The Jets have T-shirts that either hang in their lockers or are worn around the facility. They say, “I Got Your Back.”
No one needs to see, hear or feel that these days more than Zach Wilson.
The quarterback has been under siege and used as a punching bag, taking shots seemingly from everywhere. Joe Namath probably landed the harshest blows on Monday when he described Wilson’s play as “awful” and “disgusting.”
When Wilson finally addressed those comments, he was wearing the “I Got Your Back” shirt, which has more meaning in the Jets’ locker room now than when it was first distributed last week. The Jets can use that as a rallying cry as everything comes crashing down on Wilson especially, but the team as well.
“This narrative outside of this locker room is different than the narrative that’s in this locker room,” Wilson said. “I truly believe the guys in the locker room all have each other’s back. I got theirs and I feel like they got mine. We’re going to do everything we can to improve.
“Nobody understands what we go through like the guys in this locker room. We all got each other’s back.”
This was supposed to be a special season for the Jets. They were riding high after acquiring Aaron Rodgers, a team on the rise with a four-time MVP quarterback quite capable of leading them to the Super Bowl. Then Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon four offensive snaps into the season. Since then, the sky has been falling for the Jets.
“It is weird. Everything’s changed so fast,” tight end Tyler Conklin told Newsday. “It really hasn’t been that much time. But also it means everything could change back the other way pretty fast too.”
The Jets remain in Wilson’s corner. Robert Saleh has done everything he can to encourage his quarterback and give him confidence. However, it’s not easy when the franchise’s biggest icon says he’s seen enough of Wilson and fans boo him every time he doesn’t complete a pass.
It could get really ugly against Kansas City at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night if Wilson doesn’t look like at least a serviceable quarterback. He has led three touchdown drives in 35 possessions this season.
Saleh is not one to ignore the outside noise. He always addresses “the elephant in the room” and tries to keep it real. But he also said it’s up to each person to respond.
“There’s an old saying, ‘If you keep sweeping the poop under the rug, eventually the smell is going to come through,’ ” Saleh said. “We acknowledge everything. Now what are you going to do about it?
“The best thing that you can do is focus on you as an individual and focus on helping your teammates get better and just keep it inward. If you’re always looking inward, then the outside noise — for positive things and negative things — the outside stuff won’t matter.”
Wilson says he’s ignoring it. His teammates give the 24-year-old credit for how he has handled this difficult situation. His focus has been on rising above it, improving and trying to get the offense going.
“Zach lives in a very small world right now, as he should,” backup quarterback Tim Boyle told Newsday. “Being a quarterback in New York, it’s tough in itself because you’re thrown into the spotlight. I think he’s done a good job of staying in his world, understanding the things he has to control and putting his best foot forward on the field. I think he’s done a wonderful job of it.”
The results need to change sometime soon, though, or there could be a quarterback change.
The Jets signed Trevor Siemian to the practice squad this past week. He will be inactive on Sunday, but if Wilson continues to struggle, Siemian could be promoted or signed to the active roster.
Fans want that to happen now. This is Wilson’s third season, and he has yet to prove he has the ability to lead the Jets. The fans want Boyle or Siemian on the field — really, anyone but Wilson. That’s coming across loud and clear with the boos in the stadium and the noise being made on social media.
Boyle reminded Wilson that he shouldn’t scroll through social media. Others have, too. Conklin said it’s smart if Wilson stays off, but he said it’s not easy.
“I’ve had moments like I should just delete it,” Conklin said. “Why the hell do I need Twitter and care about people’s opinions, and all those things? It’s just something about human nature that makes you want to know. It’s funny the way it works. It’s not something he needs to worry about. We all have each other’s back in here. We just need to figure out ways to win football games.”
The Jets have been consistent in saying that Wilson isn’t the only one who is underperforming. Many players have talked about looking in the mirror and seeing what they can do individually to make the Jets better as a whole.
Wilson has made his share of mistakes, but it’s been an offense-wide failure, from some ill-advised play calls to missed blocks to no running game. All of this needs to change for the Jets to have the message on the T-shirt come to life.
“We’re going into Week 4,” Conklin said. “We have a lot of football games left, a lot of time left. We just got to come together and figure this the hell out.”