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Football Outsiders Offers Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford, and Donovan McNabb as Examples to Provide Hope for Zach Wilson Growth

Jacksonville Jaguars v New York Jets Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

In what is an annual tradition here at GGN, the good folks at Football Outsiders have offered to answer five questions about the New York Jets and their upcoming season.

The Football Outsiders Almanac is the best way to prepare yourself for the season. It is as thorough of a preview as you will find anywhere on the 2022 season, and you can buy it by clicking this link.

Cale Clinton who authored the chapter on the Jets answered my questions. We will unveil his answers in the days ahead.

It should come as no surprise that the first question is about Zach Wilson. The young quarterback is the franchise’s most important player.

Wilson’s rookie season was a rough one by any measure. Less clear is what those struggles mean. Was this a typical case of a rookie going through growing pains? I was interested in the trajectory of quarterbacks who had a similar first year in the league. Cale was kind enough to answer my question about Wilson.

What historically has been the realistic best case scenario for quarterbacks who performed at Zach Wilson’s level during their rookie seasons?

Honestly, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Zach Wilson’s -569 DYAR ranked 16th worst all-time among rookie quarterbacks. It’s nowhere near Josh Rosen’s record-setting -1145 rookie DYAR, but it’s also not a far cry from Ryan Leaf’s -661 DYAR, either. I don’t mean to mortify Jets fans with those names–Wilson’s in decent company down there. Both Matthew Stafford and Donovan McNabb finished worse than Wilson in their rookie campaigns.

The closest (and most optimistic) comp might be Josh Allen. Allen finished just two slots below Wilson with a -534 DYAR and actually posted a worse DVOA than Wilson (-35.9% for Allen compared to Wilson’s -32.3%). Both even had the similar struggles with accuracy and an unwillingness to settle for checkdowns and throwaways. Wilson improved his decision-making as the season went on, but by then was mainly left with throwing to Braxton Berrios as his top target. We all know Allen took a historic third-year leap, but that second year was a much more modest regression towards league average with a -21 DYAR and -11.8% DVOA. As long as Wilson looks closer to middle-of-the-pack quarterback play with some flashes of the upside, he’ll be on the right track.

You obviously don’t love seeing the names Josh Rosen Ryan Leaf anywhere near comparisons for a young franchise quarterback, but the names Stafford, McNabb, and Allen suggest there is some hope for Zach.

No young quarterback is a lock after year one, and Wilson has a long way to go, but I do find it encouraging to know there is some hope for a strong career based on this history.

I also strongly agree that the goal for Zach should be a middle of the pack type season. That would be meaningful and realistic progress.