The New York Jets are starting quarterback Zach Wilson for the first time in his career, and it’s hard to argue against the less-is-more approach to offensive line play that head coach Adam Gase is employing. Wilson is a less talented quarterback than Sam Darnold, but he also plays a game that has a lower skill cap. That means that, as long as he’s not asked to make every play, he should be up to the task.
This offseason has seen the Jets make some faith-based rookie draft decisions, selecting offensive lineman Kolton Miller and linebacker Zach Wilson with their first two draft picks. Miller has the looks of a future starting left tackle, but he isn’t expected to start until Year 2. Wilson was taken as a third-round pick in the hope he could add snaps to the Jets’ linebacker rotation, but Wilson saw very little playing time last season and didn’t earn a spot on the team’s radar in time for the 2018 training camp.If you ask any fan of the New York Jets what the club’s biggest problem is, you might hear that the organization makes the same mistakes over and over again. They recruit the wrong players, hire the wrong coaches and generally don’t know what to do from Broadway Joe. The Jets will get a fresh start in 2021 with new BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. But instead of learning from past mistakes, they are already repeating history. Will Wilson’s failure ruin them like their last first-round pick, Sam Darnold, did?
Sam Darnold never had a good experienced replacement with the New York Jets
The Jets selected UCLA quarterback Sam Darnold with the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Then-head coach Todd Bowles and the Jets’ power structure chose not to start the season with a proven NFL signal caller by his side. Instead, the other QB on the list was NFL journeyman Josh McCown, who turned 39 during the 2018 season. McCown started early in the season, but took over in the third game so the Jets could take Darnold. The 21-year-old rookie started the next 13 games with a 4-9 record, 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. It was exactly the same the next year, even under new Jets coach Adam Gase. Darnold again started 13 games and posted a slightly better 7-6 record. He lost the three games he missed after contracting mononucleosis. That’s because Darnold’s understudies in 2019 were Luke Falk and Trevor Simian. New York has asked veteran Joe Flacco back for the 2020 season. But the QB seemed to have his best days behind him when he was under center. The team was also terrible, and Flacco lost all four games he started. The Jets threw Darnold to the wolves without a reliable veteran backup, and it’s been terrible for Darnold’s and the team’s development. Now they’ve learned their lesson and built a legitimate QB support system around Wilson, right?
Zach Wilson’s replacements are young and inexperienced
(Left to right) Mike White, Zach Wilson and James Morgan | Photo Mike Stobe/Getty Images Wrong. The New York Jets are back in business. This time with a new coach (Robert Saleh) and a new quarterback, but these are classic Jets. Who is the understudy to the 21-year-old who was selected No. 2 to start training camp in 2021? First, there’s James White, a 2020 fourth-round pick out of Bowling Green and Florida International who has yet to throw a single pass in the regular season in the NFL. And then there’s Mike White, the 26-year-old former QB from South Florida and Western Kentucky who didn’t catch a single pass during the NFL regular season. This isn’t exactly the kind of pressure-less support system the Jets had to install around Wilson, or even the kind of support system other teams drafted the big QB in 2021. Trey Lance has Jimmy Garoppolo, Justin Fields has Andy Dalton, and Mac Jones has Cam Newton. Only quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the first-round pick, is nowhere near Wilson’s experience, and he has Gardner Minshew II, who has 20 NFL starts under his belt.
There are not many good replacement QBs on the market right now
Even if the Jets realize their mistake (again) during OTAs and minicamp and want to contract a competent, experienced QB to mentor Wilson, it won’t be easy. According to Yahoo! The Sports attempted to acquire former San Francisco 49ers QB Nick Mullens and current New England Patriots backup QB Brian Hoyer, but failed to contract either of them. The market for spare KBs is incredibly thin right now, with names like Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin III, and Josh Johnson among the best available. The best option for the Jets to avoid repeating their past mistakes is to trade a quarterback who is third on the depth chart or wait for a team to release the quarterback. If they choose the latter, they may have to wait until the end of the season, which may not be very helpful. If they opt for the former, they could choose Nick Foles of the Chicago Bears or fall back on Hoyer as a candidate. There is a third option, and it is the best option for the New York Jets. McCown was part of the practice squads of the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans in 2020, making him the longest playing practice squad player in league history, according to NFL.com. Signing McCown, 42, as Wilson’s replacement would bring it full circle for the Jets’ critics who never learned. All statistics are from Pro Football Reference RELATED: Is Zach Wilson better than Trevor Lawrence? What Chris Sims’ quarterback ratings tell us
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