New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson drew the start on Thursday Night Football against the Jacksonville Jaguars with Mike White out. It didn’t take long before the friendly environment at a rain-soaked MetLife Stadium turned hostile on the young player.
Less than three years after fans celebrated New York drafting BYU’s gunslinger with the No. 2 pick, passing on the likes of Justin Fields, Ja’Marr Chase and Micah Parsons, the fans could only watch as Wilson took the field in a pivotal game for the Jets.
- Zach Wilson first-half stats (Week 16): 7-of-14, 78 pass yards, 1 INT, 37.2 QB rating
He immediately faced boo birds on his second drive, with the home crowd voicing its strong displeasure for the former No. 2 overall pick staying in the game. With each subsequent incompletion and stalled drive, the jeers grew more intense.
Things didn’t get any better. While Wilson tried his best to tune out the overwhelming sounds of fans dressed in green and black booing his presence on the field, his play never stopped it. Wilson needed 14 attempts to reach 62 net passing yards and he took two sacks.
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New York got the football back with 24 seconds left at the 34-yard line, with head coach Robert Saleh hoping Wilson could salvage something for the offense. As more fans turned against the entire offense, Wilson threw an interception to close out the second quarter and the crowd unleashed its strong avalanche of boos thus far.
The stage and opponent only make this performance more painful for the Jets. If not for a 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 20, 2020, New York would have held the No. 1 pick. It would’ve meant selecting Trevor Lawrence, who is now on the other side thriving and showing signs of becoming an MVP-caliber quarterback.
Meanwhile, one of the best NFL defenses and a solid supporting cast led by rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson is being wasted. The Jets are longing for White to return and he only played like a serviceable fill-in quarterback before injuring his ribs.
- Zach Wilson stats (2022): 1,596 pass ayrds, 6-6 TD-INT, 42.4 QBR, 54.9% completion rate
While Saleh has always found ways to praise Wilson in the past, even in the face of evidence that he is trending toward NFL Draft bust status, it’s hard to imagine the Jets’ head coach can find any positives from this game. Evidently, both sides desperately need a change in 2023 and the opportunity to do it can’t come soon enough.