After throwing for just 77 yards and shepherding one of the worst offensive performances in New York Jets history last week, Zach Wilson has been benched.
The former BYU quarterback, and No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, won’t be active on Sunday. Jets coach Robert Saleh said the 23-year-old lost touch with what made him a top draft pick and successful in college.
“The biggest thing with Zach, is the young man needs a reset,” Saleh said. “His decision making has been fine. His practice habits, all that stuff, has been fine. But there are some basic, fundamental things that have gotten really out of whack for him. This is just an opportunity for him to sit back and focus on those things. Find a way to reconnect to all the different things we fell in love with in the draft process.”
Wilson has come under fire in recent days for how he’s handled his struggles for the past month. When asked on Sunday if the offense feels like they let the defense down — after losing 10-3 in a game where the Jets moved the ball just two yards in the second half — Wilson said, simply, “No. No.”
Saleh indicated Wilson’s response was not the reason he was benched. The coach acknowledged that some players were “frustrated” by Wilson’s response inside the locker room, but argued that he would not “lose the locker room.”
“There is always going to be that discussion of, ‘He is going to lose the locker room,’” Saleh said. “Players go out there and play for one another. But at the same time, I don’t think a player is going to play any less hard because he doesn’t like his teammate. ... I think maybe there was some irritation [with Wilson] in the moment. But I don’t think there is a grudge or hate.”
The move immediately put Wilson’s future with the Jets in question. Typically, top draft picks get longer than 20 starts to figure it out at the NFL level. Saleh pushed back on the idea that this would be it for Wilson in New York.
This season, Wilson has completed just 55% of his passes for 1,279 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions.
“Zach’s career here is not over,” he said. “I know that is going to be the narrative. That is what everybody wants to shout out. The intent, the full intent, is to make sure that Zach gets back out on the football field at some point this year. When that is, I’m going to make that decision. I’m going to take it day-to-day.”
When he had a discussion with Wilson about the decision, Saleh said Wilson was frustrated.
“[His reaction] was what you would expect from a player. He’s like, ‘Why now, why me? I want to play,’” Saleh said. “But after a great conversion, I think we are on the same page.”
Wilson will practice with the team this week. Saleh worried if he started again this week, his play would have kept deteriorating.
“This is not putting a nail in his coffin. This is not that. Not even close to that,” Saleh said. “... We have not wavered that he is going to be the future of this franchise.”