FLORHAM PARK, NJ — On the day he lost his starting job in a dramatic quarterback concussion, Zach Wilson tried to win back his New York Jets teammates with an apology.
Amid fierce criticism from fans and media, Wilson spoke to the entire team on Wednesday and admitted he screwed up Sunday’s post-game press conference – the one in which he refused to take responsibility for his poor performance in a loss to the New England Patriots to take over.
“I had a queasy feeling in my stomach,” he said, alluding to the uproar he was causing.
That play, combined with what coach Robert Saleh called a deterioration in fundamental fundamentals, resulted in Wilson’s bench press. Mike White starts 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, didn’t question Saleh’s decision. Speaking to the team, he expressed his support for White but also vowed to win his job back, the players said. He wanted to clear the air with teammates, some of whom were upset by his post-game comments, sources said.
“That was the only thing on my mind for the last few days,” Wilson said. “I wanted to have the opportunity to talk to these guys and really do it from the heart.”
Wilson’s bench press has been a major lynchpin for an organization that had aligned just about everything around him since he finished second overall in 2021. It raises questions about the future of the team’s quarterback position, a proposition the Jets never thought 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. Saleh has “firm intentions” to play Wilson again this season and insists the Jets “have not wavered in our belief that he will be the future of the franchise.” Saleh described the downgrade as a temporary reset.
“Is it a small step back? Absolutely,” Saleh said. “But do I think it will be a big leap forward if he gets a chance to reset? Absolutely. So that’s not a nail in his coffin. That’s not it. That doesn’t come close. But I believe it will be a rejuvenated, renewed young man in the end.” Understandably, Wilson wasn’t happy with the decision, and Saleh described his reaction as, “Why me? Why now? I want to play.”
“It’s tough, man. It’s never fun,” Wilson told reporters. “The first thing that went through my mind was I have to go to work, I have to get better.” The news came as no surprise.
“You know what? I wouldn’t say [I was] I’m obviously surprised because I didn’t do my job,” he said. “Obviously I don’t want to agree with the decision and everything, but the bottom line is I have to play better.”
Saleh declined to provide a timeline for Wilson’s return, saying he will do it “on a day-to-day basis.” This, of course, opens the door to possible quarterback controversy if White succeeds.
The Jets (6-4) have entered a win-now mode in hopes of ending their 11-year playoff drought. They believe their defense is championship-level, and they don’t want to waste that opportunity on unpredictable quarterback play.
They’re 5-2 since Wilson returned from last season’s knee injury, but his game has been wildly inconsistent – a two-year trend. With an overall QBR of 37.6, he ranks 31st out of 33 qualified passers over the past two seasons. He hit rock bottom with a career-low 77 passing yards in Sunday’s 10-3 loss to the Patriots.
Wilson was called out by coaches at Monday’s team briefing, sources said, leading some to believe his fall was inevitable. Saleh claimed Wilson’s post-game comments were not a factor in his decision. Wilson said he had no idea he’d caused a stir until his dad answered the phone and asked, “Bro, what are you doing?”
“It’s deserved,” Wilson said of the nationwide criticism. “The way I handled the situation wasn’t right. I have to be a better footballer and then I have to be a better leader for these guys. I have an opportunity here to turn the tide as a player.” and a leader.”
Cornerback DJ Reed appreciated Wilson’s apology.
“Everything he said came from the heart,” he said. “It was very real and everyone respected it.”
“The way I handled the situation wasn’t right. I have to be a better footballer and then I have to be a better leader for these guys. I have an opportunity here to turn the tide 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 rest of the season provided he doesn’t get injured. What has changed?
“There are some fundamental things that are really out of whack for him,” Saleh said. “This is just an opportunity for him to sit back, focus on those things and find a way to reconnect with all the different things that we fell in love with during the design process. I have a feeling he will be able to do that. “
Saleh said that there are “just a few things in his game right now … that will only get worse if we just keep throwing him out.” The team have developed a practice schedule that allows them to focus on those fundamentals . Saleh said the issues are “fixable.”
Statistically, Wilson has historically been bad at throwing under pressure. He tends to look at the pass rush rather than downfield, which often leads to backfoot throws. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur acknowledged that footwork was an issue.
“I have to find a way to get him to play a fundamental sound in the bottom half,” LaFleur said.
White is hardly a sure thing; He has only three career starts.
After Wilson sustained a knee injury last season, White nearly achieved cult hero status in his first career start, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns to upset the Cincinnati Bengals. The former Dallas Cowboys draft pick had two more starts — an incomplete game against the Indianapolis Colts (he left the team with an injury) and a four-interception clunker against the Buffalo Bills.
White actually started this season as the No. 3 quarterback behind Wilson and Flacco. The Jets changed the depth chart in Week 8, promoting White to QB2 – a move that left some on the team scratching their heads. Saleh said it was “to give him an opportunity to prepare as if he were the next man”.
And now he is.
“Just excited at first,” White said of his reaction to the promotion. “That’s exactly what every player wants in this locker room, 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 take care of the team first.”
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/35094179/benched-qb-zach-wilson-apologizes-jets-postgame-comments Benched QB Zach Wilson apologizes to Jets for postgame comments