When some players are benched, especially early in their careers, they can lose a piece of themselves and never recover.
No one knows what will happen to Zach Wilson’s career after he was benched four weeks ago.
Jets coach Robert Saleh wanted to give Wilson a fresh start, and the second-year quarterback changed at least one thing.
“I think in my first year and a half, I just realised how much of a business this really is, and I played football my entire life for the fun of it and how fun it is, and sometimes mo’ money, mo’ problems,” Wilson said. “And for me, it’s a how can I just bring that fun back?
“How can I just enjoy being here? And through that reset process, how can I go out to a practise and just be like, you know what, I’m just going to enjoy being out here and throwing the ball around, doing things that I love to do, and spending time with the guys because that’s truly the most important part, so that’s kind of been the goal for me.”
Wilson’s 2022 season has been a roller coaster. He missed the first three games of the season after tearing his meniscus during the preseason. When he returned, Wilson displayed many of the same flaws he displayed as a rookie, such as his inaccuracy and inability to play well inside the pocket.
Despite a 5-2 record in his first seven starts this season, Wilson threw for 1,279 yards, four touchdowns, and five interceptions while completing an NFL-worst 55.6% of his passes. Wilson was benched after completing 9-of-22 passes for 77 yards in the team’s 10-3 loss to the Patriots. He also refused to accept responsibility for the lack of offence in a game in which the Jets defence did not allow a touchdown.
When the Jets chose Mike White as their starting quarterback, Wilson sought advice from a few former players who had been in similar situations. Steve Young, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, and John Beck all faced adversity at some point in their careers, as they were benched before returning to the field as starters.
Wilson struggled in his return as the starting quarterback for the injured White. Wilson finished 18-of-35 for 317 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in the Lions’ 20-17 loss last weekend.
Wilson stated that speaking with those four players provided him with some clarity on how each former quarterback handled a temporary setback in their careers.
“The biggest thing was that there will be ups and downs in football, and you always have to believe in yourself and rely on your support system, and just understand that this is all part of the process,” Wilson said.
“Some of the biggest things I took from it was where you want to get, this is just going to help you get there faster — the bumps, the ups and downs, it’s tough, but eventually you’re able to make your way through it. Along the way, you can learn a lot of really good lessons and become more aware.”
Wilson could have the rest of the season to prove himself as the Jets’ franchise quarterback. White has fractured ribs and is listed as week-to-week by Saleh.
The Jets are currently on the outside looking in. However, if Wilson can play well and lead the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, he could return as the starter in 2023.
Regardless of how the rest of the season goes, Wilson’s teammates have faith in him, despite the anger, displeasure, and boos from MetLife Stadium fans at times when he plays.
“He’ll be fine,” Jets left tackle Duane Brown said. “He recognises his talent.
“I tell him to concentrate on the next play. Aside from that, it is my and our responsibility to assist him right away. I have to do my part to keep him upright and confident.
“Aside from that, I just tell him to play the game. Do you, be yourself, play confidently, and that is all he can do.”