Twists and turns keep coming for the Jets, who have seen Zach Wilson‘s trajectory define the Joe Douglas–Robert Saleh regime. After a chaotic season on the quarterback front, the Jets are again back with Wilson, who is taking the snaps today despite being benched three times between November 2022 and November 2023.
With their Tim Boyle experiment going poorly, en route to the veteran backup being cut the day after he made a start, the Jets are aiming to have Wilson start the rest of the season. This is, of course, contingent on Aaron Rodgers not deciding to finish his oft-discussed comeback effort for a team that almost definitely will not make the playoffs. Saleh did not rule out Rodgers coming back regardless, though he also needed to answer questions about Rodgers’ swipe at his own team’s culture this week. That gripe that came after a report indicated Wilson was reluctant to return to the starting lineup. In short, just about nothing has gone as the Jets (4-8) envisioned this season.
Wilson is more likely than not to be playing elsewhere in 2024, but as of now, the Jets are not expecting any changes to the coaching staff, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini (subscription required). Ownership is presently onboard with running it back “with an identical formula” in 2023. Russini adding a caveat that Rodgers’ opinion will be pivotal in how the Jets proceed with their coaching staff effectively illustrates where the team is right now.
It would be rather strange to see a team go through a season like the one the Jets are winding down and stand pat with its staff. Entering today’s Jets-Texans matchup, Saleh is 15-31 as a head coach. Granted, much of the struggles trace to Wilson, who has been one of the worst draft picks of the decade and is moving toward becoming one of the biggest quarterback busts in modern NFL history. The Jets attempted to move past the Wilson issue by trading for Rodgers, but the team has received scrutiny for how it operated following the latter’s Achilles tear.
After effectively handing Wilson the backup gig in a redevelopment effort this offseason, the Jets did not make much of an effort to upgrade following Rodgers’ injury. A rumor surfaced in September indicating the Jets lacked interest in adding a starter-caliber QB in order to protect Wilson’s confidence, with Saleh coming off as a Wilson apologist in the locker room. Another early-season rumor pointed to Jets ownership not wanting to allocate much money toward the position due to having already done so for Rodgers this offseason. The results have been predictable, with Wilson entering Sunday last in QBR. The Jets’ 10 offensive touchdowns through 12 games are the fewest any team has mustered since 2000. That said, Rodgers has long backed Nathaniel Hackett. This endorsement is rather significant for the embattled OC.
Giving Saleh’s staff a pass for this season could also be justified. After the 2021 Jets’ defense ranked last, its Saleh-led 2022 unit finished fourth. DVOA places the Jets’ defense third this season. The Jets hold the NFL’s longest playoff drought, having not advanced to the postseason since 2010. Over the past 10 years, only three HCs — Todd Bowles (Jets), Jeff Fisher (Rams) and Jon Gruden (Raiders) — have been retained after starting their HC runs 0-for-3 in playoff berths. The Raiders did not have much choice with Gruden, who was attached to a 10-year contract.
Although the Jets have made tremendous defensive strides over the past two years, their dysfunctional environment persists. It should not be considered stunning if the Jets fire Saleh or Hackett (the latter’s ties to Rodgers notwithstanding), but as it stands now, ownership may well be fine giving the staff a mulligan for this injury-marred season.