Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur on Thursday conceded that “in hindsight” perhaps the team shouldn’t have handed the starting quarterback job to Zach Wilson last season, that perhaps it would have been better for his development to sit behind a veteran and learn.
Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft, has struggled in his two NFL seasons and remains the biggest question mark for the team in 2023 as it readies to play its season finale Sunday at the Dolphins.
“For Zach, in hindsight it probably would have benefitted him to sit back and learn a little bit and watch a veteran do it and just kind of grow in this league in the back seat watching, and getting better in practice and better through scout team,” LaFleur said in what is the first admission by the team that its handling of Wilson wasn’t ideal. “But that wasn’t the course that we went. From here, we’ve got to pick it up, we’ve got to pick up the scraps and get back to work.”
Wilson has been benched twice this season because of poor performance and isn’t even making the trip to Florida with the team on Sunday.
He’s played in 22 games, has an 8-14 record and has completed just 55.2 percent of his passes for 4,022 yards, 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
LaFleur indicated that Wilson’s promising performance in preseason last year perhaps proved to be a mirage.
“I think everyone wanted to crown him after that first preseason,” LeFleur said. “He was playing pretty good football through that. We’re going to have to look back and see what … not necessarily red flags, but what indicators were there that said he wasn’t ready. We’ve just got to learn from it and we will.”
Asked how he thinks Wilson will handle the challenges ahead, LaFleur said, “He’s just going to work.”
“When I’ve talked with him, that’s his deal is: I’ve been through rough patches before, maybe not this level but to get through it I’ve just worked hard,” LaFleur went on. “He’s battled before, and he’s going to battle through this.”
Asked about how difficult it’ll be for Wilson, who’s already been labeled a failure by many, to come back from this and navigate his way through the criticism, LaFleur said, “That’s what you sign up for,” adding, “You want to be a quarterback in this league, you want be a coordinator, you want to be a head coach, you want to be a player in this league, when things aren’t going well you’re going to hear it.
“You sign up for that. He’s man enough. He’ll be able to bounce back from that and he’ll have time to reflect and think about it and how he’s going to stand up to it.”