Zach Wilson now has a chance to validate Gates’ decision on the career path stage
If all of this works out, Zach Wilson will look back on the past three weeks as the best thing that has happened to him since being ranked second overall by the Jets in 2021.
If all this works out, Wilson will be back behind the center as a humbler and more mature player than he was three weeks ago.
If all of this works out, Wilson will turn into the franchise quarterback the Jets believed they were when they used that prized first-round pick.
If all this works out, Wilson will lead the 7-6 Jets to victory over the Lions on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, then another win over the Jaguars at home on Thursday, and the Jets may be another win away from their first playoff game. Since the 2010 season.
If all this works out, the button that Jets coach Robert Salih pushed so boldly when he fired Wilson on Nov. 23 could be seen as the most important coaching decision the NFL has made this season.
This, of course, didn’t work out for Mike “Effing” White, who certainly regrets his bad luck at the moment, and who was ruled out on Friday by doctors who wouldn’t let him play due to potential damage to broken ribs. Last Sunday suffered in the Bills.
Sports can be a rough, tough place – a place where only the now matters. And now, Wilson is back as the Jets’ starting quarterback until further notice.
Now we’ll see if this is the “reset” Saleh talked about when Wilson lifted the bench.
Now we see if Wilson, whose weak, inconsistent play and polarizing response to a postgame question after the Jets’ Nov. 20 loss in New England were valid reasons for his bench, has been humbled and matured by the experience.
On Friday inside the Jets locker room, I had a hard time wiping the smile off Wilson’s face when he talked about finding out he was back in the starting lineup.
“Excited,” Wilson said of hearing the news. “Wonderful opportunity.”
How ready is he after not wearing a uniform on the active list for the past two matches?
“I’m ready to go,” Wilson vowed. “I feel like in the last three weeks I’ve been just trying to keep getting better and better and taking each day with the mentality of being like I’m playing.”
Wilson said all the right things on Friday, and did his best to express how much he wanted to do well for his teammates. He was doing everything he could to distance himself from that fateful comment he made when asked after a 10-3 loss to the Patriots if he felt he owed an apology to the defense and answered “no” twice.
Asked Friday if, because of where he’s been in the past two weeks, he’s been relegated to serving as the starting quarterback on the scouting team in practice, he worries his margin for error is slimmer.
“Well, I mean the worst has already happened, right to me personally?” said Wilson, pointing to his seat.
The answer to that question, if Wilson is not better for his bench and is benched again in the end he will never play for the Jets again, would be “No”.
Wilson talked about “just finding fun in football” to himself again. He spoke of a ‘step back’ reinforcing his ‘gratitude’ towards football ‘and what that brings me in my life.’
Saleh described it as “a great opportunity for Zach to get back on track and do what we know he’s capable of doing.”
With White limited in practice this week, Saleh said Wilson “got the vast majority of first-team reps, so, we feel very comfortable about Zach’s readiness as a first-choice quarterback”.
There’s been a lot of talk on sports radio since Wilson’s sitting out—from people who’ve never been in a Jets locker room—that Wilson’s teammates hate him. this is not true.
Were there teammates on defense whose noses were bent when they first heard Wilson’s comments after New England’s loss, comments that reeked of a lack of accountability and self-awareness?
Sure, there was.
But after many conversations with his teammates in the aftermath of his sit-down, the consensus among them was that this was the 22-year-old in the spotlight who made a mistake.
“I think our men trust him,” Saleh said. “I know as a coaching staff we trust him, and I know the team trusts him. I mean, he played good football for us and we went 5-2 with him at quarterback. We have all the confidence in him, but he really has to focus on Sunday and Sunday alone,” he said.
If Wilson does that, then all of this has an opportunity to work with him.
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