EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jets coach Robert Saleh and his players looked at the reporters like they had two heads. They reacted as if they hadn’t even considered the line of questioning.
Is Zach Wilson still the Jets quarterback after yet another demoralizing defeat, this time a 15-10 loss to the Patriots?
“Yeah,” Saleh said briskly. “He’s fine. That’s not a question.”
Will backup Tim Boyle get extra reps with the first team offense next week?
“No,” Saleh said.
Do the players still have confidence in Wilson?
“Oh yeah,” star receiver Garrett Wilson said. “Come on now, that’s my dawg. All the confidence in the world.”
But is it fair to the Jets to let their season waste away while Wilson tries to get his footing?
“Yeah,” is all Saleh would offer.
The Jets wouldn’t point fingers or blame Wilson for their offensive woes after Sunday’s loss dropped them to 1-2. They said all the right things about Wilson in the locker room after the game and continue to support him, at least publicly.
“He’s who gives us the best chance to win,” Saleh said. “That would be the cleanest answer I could give you.”
But their curt answers to the defining questions surrounding the organization spoke volumes.
The Jets must know what everyone else is thinking — that their season is going nowhere with Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021 who was supposed to sit behind Aaron Rodgers all year. That no amount of coaching is going to turn Wilson into a competent NFL quarterback. That it’s time to pick up the phone and call a veteran who can salvage the season.
Get Philip Rivers on Line 1. Or Nick Foles. Or Ryan Fitzpatrick.
There is no magic answer for the Jets, whose season was ruined by Rodgers’s torn Achilles’ in the first quarter of Week 1. Rivers and Fitzpatrick haven’t played in a couple of years. Foles, 34, is a free agent for a reason.
But the Jets have to know Wilson is holding back the franchise. They escaped Week 1 with a win over the Bills thanks to three interceptions and a punt return touchdown. But the Jets were non-competitive in a 30-10 loss to the Cowboys and blew a golden opportunity against the Patriots.
Curiously, the Jets turned down two veteran quarterbacks who had contacted them — Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz, per Fox Sports.
Saleh said it’s too early to consider a quarterback change, especially since Wilson is still learning a new offense under first-year coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. The Jets clearly want to try to rebuild Wilson’s confidence, and bringing in a veteran to breathe over his shoulder would have the opposite effect.
“Even with Aaron at quarterback, we knew there were going to be some hiccups along the way,” Saleh said. “It’s still very early in the season. The pocket presence to us has been so much more improved. His accuracy is much improved, his decision-making is much improved. Obviously just wasn’t good enough today.”
It’s commendable that the Jets are standing by Wilson. But they need to reconsider, for the sake of their locker room, coaching staff, and fan base.
Any veteran with half a pulse would be better than Wilson, who led one touchdown drive in 14 series against the Patriots.
“If you give up less than 20 [points], you should win a game,” Saleh said.
The Jets have too much talent to simply waste it on Wilson’s development. Their defense will keep them in every game. With Rodgers, they would have been legitimate contenders.
But their offense is non-functional with Wilson, who doesn’t see the field, holds the ball too long, and forces risky throws. Wilson escaped Sunday’s game with no interceptions, but only completed 18 of 36 passes for 157 yards and took three sacks, including a safety.
The Jets’ offense gained 171 yards and crossed midfield just three times. They couldn’t outscore a Patriots team that punted six times and managed only a field goal after halftime.
“Fifteen [points] is not — generally you’re going to need more than that,” Bill Belichick said. “But it was good enough today.”
On the Jets’ penultimate series, on fourth and 10, Wilson threw the ball 10 yards short of the first-down marker.
“Throwing it short of the sticks, you never want to do that on a fourth-down call,” Saleh said. “We’ll talk about that one tomorrow.”
Saleh said he’s not worried about losing the locker room if Wilson continues to play like he does.
“We got a great locker room. We’ll be fine,” Saleh said in another terse answer.
But he probably should be worried. CBS cameras showed running back Michael Carter getting into a heated discussion with running backs coach Taylor Embree on the sideline, and receiver Garrett Wilson getting into it with Zach Wilson and Hackett.
“Just frustrating that we’re not moving the ball,” Garrett Wilson said. “That’s all it was.”
Zach Wilson actually played better than he had in four previous games against the Patriots. He has seven career interceptions against them, but played a clean game without any turnovers. And Wilson led an impressive drive in the third quarter — 13 plays for 87 yards and a touchdown. Wilson was 7 for 10 for 79 yards on that drive.
“The guys did a great job with our hurry-up offense,” Wilson said. “I think more than anything it was just getting the ball rolling. We picked up a couple first downs and it was finally like, ‘Oh my goodness, finally, we get to go.’ How can we build on that?”
They didn’t, of course. The Jets had three more possessions to tie or win the game, and instead Wilson got sacked for a safety, turned the ball over on downs, and had a Hail Mary attempt clang off Randall Cobb’s hand on the final play.
“A lot of frustration for everybody on offense, but we got to keep going,” Wilson said.
The Jets’ locker room is adorned with Saleh’s favorite motivational saying — All Gas, No Brake.
If they don’t change quarterbacks, Wilson is going to drive the Jets right off a cliff.
Read more Patriots coverage:
- The Patriots should be thankful they can count on one thing — beating the Jets | Dan Shaughnessy
- A victory over the Jets is no indication if the Patriots are trending in the right direction
- It wasn’t pretty, but the Patriots got their first win of the season in beating the inept Jets
- In a surprising twist, Pharaoh Brown — the third tight end — is an offensive spark for the Patriots
- Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner claims Patriots quarterback Mac Jones hit him with a low blow
- The Patriots dug in on defense, then held on for 15th consecutive victory over the Jets
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.