Jets’ Zach Wilson failures were self-inflicted

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At one point during Robert Saleh’s zoom call with reporters Monday, someone referred to Zach Wilson as a failure. 

“I don’t think he’s a failure,” Saleh said. “I look it more as a series of unfortunate events.” 

It actually is both. 

On the day Wilson was benched for Tim Boyle and pushed to No. 3 on the depth chart behind Boyle and Trevor Siemian, how could you say Wilson is anything other than a failure? 

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft has failed to produce a winning season or a playoff appearance, has never thrown for three touchdown passes in one game, has completed just 56.6 percent of his passes and has thrown four more interceptions (25) than touchdowns (21) in his time with the Jets. And yes, barring some crazy circumstances in the final seven games, Wilson should never take another snap again for the Jets. 

But Saleh is correct when he makes like Lemony Snicket and talks about a “series of unfortunate events.” 

That is where the blame for the organization comes in. It started with Joe Douglas falling in love with Wilson in the draft process. Douglas loved what he saw from the BYU quarterback in 2020 and looked past the concerns about quality of competition, the weirdness of that COVID season and questions about Wilson’s makeup. Douglas faced the biggest decision of his time as GM of the Jets in that 2021 offseason whether to keep Sam Darnold and trade the No. 2 pick for a boatload of picks or trade Darnold and take Wilson. After seeing Wilson’s pro day workout that featured the most famous throw in shorts, Douglas shipped Darnold to Carolina and drafted Wilson. 

Zach Wilson speaks to the media after the Jets’ loss to the Bills on Nov. 19, 2023. AP

Instead of making Wilson earn the starting job, the Jets handed it to him. It was never even a question of whether Wilson would start as a rookie. Unlike when Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith or Darnold was drafted, there was not even a pretend training camp competition. Wilson was the man from Day 1, which was clearly a mistake. 

Saleh would not admit the Jets screwed that up on Monday. 

“At that moment, that was the decision we made,” Saleh said. “Unfortunately, it just hasn’t gone the way everyone has hoped for.” 

The Jets had no veteran backup behind Wilson until they traded for Joe Flacco at midseason. A knee injury sent Wilson to the sideline and suddenly we heard about how beneficial it would be for him to watch instead of play. 

Huh, who would have thunk it? 

The series of unfortunate events continued into 2022 with Wilson’s sense of entitlement growing before everything boiled over following a 10-3 loss to the Patriots last November. Wilson’s poor play and lack of accountability forced Saleh to bench him for Mike White. 

It was the beginning of the end for Wilson with the Jets. He would return as the starter after an injury to White, but it was clear his confidence was shot and he was benched again for Chris Streveler in a prime-time game as the MetLife crowd booed him viciously. 

Joe Douglas was in charge for the Jets’ ill-fated draft selection of Zach Wilson. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

All of that forced the Jets to admit their mistake with Wilson and make the trade for Aaron Rodgers this offseason. But instead of ripping the Band-Aid off completely, the Johnson & Johnson led team kept Wilson as the backup behind the 39-year-old Rodgers, hoping he would sit and watch this season. 

“We think Zach is incredibly talented. We felt like he’d get an opportunity to sit behind Aaron and just learn,” Saleh said. “Sympathetically, when you look at Zach, he’s never really had an opportunity to watch somebody play the position. … That was his opportunity with Aaron and four plays in he’s back in the starting lineup. He never got to sit back and kind of absorb and get that redshirt year you would have loved to have given him.” 

With Wilson’s redshirt burned, the Jets tried to spin that Wilson was better and fans began to cling to any positive they saw from him no matter how small. He played well against the Chiefs, but still fumbled away the game in the fourth quarter. That was treated like a victory. He made two good throws against the Giants after 59 minutes of terrible play? Progress! 

Robert Saleh reacts during the Jets’ loss to the Bills on Nov. 19, 2023. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Things have unraveled in recent weeks and Wilson could not get the team into the end zone for 12 straight quarters and 40 straight possession before a touchdown drive Sunday in Buffalo that was actually jump-started by a pass from punter Thomas Morstead. 

So now, it is over. Wilson may play again this season because that is how it goes with the Jets, but he will be released this offseason. He will be somewhere else next summer as a backup. 

The Jets oversaw a series of unfortunate events that led to Wilson being a failure here whether they want to admit it or not. 

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