Zach Wilson can validate the Jets’ decision on a career-defining stage

If this all works out, Zach Wilson will look back at the past three weeks as the best thing that happened to him since he was drafted No. 2 overall by the Jets in 2021.

If this all works out, Wilson returns behind center as a humbled, more mature player than he was three weeks ago.

If this all works out, Wilson will turn out to be the franchise quarterback the Jets believed him to be when they used that precious first-round draft pick on him.

If this all works out, Wilson will lead the 7-6 Jets to a win over the Lions on Sunday at MetLife Stadium and then another against the Jaguars at home on Thursday and the Jets will be perhaps one more win away from their first playoff berth since the 2010 season.

If this all works out, the button Jets head coach Robert Saleh boldly pushed when he benched Wilson on Nov. 23 may be viewed as the most important coaching decision made in the NFL this season.

This, of course, has not worked out for Mike “Effing” White, who’s surely lamenting his bad effing luck right now, ruled out on Friday by doctors who won’t clear him to play because of potential further damage to the fractured ribs he suffered last Sunday at the Bills.

Sports can be a cruel and ruthless place — a place where only right now matters. And right now, Wilson is back as the Jets starting quarterback until further notice.

Zach Wilson
Zach Wilson is once again the Jets’ starting quarterback.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Now we see whether that “reset” that Saleh spoke about when he benched Wilson took.

Now we see whether Wilson, whose poor, inconsistent play and his polarizing response to a postgame question after the Jets’ Nov. 20 losses at New England were Saleh’s reasons for benching him, he has been humbled and matured by this experience.

On Friday inside the Jets locker room, you’d have had a hard time wiping the smile off of Wilson’s face when he spoke of finding out that he was back in the starting lineup.

“Excited,” Wilson said of hearing the news. “Cool opportunity.”

How prepared is he after not even being in uniform on the active roster for the past two games?

“I’m ready to go,” Wilson vowed. “I feel like these past three weeks I’ve just been trying to keep improving and getting better and taking each day with the mentality as if I was playing.”

Wilson said all the right things on Friday, going out of his way to convey how much he wants to do well for his teammates. He was doing all he could to distance himself from that fateful comment he made when asked after the 10-3 loss to the Patriots if he felt like he and the offense owed an apology to the defense and he answered “no” twice.

He was asked on Friday if, because of the place he’s been in the past couple of weeks, relegated to working as the scout team quarterback in practice, he’s concerned his margin for error is slimmer.

“Well, I mean the worst has already happened, right, for me personally?” Wilson said, referring to his benching.

The answer to that question, if Wilson isn’t better for his benching and is eventually benched again, never to play for the Jets again, would be “no.”

Wilson spoke about “just finding the fun in football” for himself again. He talked about the “step back” reinforcing his “gratitude” towards football “and what it brings me in my life.”

Saleh called this “a great opportunity for Zach to just get back on track and do what we know he’s capable of.”

With White limited in practice this week, Saleh said Wilson “has gotten the vast majority of the first-team reps, so, we feel very comfortable about Zach’s preparation as the first-string quarterback.”

There’s been a lot of sports radio chatter since Wilson’s benching — from people who’ve never even been inside the Jets locker room — that Wilson’s teammates detest him. This isn’t true.

Zach Wilson speaks to reporters on Friday.
Zach Wilson speaks to reporters on Friday.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Were there teammates on defense who had their noses bent out of shape when they first heard Wilson’s comments after the New England loss, comments that reeked of a lack of accountability and self-awareness?

Sure, there were.

But after having numerous conversations with Wilson’s teammates in the aftermath of his benching, the consensus among them was that this was a 22-year-old kid in the spotlight who made a mistake.

“I think our guys trust him,” Saleh said. “I know as a coaching staff we trust him, and I know the team trusts him. I mean, he played very good football for us and we went 5-2 with him at quarterback. We’ve got all the faith in him, but he’s really just got to focus on Sunday and Sunday alone.”

If Wilson does that, then this all has a chance to work out for him.


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