Zach Wilson’s 2022 New York Jets debut had its ups and downs but after the fourth-quarter comeback victory, the end result was a success.
Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo wrote that “Wilson came of age in his 2022 debut,” describing him as an igniting presence for the Jets offense. It certainly felt like a big moment in the young signal-caller’s career but as former franchise QB hopeful Mark Sanchez knows, one win doesn’t automatically turn into the long-term answer.
For Sanchez, a record of 33-29 wasn’t enough to earn a second contract with Gang Green after a shoulder injury in 2013. No, becoming “the guy” takes consistency and the ex-NYJ quarterback had a friendly warning for Wilson after the victory.
Mark Sanchez to Zach Wilson: ‘Don’t Start Drinking the Kool-Aid’
During a guest spot on “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd, the former gunslinger turned broadcast analyst spoke on Wilson’s performance in Pittsburgh.
“No, that was a big deal,” Sanchez agreed with Cowherd before offering some advice. “I just don’t want him to get [overconfident] — don’t start drinking the Kool-Aid now.”
Sanchez also had some tough love criticism of the current Jets QB for Cowherd.
“I want to take you to this play right before half-time,” Sanchez continued, “and this is a theme I see with Zach and something he’s gotta clean up — just absolutely has to eliminate from his game. You got 33 seconds left, it’s third-and-11, you have two timeouts right here, and he throws that ball into a defensive team meeting. Are you kidding me? Like absolutely not, and listen, I’ve done the same thing in my first two years playing… This is probably why I can’t coach because I would absolutely lose my mind and go choke the quarterback on the field.”
“Here’s the problem,” Sanchez ranted on. “One, you have so much time — the time is more important, the timeouts are more important, the situation trumps this entire read — I don’t care if we get the first down, you can scramble [or] do whatever you’re already in field goal range. Get a couple more yards, make it an easier chip-shot field goal, but the fact that we’re going to put this anywhere near a defender, absolutely not.”
Later, Sanchez compared this interception to Wilson deciding not to go out of bounds when he injured his knee during the preseason. “Little things like that,” he explained, “because let’s just say Kenny Pickett goes in and he throws one less interception, throws a touchdown — boom, you get beat by three points and you had a free three points before half-time? That [NYC] media would have eaten him alive, it would have been an absolute hornet’s nest.”
For what it’s worth, he’s not wrong. Winning often shifts the narrative and this poor choice from Wilson that yielded a six-point swing was quickly forgotten after the game. Having said that, the BYU product is still young and displays a strong willingness to learn — Sanchez is just reminding him that at the NFL level, class is always in session.
Mark Sanchez Calls out Jets Coaches
For those blaming offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur or head coach Robert Saleh for this, Sanchez did not excuse the coaching staff.
“If you know he plays like this — [if] he’s not ready to handle this situation — protect him from himself,” he voiced addressing the coaches. “Call a timeout, burn one of the timeouts — you have two, right?… You get two timeouts, one’s for the kicking team, one’s for the offense. You gotta burn one on offense because something goes wrong or because somebody stayed in bounds and you gotta stop the clock — burn it.”
It was a better showing from the inexperienced staff in Week 4 but Sanchez is correct again, there are still some areas that they can improve. For example, don’t assume your second-year quarterback will use common sense.
“Pull him to the sideline, grab him by the facemask,” Sanchez told Cowherd, “‘hey, one thing we cannot do here, we cannot lose yards and we cannot throw an interception.’ We cannot give the ball away on this play, bottom line.”
This play is reminiscent of the quarterback sneak decision versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021 that cost the Jets an upset win toward the end of the season. Don’t sit back and let Wilson learn from his mistakes, grab the bull by the horns and teach him situational football before he makes a silly choice in a critical moment.