For rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, the contract controversy is over.
Head coach Robert Saleh’s response to the arrival of the second overall pick had shades of Bill Belichick in it, except with a smile rather than a grumpy scowl. “I’m glad it’s over with, I’m glad you’re here, let’s get to work,” replied the New York Jets’ HC during a press conference earlier today on July 30, 2021.
The performance that followed was less spectacular, as Wilson felt constant pressure from edge rusher Carl Lawson. He also threw his first interception (recorded by Marcus Maye) and completed one of six passes on a 7-on-7 red-zone drill.
Coach Saleh wasn’t concerned about the rocky first day: “I know sometimes we can get focused on results, but there’s a process and he’s got a tremendous process. [You] can’t control certain things that happen play in and play out, but you can control your process and how you approach things.”
He continued: “We’re already getting a really good feel just going through the draft process and OTAs. He’s going to have the right process, he’s going to get better.”
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Saleh’s Favorite Trait About Wilson
For the first time, Saleh practically announced that Wilson is indeed the Week 1 starter — barring something unforeseen. “Call it the inside lane,” the Jets HC told reporters.
“It’s his to lose but I never want to make a promise I can’t keep,” Saleh added, “hopefully you guys understand that part.”
He even went one step further when asked what the rookie needs to show in camp to make the coaching staff feel good going into the season. Saleh responded: “He’s already shown it. Again, it’s that process, it’s his deliberateness, it’s his arm talent. His relentless drive to find ways to get better, watch film, and learn the system… there’s [going to be] so many [obstacles] for him and I think he’s going to pass all those hurdles.”
The follow-up question took Saleh back to BYU and the scouting process. The head coach was asked if his slow start at the college level may help him with the NFL adjustment, being that he steadily improved with the Cougars.
“Personal opinion, I think when you actually look back at his BYU stuff, his freshman year he had success,” Saleh explained, noting some approximate statistics.
He continued: “His second year shows that he’s able to deal with adversity, because of the injury, because of the different things that happened to him in that second year. And then for him to bounce back with all the naysayers casting doubt on him, to show that he can line up — and you can call it [his] competition or whatever you want — he still absolutely dominated what was in front of him. To me, what you see out of the quarterback through his evaluation process is his ability to deal with adversity and really shut people up.”
“He’s got confidence,” stated Saleh boldly, “he’s got tremendous confidence… he’s got that leadership and presence to him and it’s only going to get better.”
We saw a lot of these traits on full display during the earlier parts of the offseason. Wilson’s intelligence on the field, his passion for watching film, his strides to prove himself as a leader, and that raw unadulterated talent.
Even beat reporters have seen a clear difference in Wilson, from previous Jets rookie signal-callers.
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The Naysayers Continue to Blow Smoke
The Colin Cowherds and Sam Darnold truthers of the world will continue to throw shade at Wilson with Johnny Manziel comparisons and tired arguments about draft strategy.
Here are some of the idiotic red flags (from Cowherd and others):
- Wilson’s small frame, altered from short stature when the height myth was disproved.
- He plays too “off-script,” a trait that Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen get touted for on a daily basis.
- BYU to New York City transition, an adjustment that has gone just fine. Wilson has a high school sweetheart and doesn’t take part in much nightlife, people say his religion is football.
- Rookie head coach, true but not necessarily a bad thing after Adam Gase.
- “There are no kids that quarterback in the NFL that grew up with rich dads.” Cowherd must have forgotten about Peyton and Eli Manning, among others. Eli is the most successful New York quarterback of the modern era. Side note, Wilson drove as a DoorDash driver in California to pay for his trips to meet with QB coach John Beck while at BYU. His family may be wealthy, but he still had to earn everything he’s accomplished.
- Played against an easy schedule. Cowherd faults Alabama and Ohio State quarterbacks for having star talent around them but doesn’t credit Wilson for elevating the subpar weapons on BYU, interesting.
Honestly, it will probably take a playoff appearance to truly silence all the doubters, or maybe even a Super Bowl. Anything less only feeds the irrational argument of ‘what could have been.’
I prefer to focus on the here and now. Wilson is finally here, and he’s here to stay for at least three to four seasons, hopefully much longer.
That, Jets nation, is a beautiful thing.