The New York Jets‘ quarterback situation is one that’s been “boiling” all season, in the words of Super Bowl champion and Amazon Prime Video NFL analyst Andrew Whitworth.
The boil overflowed on Sunday night in Buffalo as head coach Robert Saleh did what he was hoping he wouldn’t have to: bench Zach Wilson. Everyone figured that move meant the Jets didn’t have faith in Wilson to lead the offense anymore this season, and that assumption became fact on Monday.
Saleh confirmed reports that came out during the day that Tim Boyle, who has been backing up Wilson since Aaron Rodgers suffered an Achilles injury in Week 1 on just the fourth play of his tenure with the team, is to start against the Miami Dolphins in the NFL’s first Black Friday game, which will be aired on Amazon Prime Video.
In fact, Wilson was demoted to third-string quarterback with Trevor Siemian being signed off the practice squad to be Boyle’s backup.
But the question for the 4-6 Jets is whether Boyle, or even Siemian, is the right man for the job. Siemian was the only one the Jets brought in the building, though he clearly isn’t someone the Jets thought was better than Wilson to take over. It took weeks to believe Boyle might have what it takes.
That’s why Whitworth questions the Jets’ thinking in terms of not bringing someone in the second Rodgers went down for the year.
“You were so steadfast in protecting Zach and saying, ‘Nobody else will be this quarterback other than him and Aaron Rodgers,’” he said. “You look at what Cleveland’s done. You look at the Rams. [Matthew] Stafford gets banged up a little bit, they don’t even lose the starter, but they don’t like their backup situation and bring in Carson Wentz. Where are you at on that? Where are you at on Joe Flacco? Where are you at on these quarterbacks?”
He added, “If anybody should’ve been adding them first, it should’ve been you because you actually have the team to where you think, ‘Man, defensively, we keep being ourselves. And offensively, if we just don’t mess it up and we’re just efficient, we’re going to win a ton of games.’”
Whitworth praised Saleh for his ability to get the Jets’ defense right, creating one of the most feared groups in the league on that side of the ball. General manager Joe Douglas also drafted the Offensive Rookie of the Year, wide receiver Garrett Wilson, and running back Breece Hall, who likely would’ve beaten out Wilson for the award last year. He’s also added key free agents at numerous positions on both sides of the ball.
It’s why so many Jets fans were calling for Douglas to make another move, to bring in a quarterback that could take over with Rodgers down, or at the very least, give Wilson solid competition and have him win the job each week. Because they didn’t, Whitworth believes that refusal to bring someone in when it’s clear the Jets have pieces can create frustration.
“I think it’s that thing that you’ve now let this grow not just amongst us that’s watching them play but in that locker room, it’s starting to fester. Like, ‘Why don’t we have another answer? Why didn’t we make a move?’”
“I know, myself, much less being a leader, in Cincinnati, going to the playoffs five years in a row and never getting over that hump, the frustration that was built like, ‘Hey, how come ownership’s not making one trade to just take us over the hump? Or maybe some big free agency move that takes us over the hump.'”
“That grows this frustration like, ‘Alright, we’re giving everything we’ve got. Why is everyone not doing something risky to get us over that point?’ I think that’s what really starts to happen. The belief is lost, and you’re also sitting around like, ‘Why have we not been making moves or things to help this move along to where we’re in a better position now than the unfortunate situation we’re in?'”
Whitworth also noted that, when reviewing the tape of the Jets’ offense under Wilson, it’s not just the quarterback that makes it hard to score points. A prime example was last week’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Jets’ first half was filled with penalties at the worst possible times, including a would-be touchdown by Hall called back by a holding penalty.
Penalties are always drive killers, but that’s especially the case when the quarterback isn’t trusted to make up the ground.
“It really comes down to [Wilson] can’t overcome those mistakes. Whereas some quarterbacks, you have 2nd-and-12, you don’t mind it,” Whitworth said. “With him, when you get backed up behind the chains, you can kind of tell they don’t trust Zach that much in those situations. And also, they don’t have a lot of answers there now with that position. They’re not comfortable taking shots because that’s what you have to do when you get backed up.”
With Rodgers reportedly wanting to practice soon and has a target date set if the team is in playoff contention, the Jets want to start winning games again. Facing the Dolphins will be a tough task, but a change has finally been made where there’s at least a glimmer of hope someone else can make the offense function.
It’s Boyle’s turn now. The Jets don’t have any other choice.