By Zack Rosenblatt, Dianna Russini and Jeff Howe
The New York Jets are prepared to make another switch at quarterback — but their top choice is reluctant to take on the job. The team is leaning toward turning back to Zach Wilson to start but he is hesitant to step back into the role, multiple team sources said Monday.
Jets coach Robert Saleh said later in his weekly Monday news conference that he had not decided who will start at quarterback against the Houston Texans in Week 14, but that Wilson told him when they met 30 minutes earlier that he wanted to play. If Wilson were asked directly by the Jets (4-8) to start, he would agree to that, a source familiar with Wilson’s thinking said.
Aaron Rodgers had reached out to Wilson in an effort to advise him to resume the starter role, but at the time, Wilson remained apprehensive due to perceived injury risk, per team sources.
Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, returned to his former role as the Jets’ starter after Rodgers suffered a torn Achilles tendon four plays into the Week 1 game. But just like in prior seasons, Wilson and the Jets offense struggled, and Tim Boyle was named the starter for the Week 12 game against the Miami Dolphins.
Over two games, Boyle threw for 327 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions while completing 65.1 percent of his passes. He was benched in the second half of Sunday’s Week 13 game against the Atlanta Falcons in favor of Trevor Siemian, who proceeded to complete 5 of 13 passes for 66 yards while losing one fumble.
Neither was able to get the offense going, which struggled more in the last two weeks than it did even with Wilson. At the time of his benching, the Jets didn’t plan to play him again this season. The offense’s performance in a 13-8 loss to the Falcons changed things.
Overall, the Jets have scored four offensive touchdowns in their last 88 drives and rank 30th in scoring for the season. They’ve scored 10 offensive touchdowns, the fewest of any team through 12 games over the last 30 years — and just once over the last two weeks since Wilson was benched.
Wilson had thrown for 1,944 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions this season while completing only 59.2 percent of his passes. It wasn’t the first time Wilson had been benched, either. He was benched last year in Week 12 for Mike White, returned to the lineup when White got injured and then was benched again during a Week 16 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars for practice squad quarterback Chris Streveler.
This time, it was for Boyle, who had three touchdowns and eight interceptions in 17 games before this year.
The Jets have had difficulties finding continuity with their offensive line and their quarterbacks have paid the price, to a degree. In Week 12, the Jets had their ninth starting offensive line combo. Wilson had the second-highest pressure rate against him among all qualifying quarterbacks, according to TruMedia. Wilson hasn’t been listed on an injury report, but the risk of injury is greater behind a constantly shuffling offensive line.
When Saleh benched Wilson, he said: “Zach is fine. He has come a long way from a year ago. I think we all agree, obviously, we wish it was better for him, we wish we all could have been better for him. Like I have said, it is not a one-person thing, but just to see if we could get something going, but he was good.”
Wilson wasn’t supposed to play this season; the initial plan was to sit him and allow him to learn from Rodgers. Rodgers’ injury threw a wrench in their plans, thrusting him into action. Even as he struggled at times, the Jets still managed to start 4-3 with surprise wins over the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles, but they’ve floundered lately amid a five-game losing streak where the offense only seems to be getting worse.
As for Wilson’s future, Saleh said at the time of his benching that “we will deal with it in the offseason.”
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(Photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)