After a challenging second year in the league, Zach Wilson’s future with the New York Jets is still to be determined.
What is clear is on Thursday during his press conference with the media, Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said Wilson could have benefitted from learning from a veteran and sitting during his rookie season.
“In hindsight, it probably would’ve benefited just to sit back and learn a little bit and watch a veteran do it and just kind of grow in this league,” LaFleur said.
“Kind of in the back seat watching, and getting better in practice, and getting better through scout team, and all that, but again, that wasn’t the course that we went, and from here we got to pick it up, we got to pick up the straps, and we got to get back to work.”
LaFleur’s comments come a day after Jets coach Robert Saleh said the Jets “through hell or high water” would figure out how to get Wilson to live up to his potential.
Wilson has shown flashes throughout his two seasons in the league after being the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft but hasn’t consistently played well during his 22 starts in the NFL. In that time, Wilson has thrown for 4,022 yards, 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
As a rookie in 2021, the Jets just anointed Wilson the starter without any quarterback competition. Even Trevor Lawrence, who was picked ahead of Wilson in the same draft, had to compete with Gardner Minshew before he beat him out and Minshew was traded to the Eagles.
Wilson suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee during the preseason, as 2022 was supposed to be a breakout season for the former BYU star. After he missed the first three games of the season, Wilson showed some of the same inconsistencies he displayed as a rookie, as he missed open receivers regularly and turned the ball over as he didn’t have a grasp of the Jets offense.
Following a 10-3 loss to the Patriots in November, Wilson was benched for Mike White, who started the next three games before he suffered fractured ribs in a December loss against the Bills. Wilson returned as the Jets starter after White missed two games, but he failed to hold on to the starting job as he was benched for Chris Streveler in the third quarter of the loss against the Jaguars.
The Jets will almost be certainly in the market for a veteran quarterback this offseason as 2023 will be a critical year for Saleh, LaFleur and general manager Joe Douglas. Gang Green began December 7-4 before losing its next five games to be eliminated from postseason contention last week against the Seahawks.
Whether Wilson will be on the Jets roster remains a mystery. He is scheduled to make over $9.3 million in guarantees in the final two years of his contract. Both White and Joe Flacco, who started in the Jets first three games in 2022, will be unrestricted free agents at the season’s end.
“There’s still development to be had,” LaFleur said. “Through two years, yeah, we haven’t done our job with him, right? I mean any player at any position that isn’t producing to the level that they’re capable of, as a coach, you failed them and that’s how I’ve always looked at that, and there’s a two-way street with it.
“The players have to meet you in the middle with it, but you want all these guys to play at their absolute best and we all know that Zach, he hasn’t played at his absolute best. He’s shown spurts, he’s shown the talent, but it’s like Saleh said yesterday, “through hell or high water,” we’re going to work with him, and we’re going to work with any of these guys. If they’re on this roster, we’re going to work with them period and it’s not going to stop.”