The New York Jets have officially benched Zach Wilson following their 10-3 loss to the Patriots. Where do they go from here?
After losing to the Patriots 10-3 on Sunday due to a last second punt return, questions flew in from every direction about the state of the offense. Rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson immediately talked about the necessity to be better, and head coach Robert Saleh didn’t hesitate to say how bad the offense was, especially in the second half.
As for second-year quarterback Zach Wilson, the reaction was different. He was asked if he feels like he let the defense down, and a simple answer, “no”, rang throughout the football world. On Wednesday, Saleh made the decision to bench Wilson for the upcoming game against the Chicago Bears, instead rolling with backup Mike White, who beat the reigning AFC champs in a start last year.
While we can speculate, there’s no one reason to point to for the benching. All the reports after the game and early this week talk about how Wilson “walks around like he isn’t the problem”, that he talked like a little kid when informed of the benching, and that he’s losing the locker room. The on-field play isn’t much better, even though he did get let down on multiple occasions Sunday, whether it be the receivers or protection up front.
Still, in regards to play on the field, it’s been fine to deal with because the Jets were winning with him, or perhaps in spite of him. But, as soon as the winning stopped, and the defense gave the New York Jets offense opportunities to win the game, things started creeping out of the woodwork.
Wilson’s play hasn’t been all bad since entering the league in 2021. His game against the Buccaneers late last year was a great one. He played within the pocket, making accurate throws on time, showing off the arm strength, velocity, and placement consistently, those same flashes that earned him a chance to be a high draft pick.
But this season, the mechanics look rough, he’s trying to play with no synchronicity in his arm and footwork, and he’s bailing clean pockets in favor of making off-script throws. As mentioned above, not everything is on him, but he has to shoulder a big part of it.
Everyone is quick to point out that Zach Wilson is done as the New York Jets starter, and while that could be possible, sometimes a reset is what’s necessary for a player to grow. If Wilson takes a few games to understand what needs to happen going forward, and he comes back with a better attitude and a better feel for what needs to improve, great. If not, well then a problem exists.
For the sake of this, let’s roll with the idea that Wilson doesn’t right the ship. The Jets are in a contending window. The defense is humming. They have a good cupboard of skill position talent. Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker will return in 2023. Shore up the offensive line, and we’re off.
But hold up, quarterback is still the issue. So, where do the New York Jets go from here? This offseason could present a number of options. Derek Carr could be let go. The Packers might move on from Aaron Rodgers. If the Trey Lance era is to begin, Jimmy Garoppolo probably won’t stick around.
From a cost perspective, Garoppolo might be the best short-term investment while they wait for a chance to get a franchise quarterback. He already has familiarity with Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Rodgers could elevate the team more, but he’ll have a contract that will make navigating other extensions down the road very difficult.
If the New York Jets do choose Garoppolo, that doesn’t mean they should sit on the idea of getting the quarterback only when necessary. They should keep swinging in the NFL Draft, whether it be in the middle rounds or the first round should opportunity arise. General manager Joe Douglas has done a great job in the draft, save the quarterback position. He needs to be as aggressive as possible to get the next guy.
Maybe Zach Wilson can turn it around for the New York Jets. We’re often quick to be dismissive of quarterbacks, especially in the first couple seasons. For all the hate he’s gotten, Daniel Jones is doing well in 2022. Justin Fields has finally flipped a switch. Both Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts continue to make strides. But, if not, Douglas, Saleh, and the Jets need to be aggressive finding the next guy. This is one of the more well-rounded teams the Jets have had in recent memory. They can’t squander it.