If Zach Wilson turns in a far-from-fabulous performance Sunday against Pittsburgh, in his first start of the season, Robert Saleh will preach patience for the second-year quarterback.
The real question is will the media display its usual propensity for ledge-jumping, having no tolerance for yet another highly touted Jets quarterback who doesn’t quickly live up to the hype? Especially a cat like Wilson, who, with much la-di-da, was selected by the Jets with the second overall pick in the 2021 Draft.
If the Jets lose to a highly beatable Steelers team, and Wilson has a poor passing day with a couple of interceptions (throwing one touchdown pass in garbage time) it won’t take long to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Will the media follow Saleh’s Jetsian lead and show some restraint in their critiques?
The first signal will come from the tone and substance of the questions boss scribes ask both Saleh and Wilson during their postgame interview sessions in Pittsburgh. Prior to that, when SNY’s panel of Jets analysts (Bart Scott, Willie Colon, Connor Hughes) issue their takes on Wilson’s sub-par performance, they will provide evidence of the kind of pressure, and expectations, the quarterback will face going into Week 5 against Miami. Scott is the key here. Even though he is allied with the Jets, he never holds back.
If Scott goes off on Wilson, his negative analysis will trickle down to other Gasbags. Like ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, a noted Jets fan. While Scott’s words would reinforce any negative vibes delivered by Greenberg, this man needs no tutor when it comes to ripping a Jets quarterback not living up to team-manufactured expectations. Greenberg and Scott have the forum to double-team Wilson on “Get Up.” Greenberg can immediately follow up the Jets bashing for two hours on his own ESPN Radio show.
About the same time Greenberg is expanding on his Wilson soliloquy, Joe Benigno will be torching Wilson during his weekly appearance on WFAN’s marathon midday show. This is the same show where an unchallenged Benigno implored Saleh to go with Mike White after the Joe Flacco-quarterback Jets lost the opener to Baltimore. One week later, Benigno, in classic flip-flop mode, returned to FAN and kissed Flacco’s tuchis after the veteran QB led the Jets to a 31-30 win over Cleveland.
So, shortly after the Steelers tilt, all interested parties will know, (at least in the minds of the media, and droids on social media) which direction the Wilson scenario is headed. Chances are, should he turn in a stinker, Wilson will be wrapped in a negative cocoon. Yet, in this ever-changing Free World, where the unwashed masses are searching for someone to believe in, the negative bent could be replaced with a more optimistic approach. Green and White rabble-rousers might actually identify some bright spots in Zach Wilson’s dark day.
But don’t hold your breath.
LIVING UP TO THE MOMENT? YES
Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network suits are already talking about producing an Aaron Judge Yankeeography. Will Judge be a willing participant in such a production? And if Judge leaves the Bombers, will the project remain in cold storage after he bolts the Bronx?
That would be sad. YES has accumulated so much Judge material it would be a shame if it wasn’t pulled together into a full-length documentary. What YES produced Wednesday night, after Judge hit No. 61, was high-quality and moving. After Michael Kay made the historic call, the cameras took over.
YES struck gold.
The reaction shots provided evidence that the production team knew it had added time (the game was stopped) and wisely slow-played it. So, viewers got multiple majestic replays of Judge’s missile into the Jays’ bullpen, the relieved reaction of Judge’s mom Patty and her hugging it out with Roger Maris Jr. Judge, standing near the dugout with helmet over heart was another classic shot. And there was the Yankees’ reaction as they watched the ball going out. And a one-of-a-kind replay of Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in a paper cup toast.
There was more. It was all accomplished on the fly. On the line was the chronicling of baseball history. For Judge, it was a great moment. A moment YES’ crew more than lived up to.
Michael Kay continues to confuse.
During his ESPN-98.7 afternoon drive radio program, which is simulcast on YES, Kay said he will “never” question how someone spends their money. Yet in a matter of seconds, he questioned why Mets fans had not been showing up at Citi Field in greater numbers as the Mets battled for the NL East lead.
Sure sounded like he was chiding fans for not spending whatever is left of their dwindling disposable income on Mets’ tickets. Perhaps Kay should factor in the anemic economy, and its inflationary component, while making his gratuitous financial assessments.
(NOT) SPEAKING OF KYRIE
Thoughts of time healing the rift between Kyrie Irving and Stephen A. Smith, and the Nets superstar philosopher eventually making an appearance on “First Take,” disappeared last week.
Irving continued taking issue with Smith for previously characterizing him as a malingerer. For the record, SAS didn’t give a damn. Smith: ”Kyrie and I will probably not speak again in life.” Man, that’s a long time.
“I’m not losing a minute of sleep over it,” SAS said on FT. Then, Smith actually revealed the secret to his success. And why he can live without Irving.
”I don’t have to talk to you,” SAS said. “I get paid to talk about you.”
AROUND THE DIAL
The Remote Warrior, YES’ Paul O’Neill, said Aaron Judge has sometimes not “been able” to take batting practice. Considering O’Neill is not at the ballpark (he does the games from his Ohio home) how would he even know? … ESPN’s Robert Griffin III should stop whining. In a Monday night pregame interview with Saquon Barkley, RGIII threw a pity party for the Giants running back. RGIII disparaged all the “haters” who dared cast aspersions on Barkley. Very lame. … Russ Salzberg is bringing his “Get a Load of This” podcast to the YES app. Since the app has a video component, Salzy will likely do a ‘cast while taking his famous sweaters out of mothballs. … Even the NFL-Crazy Manning Brothers, on their MNF soiree, thought Jerry Jones, and the folks in his Giants Stadium suite, overreacted when they exchanged kisses after the Cowboys scored. Unfortunately, Jones glommed plenty of airtime (he was also interviewed during the pregame show) during Cowboys-Giants. ESPN suits know where their NFL bread is buttered. … Most of MLB’s national TV partners (TBS, Fox, ESPN, MLBNetwork, Apple TV) dispatched crews to work Judge’s potential 60, 61 HR games. They all came up zippo. As things turned out, the two historic HR games aired — only on YES. … Listened carefully to ESPN’s new MNF broadcast team, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, and can safely report they sound exactly the same as they did on Fox. Amazing!
* * *
DUDE OF THE WEEK: BEN SIMMONS
Give the mercurial Nets alleged star credit. He sat down and gave in-depth, thoughtful answers to J.J. Redick’s popular podcast outlet. In early sessions, Simmons has also handled the media covering the team well. Simmons seems to understand what to do on the road back.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: BRANDON STALEY
For his questionable decision making. The Chargers coach allowed Justin Herbert, his struggling and ailing quarterback, to stay in the game (late fourth quarter) in a no-win situation. San Diego was down 28 points to Jacksonville. Staley made excuses, saying Herbert wanted to stay in the game
What Kayvon Thibodeaux said: “There’s 11 people for a reason. It’s a team sport for a reason.”
What Kayvon Thibodeaux meant to say: “Sorry, but I’m no one-man wrecking crew.”