The New York Jets may or may not be taking the starting quarterback job away from Zach Wilson, whom the franchise selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft just 19 months ago. Given a chance on Monday to commit to Wilson as the starter, head coach Robert Saleh not only didn't do so, but explicitly said that, "We're keeping everything on the table," according to The Athletic.
It's a steep fall for Wilson, but it's hard to say it's not deserved. New York is 5-2 in his seven starts this season, but almost entirely due to its defensive performance, rather than anything Wilson has done.
He's completed just 55.6% of his passes at an average of 6.8 yards per attempt. He's thrown only four touchdowns against five interceptions, and he has more touchdown-less games (four) than games in which he has thrown at least one score (three). He's topped 252 passing yards in a game only once, but did so while going 20 of 41 for 355 yards, two touchdowns, and three picks in a loss to the Patriots three weeks ago.
Among 34 qualifying quarterbacks, according to Tru Media, Wilson ranks 34th in completion percentage, 32nd in touchdown rate (2.1%), 26th in interception rate (2.6%), 32nd in his rate of off-target throws (16.4%), 30th in first downs per attempt (29.6%), and 32nd in expected points added per dropback (-0.14). All this following a rookie season during which he completed 55.6% of his passes at an average of 6.1 yards per attempt, with nine touchdowns against 11 interceptions. In other words, he has made very little -- if any -- progress from Year 1 to Year 2.
Things came to a head this past Sunday, when he put together one of the worst passing performances in recent memory, completing just 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards. He was lucky to not be intercepted at least twice, and at one point, he threw a swing pass about two feet over 5-foot-9 Braxton Berrios' head, and that wasn't the only time he overshot one of the easiest throws a quarterback is asked to make.
It was like that all day, and it was like that in the previous game against the Pats. The should've-been-interception he threw to Devin McCourty on Sunday was really bad; his actual interceptions against the Pats a few weeks back were worse. They displayed all of Wilson's worst instincts: sloppy footwork, unearned over-confidence in his ability to make any throw at any time, a refusal to live to play another down, the whole works.
On Sunday, Wilson also missed a wide-open Garrett Wilson on a crossing route, instead targeting Denzel Mims a bit farther down the field. But he missed the throw to Mims so badly that Garrett Wilson couldn't help showing him up, expressing his displeasure that the throw didn't come his way for what could have been a big gain. It wasn't pretty.
Things went from bad to worse after the game when Wilson was asked if he felt like he let the defense down with his play, and he simply said, "No."
"This s--t is not OK. Straight up, it is not OK. How many total yards did we have? That s--t is not going to fly. We got the dudes. It's time to be consistent. It's time to win the games we should win."
"It is unacceptable. No one wants to feel like this but that's not enough. You've got to do something about it. I feel this is a wake up for some of the people in the facility. For us in the facility to get on our details."
"I'm gonna call it like it is. We gotta get better in the passing game if we wanna be at where we wanna be at. We know we can be there. That's the most frustrating part. We ain't gotta be in the games like this. They didn't even score on offense and we lost the game."
"Honestly, I feel like they got to put more trust in the receiver room. I feel like we can go up and make plays and do things. I dunno if everyone feels that way but hopefully by the time we get around next week, everyone feels that way."
It doesn't get much more direct than that. He did everything but call out Wilson by name.
What makes Wilson's performance all the more disconcerting is that A. the pass offense looked vaguely functional earlier this season with Joe Flacco under center (he threw for 901 yards, five touchdowns, and three picks in three starts); and B. he's playing in an offense that has swept the league largely due to its ability to lift the floor on quarterback play, providing easy answers with well-defined reads and concepts that scheme receivers into open space.
And yet, Wilson seemingly can't function within it. Except, sometimes he can. Which honestly makes it even weirder. When operating from a clean pocket, Wilson ranks seventh in the NFL in EPA per dropback. He's 89 of 129 (69%) for 1,083 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. It's just, when he's been pressured, he has melted down to a degree that is practically unheard of. He's just 16 of 60 (26.7%) for 196 yards (3.3 per attempt), with one touchdown and five picks. Throw in his 16 sacks (7.8% sack rate) and 124 yards lost, and he's 34th among the aforementioned group of 34 quarterbacks in EPA per dropback when under pressure.
The issue here is that the Jets' offensive line is still pretty bad (27th in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking grades), so Wilson is under pressure quite often to begin with (37.3%, the sixth-highest rate in the league). And sometimes when he has a clean pocket and should be able to deliver a throw on time and on target, he's so spooked that he just hangs onto the ball and allows himself to be pressured anyway. Once a quarterback gets to that point, it's hard to fix him. (See: Mayfield, Baker.) And given Wilson's comments after the game, where he refused to take responsibility for his performance, it's not difficult to see why the Jets might want to make a change.