FLORHAM PARK, NJ — On the day he lost his starting job in a dramatic quarterback reshuffle, Zach Wilson tried to win back his New York Jets teammates with an apology.
Under heavy criticism from fans and the media, Wilson addressed the entire team on Wednesday, admitting he botched Sunday’s post-match press conference – the one in which he refused to take responsibility. responsibility for his poor performance in a loss to the New England Patriots.
“I had a sick feeling in my stomach,” he said.
That game, combined with what coach Robert Saleh called a deterioration in basic fundamentals, led to Wilson’s bench. Mike White will start Sunday against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. Joe Flacco will be the No. 2 quarterback; Wilson will be inactive.
Wilson, acknowledging his poor play and did not question Saleh’s decision. Speaking to the team, he expressed his support for White but also promised to get his job back, the players said. He wanted to clear things up with his teammates, some of whom were upset with his post-match comments, sources said.
“It was the only thing I could think of for the last few days,” Wilson said. “I wanted the opportunity to talk to these guys and really do it from the heart.”
Wilson’s bench has been an important pivot for an organization that had organized almost everything around him since drafting him second overall in 2021. That raises questions about the future of their quarterback position. , a proposition the Jets never thought they would have to face so soon.
Explaining the decision, Saleh said Wilson’s fundamentals were “really out of whack” and he needed time to refocus. He has “every intention” of playing Wilson again this season, insisting they “have not wavered in our belief that he will be the future of the franchise”. Saleh described the demotion as a temporary reset.
“Is this a small step back? Absolutely,” Saleh said. “But do I think it’s going to be a big leap forward when he gets the chance to reset? Absolutely. So it’s not putting a nail in his coffin. It’s not that. This is not close to that. But I believe that in the end, he will be a rejuvenated and renewed young man.” Naturally, Wilson wasn’t happy with the decision, with Saleh describing his reaction as follows: “Why me? Why now? I want to play.”
“It’s tough, man. It’s never fun,” Wilson told reporters. “The first thing that came to my mind was that I have to put in the work, I have to improve.” It wasn’t a shock.
“You know what? I wouldn’t say (I was) necessarily surprised because I didn’t do my job,” he said. “Of course I would like to disagree with the decision and everything, but it comes down to me having to play better.”
Saleh declined to set a timetable for Wilson’s return, saying he would take it “day by day”. This, of course, opens the door to potential quarterback controversy if White gets his way.
The Jets (6-4), hoping to end their 11-year playoff drought, are in winning mode now. They believe their defense is championship-caliber and they don’t want to waste that opportunity on erratic quarterback play.
They’re 5-2 since Wilson returned from a preseason knee injury, but his play has been wildly inconsistent – a two-year trend. With a total QBR of 37.6, he is ranked 31st out of 33 qualified passers over the past two seasons. He hit rock bottom with a low 77 passing yards in last Sunday’s 10-3 loss to the Patriots.
Wilson was called up by the coaches during Monday’s team meeting, sources said, leading some to believe his ousting was inevitable. Saleh claimed Wilson’s post-match comments were not a factor in his decision. Wilson said he had no idea he had caused a stir until his dad contacted him on the phone and asked, “Bro, what are you doing?”
“It’s deserved,” Wilson said of the nationwide reviews. “The way I handled the situation was not good. I have to be a better football player and then I have to be a better leader for these guys. I have the opportunity to turn the page here in as a player and a leader.”
Cornerback DJ Reed appreciated Wilson’s apology.
“Everything he said comes from the heart,” he said. “It was very authentic and everyone respected it.”
“The way I handled the situation was not good. I have to be a better football player and then I have to be a better leader for these guys. I have the opportunity to turn the page here in as a player and a leader.”
Just three weeks ago, Wilson received a strong vote of confidence from Saleh, who said Wilson would start for the remainder of the season barring injury. What changed?
“There are fundamental things that have really gone haywire for him,” Saleh said. “It’s just an opportunity for him to sit down and focus on those things and find a way to reconnect with all the different things that we fell in love with during the draft process. It’s something that I have a feeling he can do it.”
Saleh said there were “just a few things in his game right now…that will continue to deteriorate if we keep throwing him out there.” They have designed a training plan that will allow him to focus on these fundamentals. Saleh said the issues are “fixable”.
Statistically, Wilson is historically bad at throwing under pressure. He tends to watch the pass instead of rushing down, which often results in his back foot being thrown away. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has acknowledged that footwork is an issue.
“I have to find a way to make him basically play sound in the lower half,” LaFleur said.
White is not a sure thing; he has only three career starts.
While Wilson was nursing a knee injury last season, White achieved near-cult hero status in his first career start, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns as he upset the Cincinnati Bengals. The former Dallas Cowboys draft pick had two more starts — an incomplete game against the Indianapolis Colts (he left with an injury) and a four-steel clunker against the Buffalo Bills.
White actually started this season as the No. 3 quarterback, behind Wilson and Flacco. They changed the depth chart in Week 8, promoting White to QB2 – a change that left some team members scratching their heads. Saleh said it was to “give him the opportunity to prepare as if he were the next man.”
And now he is.
“At first, just excited,” White said of his reaction to the promotion. “That’s exactly what every player in this dressing room wants, a chance to compete and prove themselves. But more importantly, it’s just a chance to be a good teammate and help the team and to care about the team first.”