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Why the New York Jets need to move on from Zach Wilson in 2023

New York Jets, Zach Wilson
Danielle Parhizkaran / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Jets selected quarterback Zach Wilson with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, viewing him as the next face of the franchise who could save the team. Less than three years later, it’s time for New York to acknowledge its mistake.

Admitting to taking a draft bust isn’t easy, it often puts a general manager on the hot seat. However, the Jets already showed signs of acknowledging they wasted a golden opportunity by benching Wilson earlier this season.

Related: New York Jets schedule

Fortunately for the general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh, they’ve proven themselves enough outside of drafting Wilson to keep their jobs. The Jets have taken flight in 2022, but Wilson is the proverbial anchor preventing this team from reaching its highest potential.

While the franchise might not publicly acknowledge that Wilson’s could be in doubt, it must be under consideration by the front office. Moving on from the No. 2 pick three years after his introductory press conference would be acknowledging an organizational failure, but not doing it would be more costly for the franchise and send a damaging message to the locker room and fans.

Here is why the Jets need to move on from Wilson this offseason.

New York Jets’ backup QBs prove the system isn’t the problem

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

So often when a first-round quarterback struggles, the environment is blamed for his failures. It’s often a fair reason because coaching, offensive line and pass-catchers all help shape how successful a young passer is early in their careers.

Related: NFL QB rankings

It proved to be the excuse for Wilson after an awful rookie season. Performing as one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL, plenty cited the difficult transition from BYU to the NFL and blamed the Jets’ system for not putting Wilson in the best position fur success.

So, New York devoted significant resources this offseason to surround Wilson with a better supporting cast. It spent the 10th pick on wide receiver Garrett Wilson and the 36th overall selection on running back Breece Hall. Meanwhile, the Jets devoted nearly $40 million at signing to tight ends Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah and guard Laken Tomlinson.

It didn’t make a difference. The Jets had one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL and Wilson’s penchant for turnovers and sacks proved costly. Finally, only after the locker room expressed its frustrations, Saleh made a quarterback change. Just as we saw in 2021, Joe Flacco and Mike White outperformed Wilson in an identical offense with the same offensive line and weaponry.

NY Jets QBsQB RatingYPAComp.TD% – INT%Pass YPGSack %
Mike White80.47.364.4%3.1% – 3.8%272.13.3
Joe Flacco84.66.259.5%4% – 1.5%206.75.7
Zach Wilson71.86.555.4%2.5% – 2.8%187.29.5
New York Jets statistics via Pro Football Reference

The Jets have seen three different quarterbacks, all with a variety of pedigrees, receive multiple starts. None of the starters have proven they deserve to be the long-term quarterback, but Flacco and White have at least not been detrimental to the team’s success.

It would be one thing if the relative success of his peers was the only argument against Wilson. Unfortunately for New York, there are other reasons to move on from him this spring.

Zach Wilson’s lack of progression erases incentive to keep him

Syndication: The Record
Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Look at Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Neither player left anyone feeling especially positive about the 2021 NFL Draft quarterback class after the first season. In their second seasons, though, we’re seeing flashes that demonstrate they can be the center of an offense and faces of a franchise.

Fields didn’t even have the benefit of the Chicago Bears upgrading his supporting cast. Chicago’s highest pick on offense – wide receiver Velus Jones (71st overall) – is nothing more than a returner with Byron Pringle and Lucas Patrick its biggest free-agent signings.

Despite that, Fields has shown tremendous improvement in 2022 and the Bears have quickly become more comfortable putting their entire offense on his shoulders.

SplitsQBRComp.YPAPFF gradeTD % – INT %
Justin Fields (2021)26.458.9%6.964.22.6% – 3.7%
Justin Fields (2022)56.260.2%7.571.75.5% – 3.6%

After ranking 37th among quarterbacks in passer rating under pressure (46.2) as a rookie, Fields now has a 67.4 passer rating vs pressure this season. He is handling the blitz better and his accuracy is making strides, providing the Bears’ front office with the confidence to build around him in 2023.

Meanwhile, Lawrence is playing like a top-10 quarterback after some wondered if he was an overhyped prospect following his rookie season.

SplitsQBRComp.YPAPFF gradeTD % – INT %
Trevor Lawrence (’21)33.559.6%6.059.62% – 2.8%
Trevor Lawrence (’22)56.866% – 1.4%

The Jacksonville Jaguars brought in Doug Pederson and overhauled their receiving corps with Christian Kirk and Zay Jones. However, no one would argue right now that Lawrence even has a receiver on par with Garrett Wilson.

Despite that, Lawrence’s QB rating vs pressure increased dramatically (43.2 to 65) and his On-Target Rate has climbed significantly (71.3% to 76.7%).

The same can’t really be said regarding Wilson. While there have been minor incremental improvements in some areas, as a whole he remains one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL

SplitsQBRComp.YPAPFF gradeTD % – INT %
Zach Wilson (’21)28.255.6% – 2.9%
Zach Wilson (’22)42.454.9%7.1502.7% – 2.7%
Zach Wilson statistics via PFF and PFR

After posting a 48.6 QB rating with a 29.3% completion rate vs pressure as a rookie, Wilson went into Thursday Night Football with a league-worst 22.5 QB rating vs pressure and a 1-5 TD-INT ratio.

Related: New York Jets QB Zach Wilson had yips before 2022 season

We’ve seen 21 NFL starts from Wilson with more than 600 pass attempts, not including all of his first-team reps in practice that drew poor reviews. It would be one thing if he showed substantial flashes of being a starting-caliber quarterback, but that hasn’t happened and the team is worse with him on the field.

The Jets have an obligation to the locker room and fans to field the best team possible. Continuing to trot Wilson out as the future franchise quarterback and someone the team wants to build around sends a message to players that the organization will ignore ample evidence of their own mistakes in an effort to save face.

When the 2023 offseason rolls around, the Jets need to move on from Wilson and do whatever it takes to improve at quarterback. Frankly, Wilson’s level of play is so low that it won’t be that difficult to find a significant upgrade via free agency or trade.

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