The New York Jets’ second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Zach Wilson, has not put the tape necessary to hold the starting job over his first two seasons in the NFL. It’s what led the Jets to eventually trade for four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers this offseason.
Now, Wilson did not know that Rodgers, who was his childhood idol, would be heading to One Jets Drive when he said that he would make life “hell” in practice for whichever veteran the front office added. Wilson was determined to fight for the starting job no matter what.
However, Rodgers is clearly in the building to play under center if he’s healthy, and Wilson will have to prepare to be his backup.
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When speaking about Wilson during his introductory news conference on Wednesday, Rodgers had good things to say about his new backup and apprentice.
“He’s going to make my life hell in practice, and I’m going to make his life heaven off the field,” Rodgers said, via The New York Post.
“I think being around me and seeing how I go about my business, seeing how I lead, seeing how I interact with the guys, I think there are some things he can pick off from that. Part of the opportunity here is to be a great mentor to him, teach him fundamental stuff and allow him to be around me and through osmosis pick up some things that can really help him in his career.”
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During Wilson’s rookie year in 2021, the Jets and Green Bay Packers had joint practices, and Wilson quickly stood next to and watched his idol go to work. Rodgers said they’ve kept in touch since.
“The last couple years he hits me up from time to time during the season,” Rodgers said. “Obviously we’ve spent time together. I love him, I really do.”
Rodgers went as far as to ask the Jets how they felt about Wilson, who still has at least two years remaining on his rookie deal. The Jets have the option to exercise his fifth year due to his first-round pick status.
“I feel like part of my role here is to help him get his confidence back,” Rodgers said. “The team believes in him. That’s one question I asked: ‘How do you feel about Zach?’ Because I care about his feelings, and I care about how he’s viewed. They really believe in him. They think he can be special — and so do I.”
Head coach Robert Saleh also noted that Wilson is taking Rodgers’ arrival positively.
“Nothing but great conversations with Zach,” he said. “He’s excited about this opportunity to work with Aaron. I know he’s going to be picking his brain every day, so Aaron better be prepared for that in a positive way. We’re excited for him to take this next step. We’re not closing the door on him. We still think he’s got a chance.”
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Wilson was benched on two occasions last year as he struggled mightily to hold on to the Jets’ starting job. First, it was a poor performance against the New England Patriots that led to Mike White coming in for him. Then, after a brutal primetime performance in the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16, he was benched at halftime.
Joe Flacco, who is still in the quarterback’s room this season, also spent time on the field for the Jets as their signal caller.
Over his first two seasons, Wilson has completed 55.2% of his throws for 4,022 yards with 15 touchdowns to 18 interceptions. He’s had times when he looks like the franchise guy, and others where the Jets and their fan base don’t seem so sure.
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Perhaps, like Rodgers did under Brett Favre before he moved on to the Jets, tutelage from a quality veteran, one who is a future Hall of Famer, can help turn the tides.