Time for the Zach Wilson experiment to end after benching

Time for the Zach Wilson experiment to end after benching

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — All season long, Jets coach Robert Saleh has defended third-year quarterback Zach Wilson throughout the team’s struggles.

But even Saleh had his breaking point on Sunday afternoon during the Jets’ 32-6 embarrassing loss to the Bills.

Wilson was benched for backup Tim Boyle with 2:17 in the third quarter after a pathetic 7 for 15 for an 81-yard performance. This was the third time the Jets have benched Wilson in less than a year.

After the game, Saleh was noncommittal if Wilson would start against the Dolphins next week.

“Frustrated,” Wilson said. “I get it, gotta score when it’s consecutive weeks when doing nothing on offense. Last week, we moved the ball, but we are not scoring.

“Essentially, it comes down to scoring points. When things are getting down and changes are made, I understand that.”

Almost a year to the day, Wilson was benched following an equally abysmal performance during a 10-3 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, he was replaced once again. In that game against the Patriots, Wilson was 9 of 22 in that game for 77 yards, and the Jets had just two yards on seven possessions in the second half. But it wasn’t his play against New England that got him benched, it was Wilson’s failure to accept any accountability after the game.

Wilson would later start again that season after Mike White broke his ribs, but he was benched again after back-to-back losses against the Lions and Jaguars.

During the offseason, the Jets decided to trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and make Wilson the backup quarterback. The Jets have said all the right things about Wilson and commended his professionalism, but if they genuinely believed in him, he wouldn’t have been replaced in the first place.

The fact is, Wilson was never the right person to lead the charge in case something happened to Rodgers. It has been apparently since the 39-year-old former four-time MVP went down to an Achilles injury in Week 1 against the Bills. If you don’t believe me, maybe the nine offensive touchdowns through 10 games for the Jets is enough evidence.

Against the Bills on Sunday, the Jets were 0 for 11 on third-down conversions. Gang Green entered Sunday’s game worst in the league in third down conversions and red zone efficiency. Also, it didn’t help that the Jets offense only had 155 of offense.

For the Jets to go into a season with Wilson knowing they benched him twice last year was nothing short of malpractice. Now they have to decide if Wilson, Tim Boyle, or Trevor Siemian — who’s on the Jets practice squad — is the right person to right the ship at 4-6 and the season slipping away.

“You go one game at a time,” Saleh said. “You have to. You got a great opportunity with Miami this week, high-octane offense, I know defensively, we will be excited to attack it.

“Offensively and special teams, they’re first in the division. They’re one of those teams that have championship aspirations and you gotta get excited for this one.”

Boyle and Siemian aren’t likely the answer either, but the Jets have to try and see if they can create a spark offensive. Boyle was 7 of 14 for 33 yards and had an interception when he replaced Wilson in the third quarter. Siemian was beaten out and released by the Bengals after the preseason after Jake Browning beat him out for the backup role to Joe Burrow.

Right now, the Jets locker room has zero answers on why the offense is struggling the way that it is. Gang Green has tried everything from having a players-only meeting to inserting younger players on offense. Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett even went from calling plays from the sideline to the coaching booth.

However, the results have stayed the same. What continues to be the common denominator is Wilson under center. In 10 games, Wilson has passed for 1,944 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions. To put that into perspective, Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito has only played in three games and had the same amount of touchdowns as Wilson.

This offense was catered to Rodgers, but it is broken with or without Wilson under center. However, as the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We know what Wilson is at this point. Now, it’s time for the team to pull the plug.

“It’s a tough situation,” Jets tight end Tyler Conklin said. “I was happy for Tim to get the opportunity. I thought he did some good things when he was out there.

“Zach was trying, too. It wasn’t like it was all on him or anything because Tim got in there and we had a lot of the same struggles. It is on all of us, it is a combination and a little bit of everything right now.

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Jets coming up. Gang Green will travel back to New Jersey to play Miami on the first-ever Black Friday game on Nov. 24 on a short week.

Then, after hosting the Falcons, the Jets will host the upstart Texans, who are 6-4 and would qualify for the playoffs if the postseason started today. The Jets also have a game against the 7-3 Browns on Dec. 28 and end the season against a Patriots team they haven’t defeated since 2015.

This year feels a lot like the 2022 season when the Jets were 7-4 and the team lost six straight to end the season. That led to Rodgers being brought in after the Jets started three different quarterbacks — Wilson, Joe Flacco and Mike White.

This was supposed to be a season in which the Jets contended for a Super Bowl. Now it seems they could be competing for a top 10 pick in next April’s draft instead.

“What’s moping around and feeling bad for yourself going to do,” Wilson said. “I hope everyone takes the same step this week. How can I improve how can I get better, that’s all you can do.

“We are just as frustrated as everyone watching. That game was ugly. It is not the standard, it is not the expectation, but all we can do is try and improve and get better and that’s the first thing I’m going to do.”

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