This is a pivotal moment in New York Jets’ history. Once again the team has hit the reset button this offseason at head coach and the game’s most important position at quarterback.
So how much pressure is there on Zach Wilson to live up to the hype?
In a recent ESPN column, the four NFL Nation Reporters answered some of the hottest AFC East questions heading into 2021 including which player is under the most pressure.
While three of the analysts picked Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Cimini went against the pack selecting the talented former BYU quarterback of the Jets.
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Draft Status Creates an Immense Amount of Pressure
In normal circumstances, the No. 2 overall pick would automatically bring an insane amount of pressure based on draft status alone. Although when you splash in some additional context it turns the pressure up to another level.
Wilson broke two significant records with his selection in the 2021 NFL draft: he became the highest drafted player in BYU Football history and he became the highest-drafted quarterback in Jets history.
The Cougar history obviously includes some pretty big names like Steve Young and Gang Green’s history includes the one and only ‘Broadway’ Joe Namath. That’s some pretty elite company.
Zero Competition Whatsoever
The starting gig was presented to Wilson on a silver platter this offseason. Despite multiple opportunities, the Jets opted against adding any serious competition or as much as a veteran in the room.
Which is to say the other quarterbacks in the room with Wilson combined have thrown as many passes in the NFL that he has — zero. Those two players are Mike White and James Morgan.
There will be no buffer. This current strategy ensures that the former BYU quarterback is going to be thrown to the wolves for better or for worse in 2021.
This is a different strategy than what we’re expected to see from a few of the other first-round pick rookie quarterbacks in Chicago with Andy Dalton and San Francisco with Jimmy Garoppolo.
The New York Market and History
Wilson is going from Provo, Utah to the big apple of New York City. Has a player ever made a bigger jump? NYC has a population of over eight million people. While Provo’s population is just over 116,000 people.
Folks outside of the BYU inner circle seriously underrate the kind of pressure that exists down there, but even still, it doesn’t measure up to what Wilson will face with the Jets.
Every interception, mistake, and move Wilson makes will be heavily scrutinized. The former BYU passer will be under the microscope and that kind of pressure can break a person.
On top of the pressures and intricacies of the market size, you also have to consider the history of the Gang Green franchise.
The Jets haven’t won the Super Bowl since the 1968 season and their recent run of quarterbacks have been epic failures. Green and white fans are looking for a savior and whether fairly or unfairly, Wilson has been donned “the next guy.”
Replacing Sam Darnold and the Immense Amount of Pressure in Week 1
Sam Darnold used to be the guy. He was selected with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft by the Jets, after trading up a month earlier to that selection.
This offseason he was jettisoned because Gang Green didn’t see the development they were looking for over the last several seasons. Within a month of ditching their ex-girlfriend, they immediately found a rebound in the form of Wilson.
Shortly after the draft, we found out the NFL schedule makers are some sick bastards. They wasted no time in scheduling the juiciest possible matchup in the very first week of the season. The Jets and their new girl (Wilson) will travel to play the Carolina Panthers with the ex (Darnold).
While it’s only one week in what will be the longest NFL season in history with 17 games, we’re going to overreact to the result of Week 1 one way or another.
If Wilson looks good and the Jets beat the Panthers, watch out world, because the fans are going to come out in droves. Although if Darnold shows improvement with a better cast of characters around him and beats the Jets, hellfire will rain down from the heavens.
The result of this game, again whether fairly or unfairly, will set the tempo for the rest of the season for both quarterbacks.