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Five Thoughts on the New York Jets Benching Zach Wilson for Mike White

NFL: New York Jets at New England Patriots Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets will have a new quarterback for at least one game. Mike White takes over under center for Zach Wilson on Sunday against the Bears.

Here are some of my scattered initial thoughts on the move.

  • You can take or leave the decision itself. I could probably convince myself that any of the Zach Wilson, Mike White, Joe Flacco trio gives the Jets the best chance to beat the Bears. If you are going to force me to make a decision, I’d probably still slightly lean towards Zach.

Separate from the decision is the message it sends. I’m sure you could come up with any number of implications from Robert Saleh’s decision, but one word jumps out at me, accountability.

Teams always claim they treat all players equally no matter their salary or Draft position. This, of course, is nonsense. Good players get more leeway than bad players. High priced players get more leeway than inexpensive players. High Draft picks get more leeway than low Draft picks. This is the way it is. This is the way it is always going to be.

No player gets more leeway than a highly drafted quarterback. These players are given every chance to succeed. Every excuse is made for them when they fail. Too much is on the line to not give them every opportunity.

You can disagree with the specific decision to bench Zach Wilson, but I think the Jets are sending a powerful message. Even the quarterback they picked second overall last year faces consequences when he fails to perform. As somebody who has frequently complained about a lack of accountability in the franchise for the last decade plus, I welcome this development.

  • I think it is difficult for most of us to say with 100 percent certainty whether this is the correct decision or not. Those of us who aren’t in the building every day have to consider what I will call the known unknowns.

Without being in the locker room, we can’t say exactly where Zach Wilson stands with any certainty. Wilson’s postgame comments on Sunday drew attention. It became clear that there was some unhappiness with Zach at least to some extent. Robert Saleh tacitly acknowledged that in his Wednesday press conference.

DJ Reed passed this along.

The fact Reed indicated this “had to happen” tells us something was amiss.

What is Zach’s standing in the locker room? None of us really knows. The Jets are incentivized to make it sound like everything is ok. The New York media is incentivized to manufacture a crisis.

We know there’s something. We don’t know how bad it is. We don’t know how quickly it can be fixed. We won’t even know if it is fixed already. Still this likely played a role in today’s decision and will play a role in Saleh’s future decisions at the position.

Among the other known unknowns is Zach Wilson’s current mindset. If you listened to Saleh and took his words at face value (admittedly not always an accurate approach), it seemed like the coaching staff just felt Zach could use a mental breather for a week or more. How Zach progresses will also play a major role in determining if and when he rejoins in the lineup. Only Saleh will know this. We don’t now and won’t in the future.

  • The Jets are telling us nothing has changed. Zach Wilson is still the future of the franchise. Others are saying there is no way Zach can ever rebound from this. Who is right?

Well, right now neither is. For all of the talk the Jets are giving us, at the end of the day they are really telling us they believe Mike White gives them a better chance to win an important game this weekend than Zach Wilson does. That’s a pretty clear sign the team’s confidence in Zach is shaken.

At the same time, does this mean the end of him? Have you never seen a quarterback come back from a benching before? It happens. Given where he is right now, the odds are against Zach, but it certainly isn’t over.

  • I think we frequently can be blinded by previous conceptions. Sometimes I find it useful to ask, “If I knew then what I know now, would I make the same decision?”

If we knew in 2021 what we know now, there’s no way Zach Wilson would have been the second overall pick. He was much more raw and far less pro ready as a prospect than the Jets realized at the time. You would take a prospect like this maybe in the third round.

It was a missed evaluation by the Jets. They aren’t the first team that has missed on a quarterback evaluation. I tend to think they were far from the only team that was willing to draft Zach Wilson with a high first round pick.

That pick is gone no matter what happens going forward. With that in mind, I don’t think it’s useful to think about Zach Wilson as the player the Jets invested so much in.

The second overall pick has a connotation of an elite plug and play prospect. This is a player who must see the field.

That isn’t where Zach Wilson is. If you use the more accurate view that he’s more like a late day two or even early day three project, things begin to make more sense.

This was not a player who should have started in year one or year two. He was a tooly prospect who was always going to need a lot of developmental time. When you draft a quarterback in the third round, it’s common sense that this is going to take a lot of time. This player will sit.

In hindsight, it was always going to take more than two years for Zach Wilson to develop if it was going to happen. Admittedly most project quarterbacks never do. Still with the proper mindset, we can understand that the Jets have a developmental quarterback rather than an elite prospect. With this in mind, I think the Jets should keep Zach around after this season and continue trying to work with him no matter what else happens at the position (as long as the salary cap allows it).

  • “If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have any.”

It is a Bill Parcells quote that has become an overused cliche in the NFL community. It frequently is used as a rationale for teams to settle on one quarterback.

Some teams don’t have a quarterback, though. The Jets are among them. This is a team with three quarterbacks and yet no quarterback.

The best approach might be just riding with the hot hand. I don’t think Mike White will start every remaining game. Joe Flacco might get another shot. I think there is a good chance we will see Zach Wilson again before the year is out.

It might not be the ideal situation, but a revolving quarterback door could be the Jets’ best shot. Nobody they have is good enough to play with consistency for the next month and a half, but they might run into a handful of good games if they keep going with the guy playing the best in the moment.