Imagine being proclaimed the next big thing by a franchise only to be demoted after two seasons.
That’s precisely what Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is going through this season with the arrival of Aaron Rodgers.
“Of course I would love to be the guy,” Wilson said Friday. “You’re not always happy about that. But I’m extremely excited that of any quarterback we could have brought in, it was him.
“I spoke to him during the offseason. I was with him earlier this offseason before any of this came up. We need to spend time together. It was really cool to see how it all came together.
“I have to look at where I am as a quarterback and look to be the best that I can be and I think that can be a big part of that. What he brings to the table, what Coach Hack [Nathaniel Hackett] And [Todd] Downing to bring to the table can be really good for me in my development and this offense.
Just two years ago, the Jets and head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas drafted Wilson from BYU with the second overall pick in hopes of him being their franchise QB. After a turbulent rookie season marked by inconsistent play, Gang Green hoped Wilson would move up in 2022. However, Wilson never got on track following a bone bruise and torn meniscus in his knee. right during the pre-season.
When he returned after missing the first three games of the year, the Jets were successful as a team, but individually Wilson was not. Despite some ugly numbers, Saleh continued to stick by Wilson until he didn’t accept responsibility for the Jets’ embarrassing 10-3 loss to the Patriots last November, in which he completed 9 of 22 assists. for 78 yards.
Saleh eventually benched Wilson, but he was then forced back into action after Mike White suffered a rib injury. Another dismal performance — 9 of 18 for 92 yards and an INT in a 19-3 loss to the Jaguars in December — sent Wilson to the inactive list.
After a 7-10 season, the Jets wanted an upgrade at quarterback. During the final media availability of the season, Wilson had an idea the Jets would bring to the competition as he said, “I’m going to make this guy’s life hell in practice every day.”
After flirting with the possibility of signing Derek Carr, the Jets decided to pivot to Rodgers.
“They were extremely open about everything,” Wilson said. “I can’t be bitter about the situation, I didn’t perform well and you have to take situations as they come.”
During the OTAs this spring, Wilson had the opportunity to work with the first team offense on several occasions. Following Rodgers’ calf strain, Wilson played most of the snaps in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills with some success. Although a small sample without pads, Wilson was more accurate than he was a season ago and he checked the ball when receivers weren’t open on the field.
“He’s a very, very talented player and I think for him his eyes are wide open right now,” Hackett said. “He has so many things he had to learn. It’s a new system.
“I think a lot of people don’t understand that when you go two years, you come out of college, go two years in one system, then go to another system, that’s zero for him, and that’s so new. He is very talented, it is a pleasure to work with him. He’s got a big smile on his face, and I mean, he can throw the ball down the field and we’re just going to get that system to him slowly.
Ever since Rodgers arrived at Florham Park, Wilson has been like a sponge.
Wilson grew up idolizing Rodgers. Now, not only can he watch Rodgers on a daily basis and learn from him, but the two’s friendship has also grown since they first met during joint training in Green Bay in 2021.
“He’s been amazing,” Rodgers said. “He didn’t make my life hell every day. He was a joy to work with and I give him so much credit because it was a tough time he went through.
“I think we stripped away some of his fundamentals and I think you saw him throw the ball in time and make accurate throws and good decisions. I love it, sometimes the best thing that happens is like what happened.