FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Zach Wilson has taken a beating this week off the football field and is working on trying to be better on it.
Wilson has been bombarded with criticism from sports analysts, fans and the most famous Jet, Joe Namath, who wants Wilson gone. Wilson said he understands the fans’ frustration and he took the high road with Namath.
“He’s passionate. He obviously was one of the greats,” Wilson said Thursday. “Us as an offense, we’ve got to do everything we can just to try and prove him wrong. Keep doing what we can and improve
“Joe was an unbelievable player. This locker room is very tight-knit. We’re working to get better. I’m working to get better. I know I need to improve. I promise I’m doing everything I can to keep trying to get better.”
Wilson has come under attack before, but this week everything has crashed down on him. He’s getting most of the blame for the Jets’ struggles and the negativity is at a fever pitch.
Wilson said he’s tuning it all out and focusing on the guys in the locker room and getting ready to face a tough Kansas City defense this week.
“It’s been tough obviously these three years,” Wilson said. “I feel like I’m in a good spot mentally where I am. I’m confident in my abilities and confident in this team. All that matters is what goes on in the locker room and the film room with the coaches. We’re going to handle our business.”
The Jets (1-2) have lost two straight games and the offense has been brutal in both. Wilson has led just two touchdown drives in 24 possessions in those games.
Last week against the Patriots, the Jets couldn’t move the ball. They went three-and-out on eight of their 13 series and were booed often. The loudest ones were directed at Wilson.
“We as a group on offense have to do better,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “It’s all of us. I think that we put our entire offense into some really bad situations. It doesn’t matter who’s back there at quarterback, who’s playing. When you’re behind the sticks, when you’re third-and-extra long continuously, it’s not going to be good.”
The Jets, collectively, have been bad, but Wilson is a lightning rod for criticism.
“I get the passion and frustration absolutely,” Wilson said. “But my job as a quarterback is to focus on how I can get better, how I can help this offense score, how I can help us win games. It needs to improve, and it needs to get better.”
The Jets drafted Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick in 2021, believing he could be the quarterback to lead them to their first Super Bowl since Joe Namath did it 54 years ago. That experiment lasted two years.
The Jets acquired Aaron Rodgers in April and he was the new franchise savior. That lasted four offensive snaps.
Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon on the Jets’ first offensive series of the season. They were forced to put the football back in Wilson’s hands. The results have not been good.
“I would hope that things could have gone better of course,” Wilson said. “I understand their frustration from the outside and I get it. It hasn’t been as good as what I’ve wanted either. All I can do is progressively keep trying to work to improve and get better. I think it comes down to just that.”
The shots are also coming from other teams, too.
Kansas City linebacker Willie Gay said the Jets look like they went into “panic mode” after Rodgers got hurt and with Wilson running things they’re “a team that wants to run the ball.” Hackett acknowledged they need work.
“If you take our body of work these past three games, it hasn’t been pretty,” Hackett said. “That’s facts. Like anybody that questions us, we have the right to prove everybody wrong. In the end, we got to do it.”
Wilson is still displaying confidence in himself and his teammates. His message to the fans is “keep believing.” He believes he and the Jets are not far from righting things.
"We’re three games into the season,” Wilson said. “There’s no reason to freak out or panic right now. I think we’re close."