The jarring thing is how quickly and firmly he said “no.”
Still sporting a black eye, Zach Wilson stood in front of reporters and cameras at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon for the usual postgame interview session. His New York Jets had just lost 10-3 when the second punt return by New England Patriots rookie Marcus Jones was an exciting finish for the home team and their cold fans but the Jets lost close to their supposed rival, the second one in less than a month.
New York had scored three points. Three.
Wilson completed just 9 of 22 pass attempts for 77 yards, and was sacked four times. If there was any silver lining to another terrible performance for the second-year player, it was that he at least didn’t touch the ball, with no interceptions and no fumbles. Although he was even lucky: Patriots quarterback Devin McCourty, who rarely makes such mistakes and picked off Wilson twice in their game last month, gift-wrapped turnover fell in the last minute of the first half when Wilson floated a ball over the middle of the field.
But in an era where the NFL has calibrated the rules to maximize yards and scores, if your defense – even one as rocky as New England’s this season – is held to only three points, it should be your team is sailing easily. win
And if your defense has a three-point offense and you, as the leader of the offense, can’t find a way to put more than three on the board, your only response would be to apologize deep with your partners.
Those guys on defense, they did their job.
Zach Wilson was not.
And yet he was, the No. 1 choice. 2 in the 2021 draft, the alleged face of the franchise, in front of a Jets-logged backdrop and a winter hat emblazoned with the Jets logo, dismissing any notion that he didn’t pull it off. weight.
“As an offense, you were only able to score three points, the defense only allows three points up, do you feel like you want to let the defense down at all?” Wilson was asked.
“No,” Wilson said immediately, scratching his nose and turning away from the reporter.
NFL quarterbacks have long received far too much credit for wins and often too much blame for losses. But in recent years they’ve also seen their salaries rise to the point where many veterans make two or three times what their first-highest-paid colleague earns. Even Wilson, who is still on his slotted rookie deal, is one of the 10 highest paid Jets this season.
When you play the position that gets the most attention and by far the most money, and is the de facto leader of the roster, it comes with certain responsibilities.
First and foremost: accountability.
Wilson did not show any Sunday. Not just for the fans, but more importantly for the men he’s supposed to be leading. And it wasn’t like he was stellar and the receivers let him down. Wilson was bad; it is bad. You could argue that he is the worst starting QB in the league this season.
It’s worse because it has a strong defense. He doesn’t have to put up 35 points every week and hope for the best. The Jets defense is allowing just 20.7 points per game, and over the past five weeks has allowed just 13.6 on average.
Receiver Garrett Wilson said after the loss, “This s*** is not OK. Straight up, it’s not OK.”
When head coach Robert Saleh was asked about the offense specifically in the second half, when New York mustered 2 total yards (no, really), he couldn’t muster anything more than, “It was a dog**.”
Wilson’s team certainly noticed his flippant response. One report on Sunday said Wilson’s recovery after the loss suggested he doesn’t believe he’s the problem. On Monday, it was another description saying there are still “raw emotions” among defensive players over Wilson’s refusal to be held accountable for his group’s failures.
Also on Monday, defensive end John Franklin-Myers and rookie Sauce Gardner took to Twitter to explain that they “accidentally” liked tweets critical of Wilson.
The shame is, again, that New York’s defense is playing so well that the team doesn’t need Wilson to be a world-beater. The Jets need him to be just competent.
Look around, Zach: The quarterbacks who are true leaders deflect praise in wins and publicly take the blame in losses — even when it’s not their fault.
Tom Brady worked with some truly awful receiving groups during his Patriots tenure. (You were like 6 years old, but look at the 2006 New England roster sometime. It was hot garbage, and Brady got them to the AFC title game.) But he always said back on himself if the offense struggling. When Buffalo’s Josh Allen plays bad, he owns it. Russell Wilson’s Denver Broncos tenure has been a disappointment, and he hasn’t once tried to blame anyone else.
If Wilson can’t be bothered to study other quarterbacks, he can look to one of his teammates instead. Special teams captain Justin Hardee appeared to be on the verge of tears as he sat out the loss completely on his own as the leader of the unit that gave up the touchdown that won the game on Sunday.
Taking the blame after a loss doesn’t mean you don’t express frustration behind closed doors, if the receiver ran the wrong route or if the offensive line is missing assignments. Of course, constructive criticism comes best when it is clear that you are as demanding of yourself as you are of others.
But in front of cameras, you’re the leader, baby.
It’s time to act like it.