The New York Jets have a championship defense. They also have the worst starting quarterback — by far — in the National Football League. So unless he wants to sacrifice the season — and potentially lose the locker room in the process — it’s time for Robert Saleh to bench Zach Wilson.
New York Jets Must Bench Zach Wilson
Wilson was the worst player on the field in Sunday’s 10-3 gutting Jets loss to the New England Patriots. The result — New York’s 14th straight loss to the Pats and 12th straight loss at Gillette Stadium — was inevitable, considering the play they got from Wilson.
The defense was outstanding, holding the Patriots to three points in 11 drives. And yes, the Jets’ special teams melted down on the game’s final punt, surrendering an 84-yard return for a touchdown by Marcus Jones with five seconds left.
But that breakdown was just a farm full of chickens coming home to roost. Saleh lost the game an hour before when he decided to stick with a completely overmatched Wilson instead of turning to backup Mike White.
And unless Saleh changes his mind in the coming days, expect more of the same over the last seven games of the season.
“No,” Saleh said quickly when asked if he gave any thought to turning to White. “It’s not about pointing fingers at anyone,” he added. “It’s about finding the answers so we can start moving the ball.”
If you didn’t watch the game, it’s hard to describe just how bad Wilson, individually, and the Jets’ offense was collectively, particularly in the second half.
Jets offensive coordinator Mike LeFleur and his group managed just two — TWO — yards of offense after halftime. They had two first downs in the second half, and one came via penalty.
In a game tied at 3-3 for all but five seconds of the final 39:33, even a field goal at any point in the second half by New York would have probably won the game. And yet, the Jets didn’t cross midfield one in their final eight possessions.
Saleh’s take on his offense’s performance after intermission?
Even still, going to White — the only other active quarterback Sunday — was “the furthest thing from my mind,” Saleh said. “I’ve told you before that Zach’s our quarterback. We have to find ways” to get Wilson better.
Bust Potential Is High for Zach Wilson
It shouldn’t be hard. It was impossible for Wilson to be any worse. Wilson’s stats from Sunday — 9 of 22 for 77 yards — were embarrassing. But his tape was even uglier.
It wasn’t just that he missed throws in the Massachusetts wind (which, incidentally, didn’t seem to affect Mac Jones all that much). He couldn’t complete the most basic throws, and twice, he airmailed simple screen passes.
On the Jets’ final drive, a lazy sideline throw was nearly picked off by Pats DB Jonathan Jones. He also significantly underthrew Ty White deep down the left sideline late, allowing Kyle Dugger to close on the pass and break it up.
The Jets had 44 passing yards on the day. All but 10 of them came on a deep pass to Denzel Mims that was only completed because it was so badly underthrown that the Patriots couldn’t make a play on it.
We’re not writing off Wilson completely, at least not yet. We’ve seen enough quarterbacks in recent years make a big leap between Years 2 and 3 that it would be a mistake to think he’s irredeemable. He still has the raw gifts that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
But right now, he’s not the best quarterback on the Jets’ roster. He’s not even the second-best. Both White and Joe Flacco, who was inactive Sunday, would have done far better than Wilson did Sunday. And had Saleh subbed White in the second half, the Jets would probably be 7-3 instead of 6-4 right now.
Instead, the Jets are in last — with the NFL’s 11th-hardest schedule remaining.
Going to White or Flacco doesn’t mean the Jets are giving up on Wilson. But staying with him probably does mean they’re giving up on 2022.