Zach Wilson’s Jets beat the Texans and low expectations.


Zach Wilson’s Performance Gives Jets Fans a Glimpse of Hope

Intermittently, Zach Wilson is capable of balling out. He can’t consistently progress through reads and hit open receivers, but occasionally, his fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants quarterbacking rewards Jets fans with a rare gem. On Sunday, New York turned back to Wilson after benching him for the third time since he was drafted. With the score tied at zero in the third quarter, Wilson rolled out of the pocket, evading Texans pass rusher Jonathan Greenard and airmailed a beautiful spiral to a leaping Garrett Wilson. It’s a play that CJ Stroud consistently makes, but one that typically results in a Wilson incompletion or something more detrimental.

Amid a bizarre week that included the league’s most accurate kicker in history missing two kicks in a four-point loss, Joe Flacco passing for 300 yards, and Justin Fields devouring the Detroit Lions, nothing stood out more than Zach Wilson outdueling Stroud. If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume Wilson was the seasoned vet running the electric offense that led the league in passing, not Stroud.

Instead, Stroud was helpless against the Jets stingy pass defense while Wilson looked nothing like the quarterback benched for the worst backup this millennium. He executed Pro Day deep throws against live defenses, completed the simple throws Houston’s defense gave him, and made Stroud look like a bust.

After the Jets’ fifth win, Breece Hall encapsulated the Wilson experience best in his postgame media availability.

“He’s been the same guy all season. It’s just sometimes you’re able to make the plays and sometimes you’re not,” Hall explained. “That’s the game we play, so you know, it was good to see him run around today and really feel confident. He was taking some risky throws and making them.”

Three seasons into his Jets stint, risk-taking is the most reliable aspect of Wilson’s game. Every week, Wilson is aiming a crossbow at an apple over the Jets’ heads. Unfortunately, that risk has often come with the occasional arrow through the hearts of Jets fans, without the upside. Jameis Winston is a prolific risk-benefit challenged passer who can leave you shaking your head one moment and awestruck the next. Wilson’s self-sabotage has just driven Jets Nation mad.

By now, we should have learned not to confuse a Wilson mirage game with the start of a trend. The last time that mistake was made was after his valiant effort in a loss to Kansas City. Every few weeks, he’ll load up a spirit bomb. Then, he’ll spend a month stinking up the room and making everyone miserable.

The Jets defense collectively frustrated Stroud, which isn’t all that surprising. Despite their offensive surge, the Jets defense has always brought its A-game. The Jets have put fringe starters, emergency replacements, and All-Pros alike in a steel pincer. Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, and Stroud have all had the life drained out of their offenses by the Jets.

The tease of what the Jets’ season could have been is the hardest part to accept. Even after Aaron Rodgers tore his ACL, irrational hope filled the Meadowlands air that Rodgers would be a medical miracle man, return after four months, and lead the Jets into the postseason.

Nathaniel Hackett hasn’t asked his quarterbacks to be a hero. Unfortunately, their starters have all sabotaged their heroic efforts. A high school quarterback off the streets would have had the Jets squarely in playoff contention today. If Wilson had been able to orchestrate a league-average offense that delivered a league-average 22 points in their losses this season against the Patriots, Chiefs, Raiders, and Falcons, the Jets would have won at least three of four and been one drive away from defeating the Chiefs. At worst, they’d be 8-5 or 9-4 in the best-case scenario instead of 5-8.

In multiple appearances this season, Wilson failed to lead touchdown drives, or worse, filed a turnover or two while failing to advance the ball. Saleh could have coaxed Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow out of retirement today, and both would have been of greater value to the Jets than Wilson after Rodgers went down. When the pressure to perform was on, Wilson consistently self-immolated. Until today, he had a negative touchdown-to-interception ratio for the third consecutive season.

The Jets were essentially eliminated from playoff contention during a five-game season that began during the first week of November, giving him a pressure-free playground to frolic in. Nobody expected him to play well against the Bills once Rodgers went down on Monday Night Football, when he was competent enough to beat the Eagles, against the Chiefs in primetime, or against Stroud after being exhumed by Robert Saleh. Wilson is the quarterback you want playing with house money when it’s someone else’s coins. 

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