FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey – Zach Wilson’s heavy second season is over. When — or if — he will play another game for the New York Jets remains to be seen.
The struggling quarterback will be out on Sunday for the team’s season finale in Miami, where Mike White will start a second game in a row and Joe Flacco will be an understudy. However, coach Robert Saleh insisted on Wednesday that Wilson still has a future with the franchise.
“Zak has all the talent in the world and we have complete confidence in him,” said Saleh. “Like I said after this ‘reset’, we’re going to work with him, yes.
“And through hell or flood, we’re going to figure out how to get him to where we know he might be.”
That’s the challenge Saleh and his coaching staff will face this offseason, which also confirms the harsh reality that the Jets still don’t know for sure what they have in Wilson.
Some fans and the media have called the 2021 No. 2 pick a flop, and his pathetic stats may back it up. Wilson has 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions with a 55.2 completion rate and a 72.8 quarterback rating in 22 starts.
He has also been on the bench twice this season so he can, as Saleh puts it, “reboot” himself mentally and physically.
But Wilson also showed off-hand ability that had the Jets and others drooling ahead of the draft.
“Again, we don’t hesitate,” Saleh said. “We believe in a young man and the most important thing for Zach is not his talent. We want to make sure we reconnect with Zach and restore his confidence and restore his confidence in himself and in us and us in him, just everything. Just to make sure he’s on the right track again, footwork right, mechanics right thinks correctly.
“So for Zach, it’s not about talent, I don’t believe in it. I just think, as I said, when the reboot happens, we will work our hardest to help him. We are devoted to him.”
However, that doesn’t mean Wilson will be a starter next season. Or that he will definitely be on the list – although this may seem likely.
Rookie Wilson’s four-year, $35 million contract is fully guaranteed, meaning the Jets would take a major financial hit if they sack him after this season. Wilson will deduct $9.6 million from next season’s salary cap, and firing him will cost New York nearly $20.8 million in dead money. Thus, it would cost the Jets more ($11.2 million) to fire him than to keep him.
A trade is possible, but teams are unlikely to be willing to sacrifice much to acquire Wilson.
White and Flacco will be free agents after this season, so it makes sense for general manager Joe Douglas to try to either sign or acquire the veteran quarterback and keep Wilson as a backup in the hope he can become something big.
“You just see it all over the league where these quarterbacks are hitting, especially this year,” said Saleh, who mentioned two former Jets. “When you look at what Sam (Darnold) is doing in Carolina, he is doing a really good job, and Geno (Smith) is just in terms of relationships, these guys need time.
“And we’re going to give him that time.”
One theory is that perhaps Wilson doesn’t fit perfectly into offense coordinator Mike LaFleur’s plan.
“There will always be problems,” Saleh said. “There is an aspect of patience to this, and I understand – if you love patience, why did you humiliate him? I understand there are things much deeper than that. But you can look back and say a lot about what ifs, but at the end of the day, a quarterback has to be able to sit in his pocket and be able to play football.”
Saleh said this is an area where Wilson needs to improve, and he showed it occasionally earlier this season before going astray.
“It just gradually went away from him for one reason or another,” Saleh said, “and how do you find that persistence?”
Wilson, who took a real psychological break after the end of the season, may be the first step towards his return to the track.
“Get out of this game, just reboot,” Saleh said. “I think the greatest power and greatest gift you can give yourself as a person is to understand what is important to you, what do you value, and how can you stick to those values day in and day out?
“It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself to open yourself up and I think Zach needs to go and read the book and understand that.”
NOTES: The Jets only had an introductory workout but did not include: LT Duane Brown (shoulder), RT George Fant (knee), OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (knee), CB Brandin Echols (quadriceps), and S. Lamarcus Joyner (thigh) Saleh has already ruled Joyner out of the game. … G Nate Herbig (calves) and S Jordan Whitehead (hamstring) were limited. … D.T. Sheldon Rankins was voted the best beatwriter by the Jets in the “good guy in the media” category.
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