Joe Namath backtracked on some of the things he said about Zach Wilson last week and now hopes the Jets quarterback continues to improve.
Last Monday, Namath was frustrated after the Jets lost to the Patriots and said he’s “seen enough of Zach Wilson.” He called Wilson’s play in that game “awful” and “disgusting” and said he wanted Wilson gone.
“I take it back,” Namath said during a Monday evening appearance on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio. “I hope he stays for 10 years and he plays well.”
Namath had a big smile on his face at the time and the show hosts were laughing. But Namath, the team’s biggest icon, acknowledged that Wilson played well in the Jets’ 23-20 loss to Kansas City on Sunday night.
“He played pretty darn good,” Namath said. “That’s what we want to see, believe me. Now I am a Jets fan. I want us to do well. I get fed up whenever something goes wrong. I’m tired of losing. But Zach did some positive things yesterday. We know he has athletic ability. We know he can run around and we know he has a strong arm. He showed it yesterday.”
Regarding his comments last week, Namath said, “We lost the game. I was fed up. I probably said I’m fed up, I’m tired of him, let’s move on. I didn’t think for a minute that they’re going to get rid of him. Of course they’re going to stick with him and he’s going to improve. Hopefully he’s going to keep improving. Hopefully we’ll start winning some games.”
Wilson has been a lightning rod for criticism, but he might have had his best game in his three NFL seasons on Sunday.
He led the Jets back from a 17-0 deficit and they nearly pulled off the upset. He completed 28 of 39 passes for 245 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. According to Opta Stats, Wilson is the only quarterback to have more completions, more passing yards, more TD passes and fewer interceptions than Patrick Mahomes in the same game. That’s 127 career starts, pro and college.
Despite Wilson’s big night, he also had a fourth-quarter fumble that proved huge. Because of that turnover, he shouldered the blame for the loss.
With Aaron Rodgers watching from a suite, Wilson played with passion and heart and made some impressive throws, earning some respect from other athletes.
NBA superstar LeBron James had words of encouragement for Wilson after he was shown on the NBC broadcast having a mea culpa moment with punter Thomas Morstead as the final seconds wound down.
“Helluva game kid!” James wrote on Instagram over a clip of Wilson saying, “It’s my fault, bro” to Morstead. “You win as a team and lose as well as a team! 1 play doesn’t define the whole game! Keep ya head up high and keep pushing forward!! If it was easy everyone would do it!”
Wilson has struggled to lead the Jets, but he took a big step forward on Sunday night. His teammates said he showed resilience to perform the way he did while the critics were piling on.
NBC analyst and former Patriot Rodney Harrison referred to Wilson as “garbage” during a postgame interview with Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones. It seemed Harrison was trying to bait Jones into ripping Wilson, but Jones called Wilson “special.” Harrison didn’t agree.
Robert Saleh heard about it and hinted that Harrison reached out to apologize to Wilson. “From my understanding, Rodney this morning handled everything the right way,” Saleh said during a Monday Zoom call. “Rodney is a good man.And whatever he’s getting for that, it’s water under the bridge. I think he’s handled it exactly the way he’s supposed to.”
Saleh and Wilson’s teammates are happy that he responded the way he did on Sunday. He played with confidence and poise, and he continues to mature. Wilson is holding himself accountable more than he did last year. It’s part of the reason his teammates are in his corner.
“It was really cool to see him ball out and just slinging the rock,” right tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker said. “I think he felt really comfortable out there, which for me, being one of his homies, it was really cool to see.”
Namath also liked what he saw.
“The guy’s got physical ability, I know that,” he said. “He’s going to get better and better and better. I can only hope that.”