A common refrain among soccer fans is “It’s the hope that kills you.” The meaning behind the expression is quite simple: failure only stings when it’s preceded by hope, otherwise it wouldn’t string because it would be exactly what you expected. For New York Jets fans, this probably hits home to some degree as “snakebitten” seems all but wired into this team’s DNA over the last decade.
It isn’t the hope that kills you. It’s the lack of hope.
As a Jets fan who likes to think of himself as level-headed, this team hasn’t provided hope in a while. It’s been QB bust, failed coach, and failed GM one after another for what feels like forever in football years.
By the time quarterback Zach Wilson came around, it almost felt foretold that it wouldn’t work out. I even liked the player on draft day, but he’s a QB and he plays for the Jets, so was anyone really surprised when he played poorly enough to get benched in year 2? Really? Were we? If we’re being completely honest with ourselves?
And taking it a step further, was hall of fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers taking a season ending injury on the 4th snap of the season not the most “Jets” outcome that could’ve happened? It’s like fate is running reruns. We’ve already seen this before with quarterback Vinny Testaverde in 1999.
There hasn’t been hope around these parts in a long time. A long, long, long time in football years and it’s sucked.
For me, it’s made watching games feel like a chore when it used to be my favorite part of the week, and a lot of that is because it always feels like the other shoe is about to drop. No matter how good it’s going, they’ll blow it. No matter how bad a season is, they’ll win just enough times to miss out on the best players in the draft... and then they’ll draft someone with that later pick who will just continue that cycle over and over again. It’s gotten so bad for this team that I’ve truly started to wonder if the folktale that New York Jets Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Namath sold his soul to the devil had any merit. The lack of hope was killing me even if I was accepting that lack of hope to avoid the pain that would come from yet another Jets failure.
But then, when even the most optimistic of Jets fans struggled to find hope for this season following yet another loss to the New England Patriots and with the Jets booked to play the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in a game with a 9 point spread, something magical happened: Zach Wilson played like the quarterback that everyone dreamed he could be... even if we all held our breathe and prepared for the worst every time we did it.
I mean, c’mon, where has this guy been since 2021?
Zach Wilson Demon Mode— J. Gray (@JGrayJets) October 4, 2023
Only QB to ever out duel Patrick Mahomes like this… pic.twitter.com/E117Y3QXNP
And for those who don’t like stats, where have these throws been?
The best drive of Zach Wilson's career: 5/5 for 75 yds with a 2-pt run.— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) October 2, 2023
And four of the five completions were in very tight windows pic.twitter.com/1SeRuhe9fG
With that said, I don’t know if Zach will keep this up. Maybe he reverts back to the same guy we’ve seen for the last 3 seasons. Maybe Sunday was just a blip in the larger picture of his career.
... but maybe he doesn’t take a step back. Maybe instead this is step 1 in a real-life comeback story and we’re on the right side of it for once. Maybe Zach Wilson makes good on all the promise that he showed at BYU and, maybe, justtttttt maybe, he plays good enough to defy the odds and drag the now 1-3 New York Jets to their first playoff berth in over a decade.
And, you know what, maybe that hope winds up causing some pain later on. Maybe it is the hope that gets you like the expression goes, but, for the first time in forever, I have hope and I’m looking forward to watching the Jets play the Denver Broncos on Sunday in a game that I dare to say... I think they win.
Regardless of how that all shakes out, Sunday against the Chiefs provided a glimmer of hope in a season that lacked any from many... and, right now, for me, that’s enough.
Thank you for the hope, Zach Wilson. Good luck Sunday. Give us another reason to keep hoping.