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  • Writer's pictureAustin Facer

Once the Pride of Draper, Zach Wilson needs to grow up...quickly

Hey sorry we’ve been away for a while. There’s been a lot going on with us.

But anyways, there’s also been a lot of stuff going on in the Utah sports universe. The Jazz’s shockingly good start to the year has been a highlight. If it weren't for turmoil in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, the Jazz would probably be the biggest story in the NBA so far this season.

Other stories we could have touched on include Utah football’s shortcomings this season, BYU’s football program entering a tailspin just a year before Big 12 integration, and several others.

But now we need to talk about Zach Wilson.

On Wednesday, just a couple of days after a horrid showing in a 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots, the New York Jets announced that Wilson would be benched ahead of their next game against the Chicago Bears.

Wilson’s benching comes just 18 months after he was drafted second overall by the Jets in the 2021 NFL Draft.

It’s hard to believe that Wilson’s moment on the NFL Draft stage, shaking hands with Roger Goodell and proudly holding a jersey with his name on it, was so recent. A year and a half isn’t a very long time at all. But for Wilson, it’s been exactly enough time to prove one thing:

He isn’t a franchise quarterback in the NFL.

He’s not even a competent starter. Truthfully, his time on an NFL roster in any capacity may be extremely numbered.

A lot has been said about Wilson’s performance in New York’s loss in a practically unwatchable game last week. Here are just some quick notes/takeaways from that game:

- In Wilson’s final stat line, the Draper native went just 9-for-22 for 77 yards and a QB rating of 24.5

- Garrett Wilson, NY’s first-round pick from this last NFL Draft, was targeted just three times and finished with two catches for 12 yards. He voiced obvious frustration with the offensive showing in his postgame media availability.

- New York turned in a paltry 103 yards of offense, including just two yards in the entire second half. Someone on Twitter did the math and found that the Jets' offense effectively gained just 2.77 INCHES per play in the second half.

- Wilson continued to embarrass himself postgame, giving a testy response – simply and sharply replying “No.” – when asked if he let his team down.

Since then, social media has been lighting Wilson up as a bust and a scrub. It’s hard to argue against that. His postgame behavior has also been a point of criticism. NFL analyst and former Jets QB Mark Sanchez commented on a radio show that Wilson looked “insecure and childish.”

So there’s a lot to say about Wilson. Seems like he has a lot of growing up to do. He better do it quickly, otherwise, his ride as an NFL player may soon be over. It’s one thing to play poorly, it’s another thing to refuse to be accountable. That’s the kind of thing that alienates teammates and turns well-meaning, probably-talented players into locker-room pariahs.

And if you’re Wilson, and you want to stay in the NFL, gaining a reputation as an unlikable teammate could be a career death sentence.

I think the biggest issue with Wilson may be that he was given his flowers far too early. Do you remember in the weeks leading up to his NFL Draft selection, he was compared to Patrick Mahomes? Doesn’t that seem insane nowadays? In his second season, and first as the full-time starter for the Chiefs, Mahomes threw for 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards. Wilson is projected to finish his second year with seven TDs and just a hair over 2,000 yards. I'm not a math major, but that's quite the difference, I'd say.

The hard truth is that Wilson’s ability and projected potential at the time of his selection were likely overblown – that’s the understatement of the year. This probably mostly had to do with the fact that he turned in a terrific junior season in 2020 when BYU scrambled to put together an 11-1 season turning the height of the pandemic.

But do you really remember that season?

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe probably deserved a congressional medal of honor for his work that year. To get on the field however they could, BYU scheduled whoever they could, even making arrangements just days before kickoff, as the Cougars did before playing Coastal Carolina late in the season.

In a year in which games against Michigan State, Minnesota, Arizona State, Stanford, Missouri, Utah, and more were canceled and replaced with foes like Troy, Louisiana Tech, UTSA, Texas State, Western Kentucky, and North Alabama, Wilson shined. And how couldn’t he? Wilson, a 3-star high school QB with two years of D1 experience under his belt, might have felt like he was playing Madden in Rookie mode. Not only was he facing defenses well below the standards of a typical BYU opponent, but they also had little to no time to prepare for him.

Wilson’s tape and stats from that pandemic season probably should have been taken with a much bigger grain of salt. The Jets know that now. It must sting to see the wealth of talent that went selected after they took Wilson at No. 2 overall. Wilson was picked ahead of guys like Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, Micah Parsons, Kadarius Toney, and Najee Harris, to name a few.

It feels cheap to pile on the hater train this week, but it’s hard not to. How much better Wilson can play remains to be seen; I’m assuming he can find some level of competency in the NFL. He might not be a franchise guy, it seems like that ship might have sailed. However, he can clearly be a better teammate and leader. Wilson would have fared much better by taking the podium last Sunday and offering some sense of accountability. His teammates and coaches would have greatly appreciated it. The opposite was certainly true; they hated his actual, terse comments from last week. He might not have been benched going into this week’s game.

Right now, Wilson’s NFL career could be circling the drain. Shedding his ego and striving to be a better teammate will give him his best chance of staying in the league and getting back on the field. Otherwise, he might not be long for the league. He could be the next Mitchell Trubisky, and I’m not sure if there’s room for two of those players in the current NFL.

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