Robert Saleh is sticking with Zach Wilson this week and for the foreseeable future.
“He’s our unquestioned quarterback,” Saleh said during a Zoom call Monday afternoon.
The Jets’ offense has been brutally bad with Wilson running it, though, and they have scored one offensive touchdown in each of the first three games.
In the Jets’ 15-10 loss to the Patriots on Sunday, Wilson held on to the ball too long and missed open receivers all over the field to get to his checkdown. Even on a crucial fourth-and-10 on the Jets’ next-to-last possession, Wilson checked down to Tyler Conklin for a 2-yard gain.
Wilson was 18-for-36 for 157 yards and no touchdowns against New England. It was the 13th time in 25 NFL games that he failed to throw a touchdown pass. Yet Saleh remains resolute in his support for him.
“He’s not the reason we lost [Sunday],” Saleh said. “It’s always a team effort. As long as he continues to show improvement, and I know from a boxscore standpoint it’s not showing, he’s going to be our quarterback.”
There’s the open door for Saleh to make a change if things get even worse. The Jets have only Tim Boyle as the backup, but it would be surprising if they don’t add a third quarterback this week.
Still, it will be the Wilson show against Patrick Mahomes on Sunday night when Kansas City comes to MetLife Stadium in what is truly a lopsided quarterback matchup.
This wasn’t the Jets’ plan. They hoped it would be Mahomes against Aaron Rodgers. NBC hoped so, too.
The Jets wanted Wilson to watch Rodgers for two or three years and learn how to play quarterback. Everything was built for Rodgers; it’s basically his offense. Having to go to Wilson changes everything.
“It’s not an excuse, but the reality is it was built a certain way and we’re trying to adjust on the fly, which is a challenge,” Saleh said. “But a challenge that I think we’re going to end up coming to an answer for.”
The Patriots game was reminiscent of last season when the defense kept the Jets in the game and the Wilson-led offense couldn’t do nearly enough to win. Wilson ultimately lost his starting job and was benched twice last season.
Saleh maintains he’s seeing a different Wilson in practice and in games.
“With regard to 2023 Zach — I know it’s going to go on deaf ears — what we see on a day-in and day-out basis is a young man who’s much improved from a year ago,” Saleh said. “He’s much more confident. He’s much more accurate, he’s got much more command of the huddle, he looks better in the pocket. Could have been better yesterday, but he’s improved and he’s been getting better.
“He’s going through his progressions. When he is hitting his back foot with his timing and rhythm, he looks fantastic. You just don’t throw people away. You’ve got to continue to work with him. He gives us our best chance to win. As coaches, we’re going to do everything we can to help him.”
The Jets are at a pivotal stage. They’re only three games into the season, but players already have shown frustration. There were two animated or heated exchanges on the sideline Sunday between offensive players and coaches.
Some Jets defensive players said everyone can do better and they’re standing with Wilson.
“My confidence level is high,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “Whoever’s on the football field with me, wearing the same uniform, I’m going to have high expectations and high confidence. If I can’t trust you, if I feel that you can’t trust yourself, then you shouldn’t be on the field. Zach is a trustworthy person.
“He’s won us games, and that says a lot. When he’s on time and on target, he’s making some of the prettiest throws in the league. So we are just going to stay the course. We’re not panicking, we’re not doing any of that finger-pointing, none of that stuff.”
Cornerback D.J. Reed echoed that.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re to the point where we’re pointing fingers,” Reed said. “Do I trust Zach as a quarterback? The answer is yes. We’ve been going against him at practice during this whole offseason and I feel like he’s ready.”