2-Time NFL Champ Impressed by Zach Wilson’s Mentality on Risk-Taking

Zach Wilson

Getty New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson during pregame warm ups on August 21, 2021.

Yesterday, August 25, marked the final practice of New York Jets training camp — the second of two joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Green & White will face Philly on Friday, August 27, at 7:30 p.m.

It also marked the end of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson’s first camp as a Jet, and what an impressive summer it was. From the knowledge he showed early on to the leadership he displayed during the break.

Then during the preseason, the BYU product personified poise in game one and brilliance in game two. We’ll see what he has in store versus the Eagles but before the third preseason outing, Wilson exhibited one more positive trait.

A characteristic that we’ve seen grow since day one, his maturity and professionalism.

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Wilson’s Takeaways From Camp

After Wednesday’s practice, Wilson addressed the media one last time ahead of his third and final preseason bout.

He talked about how instructive it’s been to see so many different “defensive looks” this summer, from defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s 4-3 front to the 3-4 schemes of the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. Philadelphia plays a style more similar to the Jets, but the intricate details are unique, and Wilson saw the benefit to that.

The quarterback was then asked about how he’s progressed from the start of OTAs to now, and his answer was telling of just how much he’s matured.

“It’s really just adjusting to the game, understanding when to take risks and when not [to], and understanding how to eliminate negative plays. I think that’s the biggest thing as a quarterback,” Wilson replied.

A reporter followed up on the idea of taking risks in practice, asking if the rookie is still taking them, and again, his response was wise beyond his years.

“Of course, there’s always going to be risk but it’s understanding when to take the risk, right? Turning the ball over is never a good thing but if you have zero turnovers [and] you also have zero explosive plays, you’re not winning games either so you got to have that balance as a quarterback of when it’s okay to push the ball down the field and understanding, ‘hey this is third-and-long and they’re not giving us anything, just throw a check-down and live to play the next down,’ [or] let’s play the field position [game].”

Most young signal-callers always try to force the big play, and Wilson might do the same during his rookie campaign when things break down. The key here is the understanding that he doesn’t have to. The key is his grasp of a practice rep versus an in-game rep, and so far the Utah native has yet to turn the ball over in a game.

These quotes actually reminded me of a recent piece I read about two-time NFL champion quarterback Phil Simms, who was one of the best to ever do it in the state of New York.

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Simms Thought Wilson Was ‘Not Just Good, but Very Good’

The legendary QB took a trip out to Florham Park this summer to see Wilson in action, and he liked what he saw. New York Post reporter Brian Costello outlined the visit on August 15.

Simms described the practice: “I thought it was truly game-like… The defense was really playing well. Every throw he made was into tight windows. I’m not going to say it was a very good, plus practice. It was a training camp practice that was really hard on the quarterback. He made some unbelievable throws that should have been caught. There was a lot of good and some bad but you need that in training camp.”

The former Giants quarterback also gushed over Wilson’s ability to throw on the move, calling that skill “tremendous.” It wasn’t just the on-field stuff that impressed Simms though, the famously brazen NFL retiree was even more galvanized by his off-the-field awareness.

One quote, in particular, from an August 11 press conference had Simms all aboard the Wilson train.

The rookie said: “I can’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially in practice. This isn’t a game. This is where I’m learning what I can get away with and what I can’t. So, there [are] times, maybe in a real game, where I wouldn’t throw that, but there are times when I’m like, ‘well, let me try right here and let me see what I can get away with.’ As we get closer to a game, you have to start teaching yourself, you know, in that situation, you know what, C.J. [Mosley] got a hand on it, you made the play. And so, it’s like, well next time, in that situation, in that same look, I’m going to check the ball down. That’s what we practice for is to be able to play situations out like that.”

Simms loved that, commenting: “Throwing interceptions in practice sometimes is a good thing. You have to find the boundaries. You can be ‘Charlie Checkdown’ and everyone will say you’re doing a good job and taking care of the ball, but you score no points. You have to take chances, you learn.”

If the two-time Pro Bowler liked what he heard the first time, there’s no doubt he was smiling ear-to-ear when he heard Wilson’s August 25 quotes on risk-taking.

At the practice he watched in person, Simms thought Wilson “showed great poise, threw the football with power, made some really good throws and stayed in the pocket.” Most of all, “he did his job,” and as for the balls that were a little off, he was confident the rookie won’t miss those throws during the regular season.

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Simms Family All-in on Wilson

For what it’s worth, Phil Simms’ son Chris Simms has been a fan of Wilson since before the draft, but don’t take that as a bias. There’s no connection between the Simms family and the BYU product like there is with Colin Cowherd and Sam Darnold.

Chris Simms identified Wilson as his number one QB product during scouting, and he explains why in the interview above, calling him the “best thrower in the draft, period.”

Famously, the younger Simms tends to be dead-on with his quarterback predictions, labeling Patrick Mahomes the “most special QB talent” in 2017 and ranking Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson in his top two spots in 2018.

Not impressed yet? Well, he also had Justin Herbert ahead of Tua Tagovailoa last year, and look at how that’s turned out so far.

Is Chris Simms always right? Of course not, but his track record might have the most successful win rate in the industry, and in 2021, the BYU superstar stole his attention.

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