FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Robert Saleh disagrees with Joe Namath’s scathing criticism of Zach Wilson, but the Jets coach concedes his quarterback needs to show improvement.
This was an important admission from Saleh, who has gone out of his way to support the struggling Wilson.
“We all acknowledge he has to play better,” Saleh said before practice Wednesday. “We all acknowledge that. He acknowledges that. Teammates acknowledge it, he acknowledges it himself. The key is to have confidence in yourself. You have to. You got to continually stack good days . . .
“For him, he definitely needs to get better.”
Saleh is trying to navigate the Jets through a potential land mine just three games into this season.
Things have gotten ugly and could get worse, especially in MetLife Stadium where the Jets will host reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City on Sunday night.
Jets fans seem to have completely turned on Wilson. Aaron Rodgers chastised the team, saying they “need to grow up a little bit” during his weekly spot on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday.
On top of that, Namath, the Jets’ franchise legend, on Tuesday said he’s “seen enough of Wilson,” and wants him gone. Namath also said Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas should go, too, in an ESPN New York radio interview.
Saleh said he hasn’t spoken to Namath, and he’s entitled to his opinion.
“Obviously, Joe is an icon, a Hall of Famer and a well-respected individual in this organization,” Saleh said. “The door is always open for him to walk in. My office is always open for him. We’ll agree to disagree with his comments, but he is entitled to those comments.”
The Jets (1-2) have lost two straight games and the offense has been mostly unwatchable in both of them. They scored one touchdown and 10 points in each loss, resulting in Wilson receiving vitriol from all angles.
The disgust from outside the Jets’ facility comes from seeing this from Wilson often. He’s played 25 games for the Jets — they’ve scored one touchdown or fewer in 20 of them.
Backup quarterback Tim Boyle believes Wilson is handling all of the negativity very well and he’s “done a good job of staying in his world.”
There’s been no long talk about what’s swirling around Wilson, but Boyle has reminded him to keep a very small circle right now.
“There’s really no need to be on social media, reading what people are saying about you,” Boyle said. “The confidence has to come from within and his teammates. I think we’re doing a good job of making sure he knows he’s the guy and that we still believe in him.
“It’s just little reminders: Live here, talk to your parents, talk to your friends, talk to your teammates. There’s no need to listen to anyone else right now. We’re on our own journey. It’d be a disservice to listen to that stuff and have it affect him.”
The Jets signed veteran quarterback Trevor Siemian to the practice squad Tuesday. The Jets will continue to ride with Wilson. For how long? It depends on Wilson.
This was supposed to be a reset season for Wilson, an opportunity to watch and learn from Rodgers. That lasted four offensive snaps as Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon on the Jets’ first offensive series of the season.
The Jets need Wilson to develop quickly to meet the timetable of a team that’s ready to win now.
“You definitely have difficulties,” Saleh said. “Empathetically speaking, you go into a season and it’s like we have all these aspirations — and not that any of these aspirations are over, but you just get stunted four plays in and you’re trying to adjust on the fly.
“Guys are working diligently to try and figure the best way to utilize this group. That’s where, as a coach, you wish it happened] yesterday, but you have to continue grinding.”
Saleh has maintained that he’s seen Wilson improve in many areas, particularly in practice, but Wilson hasn’t been able to transfer that into the games. Saleh said the 24-year-old quarterback can’t lose faith and has to rise above all the noise and just play football.
“Once you start finding your success on game day that’s when everything snowballs into something pretty cool,” Saleh said. “You’ve got to be a dog, you have to be confident in your ability, you got to sling the rock and let it rip and let your playmakers do the work.”