Patriots 25 Jets 6: Wilson’s Nightmare
Overall, I think one of the biggest issues with NFL analysis is the tendency of people to view the last chapter as the last chapter. In reality, things change from season to season and week to week.
I’m sure there will be a lot of takes this week on how the Jets are doomed and made a big mistake in passing Sam Darnold. Darnold played well as his side improved to 2-0. His replacement, Zach Wilson, played a game about as ugly as you’ll ever see. The Jets fell to 0-2.
In reality, we won’t know if the Jets made the right decision for years. I’m sure a lot of people criticizing the Jets for trading Darnold said he was desperate in his struggles last year. I’m also sure they’ll forget about Darnold’s success in early 2021 if he declines in the weeks to come.
The point is, the decision to leave Darnold had several levels. It wasn’t just Darnold versus Wilson. You also had to factor in the possibility of getting a quarterback on a cost-controlled deal for three more years by drafting Wilson among the things after.
Another reality is that Darnold is expected to top Wilson right now. He is in his fourth season as a starter. Wilson’s fourth game won’t be for another two weeks.
So what can we take away from this game?
It is certainly not the end of Zach Wilson’s career. That’s not to say that Wilson’s performance can be completely dismissed. It was as appalling as any quarterback performance I can remember. He threw four interceptions in his first ten attempts. Beyond that, I thought all four were his fault. There is only one where I could even see an argument to blame someone else, but on that one he missed an easy completion to try to fit a pass into the traffic.
It wasn’t Darnold seeing ghosts because Bill Belichick was giving him exotic looks. He was not a quarterback driven by his environment. The Jets actually got a winning effort on most of the game roster. The offensive line showed great improvement in week one, and the Jets were able to get their running game to work. An understaffed defense also played a fiery game, keeping the Jets at halftime despite the quarterback’s mistakes that kept the unit on the field for too long.
You just can’t win a game with your quarterback playing like that. Sometimes we give the quarterback too much credit for team success and too much credit for team failure. Not today. Zach Wilson cost the Jets that game.
But that’s different from saying it was the last chapter. Zach Wilson is not a bust because of this performance. All hope is not lost.
Part of a quarterback’s success in this league is shaking up performances like this. In some ways, that’s what separates the successful guys from the ones who don’t.
I could show you games where a young Peyton Manning or a young Russell Wilson didn’t look like they belonged to the NFL.
Of course, I could also show you games where Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith first showed some alarming trends that would continue.
Is this a game Wilson will overcome, or will we remember it as the first sign of trouble? I can’t tell you for sure. You’re lying to yourself if you think you can tell me.
I think anyone who watched Wilson closely in college could tell you that his low intercept totals at BYU were something of a mirage. He was a quarterback who threw a lot of high danger passes. In a way, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Part of his attraction to gambling stemmed from his willingness to take risks. Yet, it was still something that was going to need refining if Wilson was to pursue a successful career in the NFL.
These things were not going to work out on their own. There would always be a learning curve, and these issues were going to be exposed early in his career.
Granted, I think people were hoping that these mistakes didn’t happen so quickly with this catastrophic frequency.
What happened today is not as important as what is to come. It was inevitable that Wilson cost the Jets a game. Now let’s start to find out if he can learn from his mistakes and get rid of failure. These are some of the things that separate the great quarterbacks from the bad. It’s not easy to do, but becoming a franchise quarterback is one of the toughest jobs in the sport.
Maybe we will see this as a speed bump on the road to a successful career. Perhaps that was the first warning sign. All we can do is wait and find out.