It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to find out how Robert Saleh actually feels about Zach Wilson. After Aaron Rodgers suffered an Achilles injury just four snaps into his New York Jets career, the third-year head coach looked as if someone had snatched his soul. He had a familiar look on his face Monday night, as Wilson struggled throughout a 27-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Now, it’s not all on Wilson. But he has been one of the worst quarterbacks since entering the league in 2021 as the No. 2 overall pick out of BYU. Wilson is also statistically one of the worst starting QBs in the history of the league. So the common denominator here for New York’s inability to score is the 24-year-old quarterback who can’t seem to get out of his own way.
Wilson has improved from the season before. If you can’t admit that, well I don’t know what to tell you. But he hasn’t improved enough to the point where he is a playable option.
The Jets made a calculated risk, that 39-year-old Rodgers, who hadn’t missed a game in five years, would miss maybe one to two games at the most. You could live with Wilson for two games, especially with that defense.
So, you can’t fault the team or general manager Joe Douglas there. Or you could, but finding a veteran quarterback who’d want to backup Rodgers for a fraction of the price would be a tall task. Where you can fault them is after Rodgers went down, they waited a few weeks until bringing in a veteran quarterback—Trevor Siemian— one they’ve refused to activate from the practice squad, despite Wilson giving them every opportunity.
And as Sunday’s theatrics proved, New York could have very easily traded a late-round draft choice for someone like Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs scored more touchdowns for his new team—the Minnesota Vikings—in a 31-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons, than Wilson has in his past three games.
So by this point, we know how Saleh feels about Wilson. If you want to believe everything he tells the media, that’s on you. His style as a coach is to never, ever throw a player under the bus, no matter how much fans may want him to. His quote about Monday night not being Wilson’s worst performance ever is very telling.
The bar is in hell, and Saleh sounds like a man with no choice. That’s been a thought from the Jets fanbase since last season, where it took a locker room mutiny and Wilson refused to take the blame for his performance for Gang Green to bench the young gunslinger in favor of Mike White.
According to Opta Stats on Twitter/X, the Jets are the only NFL team in the Super Bowl era to have their defense collect five-plus sacks, hold the opponent to under 200 yards, and not allow any 25-plus yards play, and yet lose the game by 20 points or more.
And with that, Saleh, who has a weekly appearance on The Michael Kay Show, had his feet held to the fire. The Jets’ head coach was painted into a corner by Kay, who explained to Saleh that he’s had different offensive coordinators—Mike LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett—and different weapons around him, and the constant is Wilson.
— Optimistic Jets (@OptimisticJets) November 7, 2023
“Last year he couldn’t start over Mike White,” Kay said. “First of all, this shouldn’t be litigated now, I never understood with a 39-year-old quarterback, why a guy who couldn’t start last year was the first line of defense if he went down. You got Trevor Siemian in your building. Why not give him a try?”
Saleh said earlier Tuesday that Siemian was not an option to start, according to The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt.
“No, I gotcha,” Saleh told Kay. “Again, a fair question. You know, like I said…You got me. I’m gonna plead the fifth all on this one in terms of, I kind of explained it, respectively, obviously.”
“But these are valid questions and I know from a passionate fan, from fans who are passionate all having the same questions, I respect it greatly. But, I have to look at it from a global standpoint and just see where we are, and look at the All-22 the best I can, and make the decisions as best as possible.”
Co-host Don La Greca pressed Saleh, saying he decided to bench Wilson in favor of White last year, so how is this any different? Are you to tell him that nothing would change if Siemian or Tim Boyle were in this situation?
“Hypothetically, that’s more hypothetical,” Saleh said. “I will say this, last year’s decision, with respect to last year’s decision, came because of a loss in confidence that I don’t think I had ever seen in a quarterback before. Things that people didn’t see, even though you saw it on the football field on gameday, it was even louder off the field with regards to practices and meetings and all that. And so, it was more of an effort to try to save him and his confidence because I felt like every time I put him out there, it was gonna get worse.”
After Saleh’s call, La Greca had a theory as to why the Jets are sticking with Wilson, and you may want to listen to this.
LISTEN HERE ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/ZglCmdbHdy
— 98.7FM ESPN New York (@ESPNNY98_7FM) November 7, 2023
“And the thing that I found in his answers when getting about the quarterback…We’ve never seen him at a loss for words, Michael. There’s a guy that just came out of a press conference. And, he was legitimately stammering in defense of his quarterback, and yet he’s still the quarterback. When last year, whether it was confidence, whether he lost the room, whatever, you had no problem pulling the plug. Why not now?”
“The only thing I can think of, Michael, is, that was a man trying to answer a question that’s for somebody else. I feel like somebody is telling him, ‘You got to leave Wilson in.’ I don’t know if it’s Woody [Johnson], I don’t know if it’s Joe Douglas, but he looks like the kind of guy, his ass is on the line, ’cause he’ll lose his job before Joe Douglas does.”
“He’s not in any kind of position to bench somebody if the rest of the organization is against it. I belive in his heart, he would make the change in a second. I don’t believe he’s allowed to. I haven’t heard that from anybody. I just a get sense from hearing him and seeing how he’s handled it in the past, Michael, with his job on the line, it feels like it’s not his call.”
Why would Saleh stick with Wilson otherwise? It’s certainly an interesting theory from La Greca, and one that this Jets fan tends to agree with. On Jets Twitter/X, many have come to the conclusion that this may be an ownership issue. While we have no factual basis for thinking so, Saleh’s body language tells you everything you need to know about how he feels about the young man as a player, not as a person.
That issue will only be further compounded if the Jets lose to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 10. If they don’t make a change then, you may as well have your answer.