FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets aren’t considering a quarterback change — not this week, not for the rest of the season.
Zach Wilson received a strong vote of confidence Monday from coach Robert Saleh, who said he has “full faith” in the second-year quarterback despite three “backbreaking” interceptions in Sunday’s 22-17 loss to the New England Patriots.
Saleh said he’s planning to ride Wilson for the duration, barring injury. “Correct,” Saleh said. “He’s our quarterback.”
Wilson, drafted second overall in 2021, never has been benched despite plenty of rocky performances in 18 career starts. He’s 24th out of 31 qualified passers in Total QBR (41.8). After three straight games without a turnover, he imploded against the Patriots, who ended the Jets’ four-game winning streak.
Saleh tried to spin the positive, saying Wilson is one of the reasons the Jets are a surprising 5-3.
“Nobody had us at five wins at this point to start the season, and Zach is a big part of that,” he said.
“He’s gotten a lot better,” Saleh added. “We expect him to continue to get better. Do I expect it to all be clean? No, every quarterback has their days, but he’s our quarterback because we think he’s going to get better and he’s going to continue to prove why he was the No. 2 pick.”
Wilson has a maddening tendency to make mistakes when he’s under duress, trying to create something out of nothing. All three interceptions came on plays in which he was under pressure from a pass-rusher. He admitted after the game, “Sometimes you sit there and you wonder, ‘Why did I just do that?'”
Invoking a theme from last season, Saleh said Wilson must understand that “boring” can be good — meaning taking a checkdown or throwing the ball out of bounds.
“There’s that simple reminder: It’s OK to be bored, and just remember you have a bunch of guys in that locker room who are pretty good at football too and they’ve got your back,” he said.
Saleh said Wilson is “pressing,” but quickly backed off that word.
“I want to make sure I say this right: He’s a young man that wants to prove his worth,” the coach said. “To be honest with you, you can prove your worth by just executing and doing your job to the best of your ability.”
Wilson has completed only 54.9% of his passes, with three touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s averaging only 210 yards per game, which got a boost from his career-best 355 yards against the Patriots. In three of the four wins, he essentially was a game manager, relying on the running game and defense.
Saleh might have unwittingly sparked a potential controversy by elevating Mike White to the No. 2 job before Sunday’s game, demoting Joe Flacco to No. 3. The move is permanent, Saleh said, explaining that “we need to know what we have in Mike.”
White will get more practice reps as the second-stringer, meaning a chance to develop his game. He’s also a fan favorite, which means the home crowd could be chanting for him if Wilson struggles Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
“Yeah, it’s true, those (interceptions) can’t happen,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “He knows it, we know it as a team. At the same time, he did make good decisions. He did have really good balls. He did the right things. We, as an offense, didn’t protect correctly, didn’t run the right routes properly. Everything always comes back on the quarterback and he has to bear that burden, but it’s our job to make sure he knows he’s not a one-man team.”