OPINION: Stern: No turning back for Jets after Zach Wilson's uplifting performance


Similar to when a teacher sees an underachieving student ace a standardized test, Jets quarterback Zach Wilson's inspiring performance against the Chiefs on Sunday left all football fans and analysts wondering where that production has been for most of three seasons. Now that we've seen the dork flash their intelligence, it'd be near impossible for the organization to turn to a less than jaw-dropping veteran, in hopes of saving the season.

No one gave New York a fighting chance to beat the reigning champions with Wilson under center -- and then he delivered his best performance with Gang Green, throwing for 245 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-20 loss at MetLife Stadium. Whether or not moral victories truly exist in sports, Sunday's version of Wilson could've helped lift the franchise into the playoffs in 2022, and he's certainly capable of winning more this season.

Is it possible that the former No. 2 overall draft pick -- who's spent ample time in New York's doghouse -- is finally putting it all together? Although it's better late than never, Wilson will have to prove he can consistently perform well for anyone to express confidence that he can be the guy moving forward.

Maybe it was the pressure of getting embarrassed in primetime. Maybe it was fatigue from being maligned by teammates and media. Maybe everything just finally clicked in between the ears. Either way, it's impossible to wonder what else factored into the historically poor start to Wilson's pro career, which then prevented him from reaching his ceiling. Considering the Jets' bad reputation for quarterback development, perhaps they were involved. It’s not like Wilson relearned how to play football in the span of a week.

The pressure to succeed in New York is no joke -- plus Wilson was supposed to be sheltered behind big boy Aaron Rodgers while he sat back, pacifier and shaker in hand, learning how to become a big boy. Instead, the third-year man was thrusted back into the spotlight, without a way out. After a couple of poor starts against the Cowboys and Patriots, the cries for once-foreign names like practice squader Tim Boyle commenced. It was similar to cries for Mike White and Chris Streveler, when they were the talks of the town in 2022.

In his third (but essentially fourth) start of 2023, Wilson changed the narrative. There's no way Jets general manager Joe Douglas can pick up the phone and call Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah about Kirk Cousins, or wait on hold for Matt Ryan while he contemplates leaving a comfortable broadcast booth with CBS. The safety blanket of Rodgers, covering up Douglas' gaffe of a draft pick in Wilson, is now gone. Rather than quick-fixing the issue in hopes of reaching the playoffs, it’s time for the Jets to commit to what they have for their remaining 13 games.

Heck, not even the future Hall of Famer's superhuman timetable can interfere with the outlook of developing a true franchise guy who can man the controls for a decade. If there's even an ounce of belief Wilson can keep up the good work for the rest of the season, and beyond, Rodgers' status shouldn't be of concern. So, those doubting from within should be focused on finding other coaches who can maximize Wilson's production.

Giving a young player time to grow, while getting production out of a specific position, is especially challenging at quarterback. While Wilson was certainly provided a fair window, it's possible he needed more time to mature from an X's and O's standpoint. Neither All-Pro production nor sustained competency at the position is expected, but New York's higher-ups should be able to say they expended all resources in finding out. Going outside for some band-aid solution unlikely allows the Jets to stay afloat anyway. So, sitting through the potential eye-soring consequences until January is the most sensible option.

In the meantime, the Jets are hoping they can benefit from Wilson becoming the next Geno Smith -- while still wearing their uniform. Although the endless amount of patience feels tiresome, Douglas and the Jets should roll with the decision, hoping it makes Wilson look more like the student who passed the test than the genius who failed to apply himself when it mattered.

We strive to be a platform where varying opinions may be voiced and heard. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by the author(s) of this article and/or by those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not represent those of Audacy, Inc. We are not responsible for any damages or losses arising from this article and/or any comment(s).
Featured Image Photo Credit: Dustin Satloff / Stringer / Getty Images