So here is Zach Wilson, yet again, on the firing line.
The 4-4 Jets are about to enter a desperate playoff race and their quarterback is bringing up the rear.
“He’s doing the best he can,” Robert Saleh said.
And the best he can is clearly not good enough.
But as the change-for-the-sake-of-change chorus grows louder when the Zach Wilson roller-coaster ride makes Jets fans nauseous, as Saleh is forced to shoot down conspiracy theories about orders from above not to pull the plug in favor of Tim Boyle or Trevor Siemien, the sobering reality at this moment in Jets history is this:
“I know the knee-jerk reaction is to always hit the panic button,” Saleh said.
Wilson is saying all the right things this season, but he better start doing all the right things — and soon — or Saleh and Joe Douglas and Woody Johnson will have no choice but to hit the panic button to save the season … or at least keep it alive just in case Aaron Rodgers has a miracle in him.
Should Wilson implode Sunday in Las Vegas, Saleh will have every right to hit the panic button for an even bigger Week 11 game in Buffalo.
Of course Saleh can’t turn to Mike White. But the clock has to be ticking on Saleh and Wilson and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to fix this historically gruesome eyesore that is threatening to sabotage the season.
I asked Wilson what he would say to exasperated Jets fans understandably hitting the panic button heading into a November playoff charge with him as their quarterback.
“Or course I would hope they trust and believe in me,” he said. “but my job as a quarterback is to 100 percent focus on how can I put this team in the best position possible.
“I want the Jets fans to obviously hang with us and believe in us. I hope they know, as frustrated as they are, we’re even more frustrated. We’re the guys out there that every week it’s felt like that, and it needs to be better.
“And so I want them to know that I’m doing everything I absolutely can to be the best quarterback I can be, to help us get to the playoffs, and more. That’s all I want them to know is we’re fighting., we’re fighting.”
It is difficult for Jets fans to believe in a quarterback who cannot convert third downs or throw touchdown passes — one across the last four games, five for the season. It is not all on the quarterback, but the quarterback has not shown that he can rise above the rubble in front of him and around him.
Saleh’s crowning achievement has been keeping his beloved defense from turning on Wilson, even as Garrett Wilson volunteers that it is hard for him coming off the field to look defensive players in the eye.
“We gotta be better for them,” Zach Wilson said. “I don’t know if I would say we feel pressure. But, we need to do something. We need to score points. It’s not good enough and we understand that.
“I wouldn’t say pressure because I think as an offense we know it’s close, and it sucks ’cause we keep saying close, right? And I get sick of that, I know everybody else does, too.”
Hackett and Wilson appeared to mesh when the quarterback somehow outplayed Patrick Mahomes in Week 4, but they’ve gone into a predictable slump together.
“That dude is relentless,” the quarterback said of Hackett. “He wants to be great just like everybody else in this room. No bond is more important than mine and his, the trust that we have in each other.”
It has become trial-and-error for the two of them. And more error than trial.
“I think it’s always finding that fine line — where is the risk and reward on that play?” the quarterback said. “Is it something that my team needs me to thread one in there and it’s worth maybe throwing a pick here and there and we get a couple of touchdowns out of it, or do we gotta play the next down? And I think that’s always the balance of trying to figure that out.”
It is problematic that the quarterback is experiencing growing pains in his third season, even if it is Aaron Rodgers’ offense:
“I took two sacks in the red zone, I gotta find a way to get the ball out of my hands.”
“More than anything, if it’s not there, how can I save the down?”
Saleh has gotten tongue-tied on occasion trying to rationalize his quarterback’s play. Since making Wilson the second-overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft, Saleh (and the organization) have gifted this cat what seems like nine lives:
“I thought he did a great job in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Giants and he gave us a chance to win that football game.”
“Philadelphia’s a fantastic defense, but we played a very smart football game.”
The best Saleh can offer is:
“Obviously it’s not The Greatest Show on Turf.”
It is The Greatest No-Show on Turf … or on any surface … although Giants fans may beg to differ.
“I feel like I’m getting better, and that’s all you can do,” the quarterback said. “In my eyes, it’s like if you’re progressively just working to improve and get better, It’s gonna click at some point.”
Better late than never Sunday in Las Vegas, although never is the favorite.
“At some point we gotta do something,” the quarterback said.
If he doesn’t, at some point, so will the head coach. Keep fighting to make Jets fans believe in you, kid. Zach-or-Bust doesn’t have a warranty.