“Right now, he is the best player; he’s the one who gives us the best chance to win.”
That was the response from New York Jets coach Robert Saleh when he was asked about a potential quarterback change moving forward after yet another inept offensive performance from his squad.
Sorry, Robert, but that is just not true.
Anybody who has watched Zach Wilson play football for the Jets over three seasons knows he has struggled — and continues to struggle — mightily. You don’t need completion percentages or third-down stats to back that up; having a pair of functioning eyes will suffice.
Saleh also said he’s not worried about the locker room, and I disagree even more strongly with the third-year head man in New York.
Whether he knows it or not, or perhaps knows it but doesn’t want to acknowledge it, Saleh has a major problem brewing in the locker room, perhaps beneath the surface.
No, I’m not personally in the Jets’ locker room, so I can’t say this with certainty. I was, however, in a bunch of different locker rooms over the years with different players and coaches, and as soon as the prideful veterans don’t believe they are being given the best chance or even just a good chance to win, you have a problem. That’s where this team is right now.
Jets’ Season Can Be Saved
The season is still early enough that the Jets can turn it around, but they must take action.
Frankly, they have already wasted a couple of weeks in which they could have gotten a new signal-caller plugged into the system before eventually thrusting him into the lineup after another horrid showing by Wilson. My guess is that the Jets haven’t done that to this point because they wanted Wilson to have the confidence that he was the guy and that the organization had his back.
But if bringing in another option is enough to cause Wilson to perform poorly, doesn’t that already tell you everything you need to know? And, honestly, at this point, what do you have to lose, because Wilson can’t play much worse.
I don’t want to hear anything about it being too late or too hard to get someone up to speed or any of that stuff. Look at what Josh Dobbs did late last year for the Titans after about a week in Tennessee and even what he’s done so far for the Arizona Cardinals this season. He’s been much better than Wilson has ever been, even though Dobbs was only with both teams for a couple of weeks before he was starting games for them.
The Jets need another option — and they need it now.
Several Options Still Available
They originally were looking for a veteran mentor type and, according to the Reading Eagle, offered a contract to longtime NFL back-up Chad Henne a couple of weeks ago after Aaron Rodgers got hurt. While I’m sure the thought was that Henne would simply help Wilson, Henne clearly would give New York a better chance to win based on how he’s played the last few years, including for the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs when Patrick Mahomes went down.
But Henne is retired and is apparently going to stay that way, so the Jets need to consider their options — which now boil down to free agency or a trade.
Free agent options include Carson Wentz and Joe Flacco. Both those guys have expressed interest publicly or through their agents. And right now, both would probably give the Jets a better chance to win than Wilson.
Then, there is the trade market, where the Jets could either swing big for an established starter in the last year of his contract (such as Kirk Cousins in Minnesota or Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee) or else try to get a back-up who would represent an upgrade over Wilson (such as Case Keenum or Gardner Minshew).
Either option has its issues.
Cousins and Tannehill make a lot of money, so the Jets would have to creatively figure out how to make those contracts work with the salary cap, which is always possible if it’s important enough to a team.
Keenum, Minshew or other backups are on the rosters of their respective teams for a reason. Whether that is to mentor a rookie starter and/or be available in case of an injury, those teams won’t want to part with them unless New York makes it worth their while.
Carson Wentz Is the Answer
If I were Jets GM Joe Douglas, I would sign Wentz.
His inconsistency and flaws are well-known, but at this point, I would take the Wentz roller coaster over the consistently bad Wilson. This would be the best team Wentz has played on since early in his days with the Philadelphia Eagles, and two of the concerns with him could be mitigated in New York. In terms of the big money he was making the last few years, he wouldn’t come to the Jets making much, and regarding the belief that he doesn’t have the ideal disposition to be a backup, he wouldn’t be the No. 2 guy, at least not for long.
There were times in my career, such as with Buffalo Bills in 2005 when they moved on to J.P. Losman from Drew Bledsoe when the organization made a decision we all knew was not going to give us an opportunity to compete and was incredibly deflating to the locker room.
Wentz is still only 30. He has played at a high level in the league, and the players remember that.
And most importantly, he’s not Wilson and would give the locker room some actual hope, which is something I doubt very many Jets players have a lot of right now.
Ross Tucker is a former NFL offensive lineman who played seven seasons for the Cowboys, Bills, Patriots and Washington after graduating from Princeton University in 2001. He works as a color commentator for both CBS Sports and Westwood One in addition to hosting a number of podcasts, including the popular Ross Tucker Football Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @RossTuckerNFL.