A couple of weeks ago, the narrative surrounding Zach Wilson’s rookie season began to shift.
New York Jets backup quarterback Mike White operated the offense at an extremely efficient level and the fanbase seemed to divide into two halves — the Wilson truthers and the White believers. At the end of the day, this could be a good problem to have but there’s a danger in a QB controversy too.
Media professionals and fans can speculate on which quarterback is better until the cows come home but you never want that sort of drama to make its way into the locker room. When a former practice squad pickup upstages a second overall pick, that’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Fortunately for the Jets, these two young signal-callers have handled the potentially tense situation like pros.
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Wilson: ‘My Time Will Come,’ Really Happy for White
We’ve heard White compliment Wilson and talk about how he’s tried to act as a support system for the first-year talent but now that roles are reversed, it’s been interesting to see how the BYU star has reacted to this unexpected turn of events.
On November 11, Wilson addressed the media, discussing his ongoing recovery and the potential of White continuing as the starter if he plays well in Week 10. The Jets beat came at the 22-year old with some tricky questions but the rookie didn’t blink and appeared genuinely happy for his teammate.
The first from Connor Hughes asked how Wilson has handled White’s success and the possibility of losing the starting role.
He answered: “I handle it the only way I can, just controlling what I can control, doing what I can every day in practice. I’d say the relationship that me and Mike White have, I’d probably say I’m the closest with him [out of] anyone on the team. We have a really good relationship so I feel like I can take advantage of that opportunity to be able to learn from the reps that he’s going through and things that he’s seeing and doing and you know, my time will come, I just gotta work on keeping getting healthy and taking my practice reps very seriously and how can I get back to just kind of the groove of playing.”
ESPN’s Rich Cimini later asked if the uncertainty of his future as the starter concerns him at all.
“No definitely not,” responded Wilson, “and the reason is I’ve only played five games. I just got here, I’m supposed to be a senior in college right now, you gotta understand it’s gonna be hard and I’m not making any excuses but that’s where growth comes. I look back at my college career and the year before I got there we were 4-9, we went 7-6 twice and then we had an 11-1 season. That’s just how football goes you have to go through adversity to get where you want to go so I definitely didn’t come here thinking this is going to be the greatest thing ever and we’re going to go undefeated. I knew it was going to be tough and that’s part of the process.”
Wilson also noted that he thought White’s record performance was “really cool” because as a backup, he doesn’t get many opportunities to prove himself and show that; “hey this guy’s an NFL quarterback and he can play ball.” The rookie added that he doesn’t “know how many years that probably gained him on being able to play in the league” but that it “definitely helped his career.”
In terms of the two discussing the potential of their friendship being tested, Wilson smiled and said that “it doesn’t even need to be talked about,” adding “that’s the coolest part.” He elaborated that the two are “pumped” for each other every time they take the field, acknowledging that they “can both benefit from the situation.”
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Wilson Learning From White
The candid responses from Wilson were certainly relieving and refreshing. He’s a young kid who was handed the keys to a billion-dollar franchise and now after things have not gone as planned, he’s taking it all in stride as a supportive teammate.
It was also good to hear the Utah native break down how he can learn from the success of White and Josh Johnson. He even voiced that his “style of play needs to get more like [White’s],” touting his ability to “eliminate,” go through progressions and “take what the defense gives him.”
Even more encouraging, Wilson told reporters that watching has been “almost just as beneficial as playing.” He ventured on to say that he learned that first-hand from White, who spent years studying the reps of Dak Prescott and Sam Darnold.
The rookie was also impressed by Johnson, who did an “awesome job” with limited practice reps running the offense. If the Jets can harness Wilson’s raw talent combined with White’s intelligence and Johnson’s experience, who knows just how good this QB room can turn out to be.