FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Take a seat, Zach. Mike White is running the Jets’ offense now.
Robert Saleh made the bold decision to sit Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick last year, and replace him with White for Sunday’s game against the Bears at MetLife Stadium. Wilson won’t even be active. Joe Flacco will be White’s backup.
Wilson had arguably his worst professional game last Sunday against the Patriots. He passed for 77 yards and no touchdowns and led the offense to just 2 total yards in the second half of the 10-3 defeat.
This is a major move for the organization and certainly opens up the possibility that Wilson is not the long-term answer for the Jets. Saleh tried dissuading that. He said the plan for Wilson to “reset” and work on his fundamentals with the intention of playing him later in the season.
“Zach’s career here is not over,” Saleh said. “I know that’s going to be the narrative and I know that’s what everybody wants to shout out. That’s not even close to the case.
“The full intent is to make sure that Zach gets back on the football field at some point this year. When that is, I’ll make that decision. I’m going to take it day-to-day. The biggest thing with Zach is the young man needs a reset.”
Saleh added, “We haven’t wavered in our belief that he’s going to be the future of this franchise.”
Saleh spent the previous two days watching film of practice and games, meeting with general manager Joe Douglas and coaches and evaluating the entire offense. Saleh determined that Wilson needs to take a breather and work on his individual skills, most notably his footwork.
Both Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur used the word “reset” 12 times Wednesday. LaFleur said, “it stinks” that this happened and took blame for Wilson’s demotion.
“I truly believe it starts with me and ends with me,” LaFleur said. “I got to find a way to reset him.”
The Jets needed to make a change. The defense has developed far faster than Wilson and the Jets can’t wait for him to catch up.
They are 6-4 and have a shot at snapping their 11-year playoff drought. Wilson has thrown four touchdown passes and five interceptions in seven games. In the Jets’ last two losses – both to New England – their defense allowed just one touchdown in eight quarters.
“We’re not going to become the greatest show on turf just because we’re changing one player,” Saleh said. “It’s about everybody understanding we all got to be better.”
Saleh said this “reset” will allow Wilson to “get your mind right, we’ll get you back in the lineup and we’ll get ready to roll.”
Saleh was asked why he would go back to Wilson if White is playing well and the Jets are winning. Saleh said he’s going “day-to-day” and didn’t “want to get in all the hypotheticals.”
If Wilson does play again this season, Saleh could bring him back for the last two home games against Detroit and Jacksonville. After Sunday, the Jets have two tough road games at Minnesota and Buffalo.
Saleh referenced onetime Jet Geno Smith, Alex Smith, Kurt Warner and Rich Gannon who have had success after early hiccups or adversity.
Wilson certainly hasn’t proven he can be the Jets’ franchise quarterback. He has started 20 games and has completed 55.6 percent of his passes with 13 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. His passer rating is 70.7.
There is already speculation that the Jets could pursue Aaron Rodgers or Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason. Both are playing in this system.
Saleh said his decision had nothing to do with the way Wilson carried himself in interviews last week, particularly when said, “No,” when asked if he let the defense down.
The Jets coach did acknowledge that there “was a little irritation” in the locker room when Wilson showed no accountability publicly. Wilson addressed the team Wednesday and apologized.
Saleh called the quarterbacks on Tuesday night and let them know he was making a change. Saleh then told the team before practice on Wednesday. White said he was “excited” when he got the call.
“It’s just what every player in this locker room wants is a chance to compete and prove themselves,” White said. “More importantly it’s just a chance to be a good teammate and help the team.”
White, 27, has only appeared in four NFL games – all of them last season while Wilson was injured.
In White’ first NFL start, he threw for 404 yards, three touchdowns and caught a 2-point conversion in a win over Cincinnati. White hasn’t played since throwing four interceptions in a loss to Buffalo last Nov. 14.
Saleh expressed faith in White while not shutting the door on going back to Wilson.
“This is not putting a nail on his coffin,” Saleh said. “This is not even close to that. I do believe at the end of this is going to be a rejuvenated, renewed young man that once he reconnects to all the different things we’re trying to reconnect to he’s going to show why was the second pick.”