Zach Wilson reluctant to step back from starting role as Jets consider QB change: Sources

Written by Zach Rosenblatt, Diana Rossini, and Jeff Howe

The New York Jets are ready to make another switch at quarterback — but their top option is hesitant to take the job. Multiple team sources said Monday that the team is leaning toward returning Zach Wilson to start but he is hesitant to return to that role.

The Jets, who are 4-8, have not made any final decisions on who will start at quarterback against the Houston Texans on Sunday. They hope Wilson will change his mind. If the Jets asked Wilson to start right away, he would agree, a source familiar with Wilson’s thinking said.

Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, returned to his previous role as the Jets’ starter following an offseason acquisition, in which Aaron Rodgers suffered a torn Achilles tendon four times in the Week 1 game. But as in previous seasons, Wilson and the Jets’ offense struggled, and Tim Boyle was named the starter for the Week 12 game against the Miami Dolphins.

Through two games, Boyle has thrown for 327 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions while completing 65.1 percent of his passes. He was benched for 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 continue the offense, which has struggled more in the past two weeks than even Wilson did. At the time of his benching, the Jets were not planning on playing him again this season. The offense’s performance in the 13-8 loss to the Falcons turned things around.

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Overall, the Jets have scored four offensive touchdowns on their last 88 drives and rank 30th in scoring for the season. They have scored 10 offensive touchdowns, the fewest of any team over 12 games over the past 30 years — and just once over the past two weeks since Wilson was benched.

Wilson had thrown for 1,944 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions this season while completing just 59.2 percent of his passes. This wasn’t Wilson’s first time on the bench either. He was benched last year in Week 12 in favor of Mike White, returned to the lineup when White was injured and was then benched again during a Week 16 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars for coaching staff quarterback Chris Streveler.

This time, it was for Boyle, who had three touchdowns and eight interceptions in 17 games before this year.

The Jets had difficulties finding continuity with their offensive line and their quarterbacks paid the price to some extent. In Week 12, the Jets acquired their ninth offensive line group. Wilson had the second-highest pressure rate against him among all qualifying quarterbacks, according to TruMedia. Wilson was not listed on the injury report, but the injury risk is greater behind an ever-fluctuating offensive line.

When Jets coach Robert Saleh benched Wilson, he said, “Zach’s fine. He’s come a long way from a year ago. I think we all agree, obviously, we wish it was better for him, and we wish we were all better for him.” I said, it’s not about one person, but just to see if we can make something happen, but it was good.

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Wilson was not supposed to play this season. The initial plan was to sit him down and let him learn from Rodgers. Rodgers’ injury threw a wrench in their plans and sent him into action. Even when they’ve struggled at times, the Jets still managed to get off to a 4-3 start with upset wins over the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles, but they’ve faltered recently amid a five-game losing streak as the offense appears to be getting worse.

As for Wilson’s future, Saleh said while sitting on the bench, “We will deal with him during the vacation.”

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(Photo: Sarah Steer/Getty Images)

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