After a rough outing against the New England Patriots on Sunday, New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson brushed off the notion that he and the Jets’ offense let their defense down during the 10-3 loss.
Now Wilson has to wonder if he will take the field along with that unit the next time the Jets play a game.
Meeting with the media on Monday afternoon, Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters that he was “not committed” to Wilson as the team’s starting quarterback in Week 12, when the Jets take on the Chicago Bears. Saleh told reporters that the Jets are “keeping everything on the table” when it comes to the quarterback position.
Saleh also addressed Wilson’s postgame comments. Against the Patriots on Sunday the Jets’ defense hold New England to just three points, stopped them on a critical fourth-down play, sacked Mac Jones six times, and held the Patriots’ rushing attack to under 100 yards. When you put up those kinds of defensive numbers, you tend to win the football game.
However, Wilson and the Jets’ offense struggled, and a lot of the discussion in the aftermath of the loss centered on the quarterback’s play. The second-year passer hit on just 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards, and after the game put the focus on the wind — and elsewhere — while deflecting blame from himself.
Wilson’s comments drew attention both outside the Jets’ locker room, and apparently inside it as well. Saleh addressed those comments when speaking with the media on Monday:
Robert Saleh says that Zach Wilson can be better with taking accountability #Jets— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) November 21, 2022
The head coach also addressed comments from rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who called out the team for a “sorry” effort:
Robert Saleh says he didn't have an issue with Garrett Wilson's post-game comments yesterday. Said Wilson was just telling the truth— Antwan V. Staley (@antwanstaley) November 21, 2022
The head coach indicated that he addressed the situation with Wilson, who was informed that his job is “up in the air,” and that the quarterback took the discussion “professionally:”
Robert Saleh says Zach Wilson was a “professional” and every player is made aware of their status for weekend.— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) November 21, 2022
Doesn’t commit to Mike White or Joe Flacco, if they elect to bench Zach Wilson. #Jets
In many ways, Saleh had no choice but to open the door to a quarterback change. While the Jets’ loss on Sunday dropped their playoff odds somewhat, this is still a talented team with one of the NFL’s best defenses. The head coach knows that the window is open for a playoff run, and that he runs the risk of losing the locker room — and the veterans on the roster — if he did not address an issue that holding the team back.
This goes beyond Wilson’s comments. Yes, leadership is a huge part of the quarterback position, and teams need their quarterback to accept the blame for offensive struggles, even when there are other issues at play. It is the ultimate “the buck stops with me” position in the sport, and for Wilson to dismiss the questions, or shift the blame to the weather, shows a lack of accountability that his teammates will see, and interpret how they see fit.
But the bigger issue is his play on the field. Wilson seems to have taken a step back this season, from his footwork in the pocket — even when clean but particularly when pressured — to his decision-making, and ball placement. He is missing easy throws, he is missing opportunities for big plays because his eyes and his feet are not in synch, and his play when pressured is perhaps the worst in the league. According to charting data from Pro Football Focus, Wilson has an Adjusted Completion Percentage of just 41.4% this season when pressured.
Placing him 38th out of 39 qualified passers.
The Jets have the potential to be a playoff team, but thanks to Sunday’s loss, if the postseason started today, they would be watching from home along with the rest of us. For New York, something has to change for them to avoid that fate.
And today, the head coach opened the door to that change coming at the quarterback position.