The questions have been coming in for Zach Wilson as fast and furious as the NFL pass rushers he’s trying to escape from each week.
Why has he been so inaccurate on short and intermediate passes?
Why has he started so slowly every week?
Has his confidence wavered?
Don’t worry about Wilson. The kid’s going to be all right.
Wilson isn’t worried about Wilson, and neither are his teammates or the coaching staff.
The Jets’ 22-year-old rookie quarterback, who’s played five NFL games, hasn’t shown even a hint of a sign of his confidence cracking — despite having thrown and NFL-high nine interceptions and his team being mired in last place in the AFC East at 1-4.
“Everybody believes in him,’’ center Connor McGovern said Tuesday. “The coolest thing about Zach is he doesn’t let anything affect his confidence. In my career, I’ve seen young quarterbacks get their confidence rocked and never come back.’’
None of us knows what Wilson is going to become. Not Wilson, not head coach Robert Saleh or his staff, not the media, not the fans. But a five-game sample size is hardly enough to label him a draft-day bust or even a flop.
Every Jets fan wishes Wilson to be what Justin Herbert was for the Chargers last season or what Joe Burrow was for the Bengals.
Herbert completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 4,336 yards, 31 TDs and 10 INTs as a rookie. Burrow completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,688 yards, 13 TDs and five INTs in 10 games as a rookie.
Those two players are outliers, not the norm.
“My expectation for myself is to do better than this,’’ Wilson said Tuesday before heading home to visit with his family for the bye week. “My expectation for the team is to have won every single game, just because I know that we can, and I know that we have the ability to do that. But we also know that this is a process. It sucks to not do super well the first five games, but we have a lot to look forward to.’’
Of the quarterbacks picked in the 2021 first round, New England’s Mac Jones is having the soundest season with a 71.1 percent completion rate, five TDs and five INTs. He, too, is being coached by the best coaching staff in the NFL with Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
This is not making any excuses for Wilson, but the fact is this: He’s a rookie who’s surrounded by rookies in every key place on the team — beginning with Saleh and his offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur.
Wilson may have a higher ceiling than Jones with more dynamic play-making ability, but Jones is being coached better at the moment.
This is exactly what the Jets signed up for when they drafted Wilson second overall and didn’t bother to bring in a veteran backup to serve as a mentor, which was an error in judgment.
In fairness to the Jets, Greg Knapp was supposed to be that mentor, but he was tragically killed on the eve of training camp when he was hit by a car while riding his bike.
Knapp had coached the likes of Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Michael Vick and Matt Ryan, who picked the Jets’ defense apart Sunday in London, and Young, who as a fellow BYU grad is close with Wilson, said in a Monday interview with Michael Kay on ESPN Radio that he “felt very comfortable’’ for Wilson knowing he would be mentored by Knapp.
Young said without Knapp, the Jets are “in a tough spot’’ right now as far as having someone to properly help Wilson navigate through the difficult times.
“This has really shown how much [Wilson] has needed somebody that’s been around to give him context so he can work though the challenges faster,’’ Young said.
Young said he texted Wilson after the Jets won their first game two weeks ago and told him, “You’re going to remember clawing your way out of this.’’
He said Wilson’s response was: “You know what? The NFL’s tough, but I love it.’’
“Zach’s going through the ultimate challenges of the NFL where you don’t have tons of help, you’re expected to be great [and] you’re seeing other rookies succeed like Mac Jones,’’ Young said.
Wilson, though, appears unfazed by it all, which may be his greatest strength at the moment.
“He’s looked at as a savior for this franchise and he’s embraced everything that comes with that,’’ defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said Tuesday. “I have the utmost confidence going forward that he’ll continue to lead this franchise going forward.’’
So does Wilson.
The kid’s going to be all right.