Zach Wilson is a hot talking point in the NFL world this week, but not for positive reasons.
A dismal outing against the New England Patriots in a 10-3 loss last Sunday led to a well-publicized moment during the postgame press conference when the New York Jets quarterback succinctly answered a question about whether he felt he let down the team’s defense.
That was followed one day later by Jets coach Robert Saleh being noncommittal about Wilson’s status as the team’s starting quarterback.
“We’re keeping everything on the table over the next couple of days,” Saleh told reporters Monday, per ESPN.
When asked if he is willing to name Wilson this week’s starter for the Jets’ game against Chicago, Saleh said, “Not right now, not until I’m done evaluating everything.”
“Everything needs to be evaluated. When you put up 100 yards of offense, I don’t care how good New England is, and they are good, it’s unacceptable. That’s not NFL football. Everything is being talked about”
– Robert Saleh on going from committal to non-committal on Zach Wilson pic.twitter.com/tzeM8SYWrH
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) November 21, 2022
Why is Zach Wilson’s accountability coming into question?
In the loss to the Patriots, Wilson completed 9 of 22 passes for a career-low 77 yards.
In the entire second half, New York totaled just two offensive yards.
The Jets punted 10 times, including seven times in the second half.
Then, when he was asked postgame if he thought that performance let down the defense, which allowed just three points (the only touchdown came on a punt return), Wilson replied, “No. No.”
It’s a moment that’s sparked opinions about whether Wilson, the former BYU quarterback and Utah native, is taking accountability for his struggles in his second NFL season after being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
What are media observers saying about Zach Wilson?
The New York Post’s Ian O’Connor called for Saleh to bench Wilson, at least for now as 6-4 New York battles for a playoff bid.
O’Connor wrote of Wilson: “He played like a journeyman backup Sunday — definitely not for the first time — and then refused to concede he let down a defense that might already be good enough to advance to a Super Bowl … if only the quarterback that could advance the ball more than 2 yards in a half. Days after dismissing outside critics as know-nothings, Wilson blamed his rancid 77-yard non-effort on the same winds that allowed Mac Jones 246 passing yards and, when asked about the frustration shown by receivers Garrett Wilson and Denzel Mims, countered that he gets frustrated with their mistakes, too.
“That’s some team captain.
“Now Saleh has to be the ultimate team captain and rule in favor of fairness to the rest of his Jets. Why would a coach do more to protect his quarterback than the quarterback is doing to protect himself?”
NFL Network’s Jeffri Chadiha echoed those sentiments, saying it’s time for Saleh to make a move to avoid further creating a problem for a team.
“I think Robert Saleh understands he can’t afford to let his quarterback become an issue with his team, and it’s okay to sit him down for a while,” he said during an NFL Network segment. “But this team, if they want to be in the postseason, I don’t see how Zach Wilson can be the guy who leads them there, with his comments the other day, his comments last week. He’s becoming a problem.”
During a segment on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football Countdown” broadcast, Booger McFarland suggested that Wilson has never had to “accept accountability.”
“He’s a young man who grew up with a lot of money,” McFarland said. “I don’t think he’s ever had to accept accountability. So, now on the biggest stage we want this quarterback to accept accountability.”
Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who like Wilson played collegiately at BYU, disputed that notion.
“That doesn’t resonate at all,” Young said. “He’s a tough-minded kid.”
Later in the discussion, Young said that Sunday’s performance from Wilson “let them down yesterday, that’s for sure.”
“… In the end, it’s the team’s fundamental job to bring the team forward. And if he can’t do that, it’s fundamental to the job,” Young concluded.
Others, like SNY.tv’s Connor Hughes and ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, questioned Wilson’s development as he passes the midway point of his second season — and whether it’s time to make a change to benefit a team whose defense is ahead of schedule in its development.
“The Jets have given him all of these opportunities to develop, all of these opportunities to reach that potential. But with young quarterbacks, there eventually comes a time where the kid gloves need to come off and you need to see if he’s going to sink, or he’s going to swim,” Hughes said.
Hughes said that with the Jets having so many other elements of their team — from defense to other key positions on offense — being in win-now mode, the development of Wilson is no longer priority No. 1 for a franchise that’s quickly shedding its rebuilding label.
“What Robert Saleh has to do between now and Wednesday is figure out what quarterback gives the Jets the best chance to (win now),” Hughes said.
Barnwell took a deeper look at Wilson’s situation, beyond just the accountability issues and more into what his play through his first two seasons has shown.
So far, as Barnwell backed up with several metrics, Wilson’s career has underperformed in comparison to the expectations thrust on such a high draft pick.
“On the whole, this has been a disastrous season for a player who was supposed to be entering a potential breakout year. He now ranks 23rd in the NFL in QBR (45.2). If we remove rushing performance and just consider Wilson as a passer, the 23-year-old is 26th in the league. His minus-7.0% completion percentage over expectation and 20.5% off-target rate are each the second-worst marks in football,” Barnwell wrote.
“… Until they make a move, the Jets either still think that guy is Wilson or think the difference between Wilson and their other quarterbacks isn’t enough to justify disrupting their plan. Even if they don’t make a change in November, the clock is now ticking loudly on the Wilson era.”
From the Twitterverse
Zach Wilson saying “No” to a question about whether or not he let the defense down after only scoring 3 points and throwing for 77 yards was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) November 21, 2022