confidence of Lombardi that throwing three sloppy interceptions is not the recipe for victory.
That’s what Wilson did against the Patriots and that’s why the Jets lost that game.
It’s also what he did not do against the Bills, the Broncos, the Packers, the Dolphins. And that’s why they won those games.
If Wilson comes into Sunday’s rematch against the Patriots feeling he has something to prove, with an agenda to shush critics and a desire to win this game himself, the Jets could be in trouble. He’ll be playing right into the hands of Bill Belichick and his defense that routinely makes a mess of young quarterbacks, treating them like a cheese grater does Gouda.
He has to recognize that he can’t win Week 8’s game — or the analysis of that game — here in Week 11.
He’s already rebounded from that loss to New England and thumbed his nose at the world by besting Josh Allen and the Super Bowl darling Bills. He doesn’t need to do it again.
Wilson says he doesn’t have those sentiments when asked directly, but his other responses seem to betray that. On Thursday he was still talking about how “frustrating” it was to have so many throw-aways in that first Patriots game. And there was the “nobody knows what they’re talking about” bit.
On that topic, to be fair, even those inside the building were critical of him after that Patriots fiasco. Following the game, coach Robert Saleh said he had faith in Wilson but also said things such as “we have to be better with the ball,” “he has to play better and we have to find ways to help him,” and “we have to figure it out.”
Since then they have been emphasizing for Wilson to be less careless with his passes and also stressing the good things he did in that game (of which, yes, there were plenty).
“Saleh has been kind of saying it all week: ‘You don’t have to make the play, you have to make your play,’” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said.
It’s a message the Jets coaching staff has been trying to instill in everyone, but clearly one young player who wears the No. 2 jersey in particular.
“He’s got to go do his job,” LaFleur said of Wilson. “He’s got to do his 1/11th. He’s got to make the right play, whatever that play is … He’s got to make the right play, and he can’t worry about what happened in the past.”
Wilson said on Thursday he is in a “great headspace.”
“We’re winning football games,” he said. “We’re where we want to be and there is still so much to improve on. From a team aspect we’re excited with where we’re at. This is going to be a great challenge for us.”
It will be less challenging if Wilson can play the way he did against the Bills — poised, in control, allowing the running game and the defense to do their things — and not how he performed against the Patriots last time out.
If he can do that, and the Jets beat the Patriots for the first time in 14 tries and jump into sole possession of first place in the AFC East, he’ll be heralded.
If he can’t, well, the rest of us probably won’t know what we’re talking about yet again.
Zach Wilson's career stats against the Patriots:
Comp. % 53.6
Yards per game 205.3
QB rating 50.5