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Zach Wilson fights for the support of Jets fans against Kansas City

THE NEW YORK JETS started backup QB Zack Wilson in the wake of an Aaron Rodgers injury. PHOTO courtesy of wikimedia commons

Entering Week 4 of the 2023 NFL season, New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was up against the wall. Long past were the days that Wilson was viewed as the potential savior of a Jets franchise ever searching for a franchise quarterback. 

As the days grew closer to a matchup with Patrick Mahomes and the world champion Kansas City Chiefs, Wilson’s tenure with the Jets — and truthfully, as an NFL starting quarterback — seemed to be nearing an inglorious end. 

Wilson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft out of Brigham Young University, selected over the likes of All-Pros Ja’Marr Chase, Patrick Surtain II and Micah Parsons, to a Jets franchise that has been the model of incompetence for nearly a decade. 

In his first season, Wilson finished with a record of 3-10 as a starter, throwing for 2,334 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions, four of which came in a humbling Week 2 matchup against the New England Patriots. 

His performance did not exactly inspire confidence in Jets fans, who were expecting to see their franchise turned around. However, many quarterbacks take massive leaps between their first and second years, so Wilson was given another chance. He did not seize it. 

In year two of the Zach Wilson era, the Jets team took a massive step forward while Wilson remained the same. In Week 11, with a record of 6-3, the Jets suffered a humiliating 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots. Following some strange postgame comments from Wilson, he was demoted, not just to second-string but to third-string quarterback behind journeyman Joe Flacco where — if not for injuries to Mike White and Flacco — he would have remained for the rest of the season. 

It seemed evident at this juncture that Wilson was not the answer. So the Jets, in a remarkable move, traded for  Green Bay Packers quarterback and four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers. With this move, many assumed the Wilson era in New York was officially over. 

However, in the first possession of the first game, a Monday night showdown with the Buffalo Bills, Rodgers devastatingly tore his Achilles tendon, leaving him out for the season, forcing none other than Zach Wilson back out on the field in MetLife Stadium as the Jets starting quarterback. 

Despite a miraculous win against the powerhouse Bills in Week 1, for the next two weeks, Wilson looked to be the same quarterback he always was. A 30-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was followed by a 15-10 loss to the Patriots. Jets fans were fed up. Boos and chants rained down on the third-year quarterback. Cries of “These tickets are expensive, Zach!” followed Wilson into the locker room. Next up? The Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs. 

Wilson’s response? Becoming the first quarterback to throw for more completions, more touchdowns, more yards and less interceptions in a game than Patrick Mahomes in the entirety of Mahomes’ college and NFL careers

While this feat was accomplished in a 23-20 loss, in which Wilson did make a critical error by fumbling a snap in the fourth quarter, this was undoubtedly the best NFL game of the young quarterback’s career. It was made all the more impressive knowing that his back was up against the wall and that this could be his last shot to prove himself to be a starting-caliber player.

Postgame, Jets head coach Robert Saleh simply said, “If [Wilson] continues to play like that, we’re gonna win a lot of football games.” 

Wilson saved himself with his performance against the Chiefs, but the work is far from over. Next up are the 1-3 Denver Broncos, followed by the reigning NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles. If Wilson wants to remain as the Jets starter post-Rodgers, now is his opportunity to prove it. 

After the writing of this article, the New York Jets defeated the Denver Broncos 31-21.

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