So here’s Zach Wilson in the firing line once again.
The 4-4 Jets face a desperate playoff race and their quarterback is at the bottom.
“He’s doing his best,” Robert Saleh said.
And the best he can do is clearly not good enough.
But as the “change for change’s sake” refrain grows louder as Zach Wilson’s rollercoaster ride makes Jets fans sick, Saleh is forced to fend off conspiracy theories about orders from above not to pull the plug on whether Tim Boyle or Trevor Siemien, the sobering reality of this moment in Jets history is this:
Zach Or Bust.
“I know the knee-jerk reaction is to always hit the panic button,” Saleh said.
Wilson is saying the right things this season, but he better start doing the right things – soon – otherwise Saleh, Joe Douglas and Woody Johnson will have no choice but to hit the panic button to save the season… or at least to keep it alive, just in case Aaron Rodgers has a miracle in him.
Should Wilson implode in Las Vegas on Sunday, Saleh has every right to hit the panic button for an even bigger Week 11 game in Buffalo.
Of course, Saleh can’t turn to Mike White. But the clock must be ticking for Saleh and Wilson and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to fix this historically cruel blight that threatens to sabotage the season.
I asked Wilson what he would say to disgruntled Jets fans who are understandably hitting the panic button before heading into the playoffs in November with him at quarterback.
“Or of course I would hope that they trust me and believe in me,” he said. “But my job as quarterback is to focus 100 percent on how I can put this team in the best position possible.
“I want the Jets fans to obviously stand with us and believe in us. I hope they know that as frustrated as they are, we are even more frustrated. We are the people out there who feel like this every week and it needs to get better.
“And that’s why I want them to know that I’m doing everything I can to be the best quarterback I can be, to help us make the playoffs, and more.” I just want, that they know we are fighting. We fight.”
It’s difficult for Jets fans to believe in a quarterback who can’t convert third downs or throw touchdown passes — one in the last four games, five on the season. It’s not all on the quarterback, but the quarterback hasn’t shown the ability to rise above the rubble in front of and around him.
Saleh’s greatest accomplishment was keeping his beloved defense from turning on Wilson, although Garrett Wilson noted that it was difficult for him to look defensive players in the eye when he left the field.
“We have to be better for them,” Zach Wilson said. “I don’t know if I would say we feel pressure. But we have to do something. We have to get points. It’s not good enough and we understand that.
“I wouldn’t say pressure because I think as an offense we know it’s going to be close and it sucks because we keep saying close, right? And I’m tired of it, I know everyone else is too.”
Hackett and Wilson seemed to fit together when the quarterback somehow outplayed Patrick Mahomes in Week 4, but they’ve fallen into a predictable slump together.
“This guy is relentless,” the quarterback said of Hackett. “He wants to be great, just like everyone else in this room. No bond is more important than mine and his, the trust we have in each other.”
It’s become a matter of trial and error for the two of them. And more error than attempt.
“I think it’s always about finding that fine line – what’s the risk and reward in this play?” the quarterback said. “Does my team need me to thread one in there and throw a pick here and there and we get a couple touchdowns out of it, or do we need to play the next down? And I think that’s always the balance between trying to figure that out.”
The problem is that the quarterback is experiencing growing pains in his third season, even when it comes to Aaron Rodgers’ offense:
“I got two sacks in the red zone, I have to find a way to get the ball out of my hands.”
“Most importantly: How can I save the down if it’s not there?”
Saleh was occasionally speechless as he tried to rationalize his quarterback’s play. Since making Wilson the second overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, Saleh (and the organization) has seemingly given this cat nine lives:
“I thought he did a great job in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Giants and gave us a chance to win that football game.”
“Philadelphia has a fantastic defense, but we played a very smart football game.”
The best that Saleh can offer is:
“Obviously it’s not the best show on the pitch.”
It’s the biggest no-show on turf…or any surface…although Giants fans may disagree.
“I feel like I’m getting better and that’s all you can do,” the quarterback said. “In my eyes, if you gradually work on improving and getting better, it’s like something will click at some point.”
Better late than never Sunday in Las Vegas, although never is the favorite.
“We have to do something at some point,” the quarterback said.
If he doesn’t do it, at some point the head coach will too. Keep fighting to make the Jets fans believe in you, kid. Zach-or-Bust has no guarantees.