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Jets send Zach Wilson to quarterback rehab — is there a path for his return?

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A dethroned Zach Wilson stood before his teammates Wednesday in a crowded meeting room and apologized for last Sunday’s news conference fumble — the one that made him a national poster boy for lack of accountability. The New York Jets’ former starting quarterback’s mea culpa included a vow to teammates.

“He’s going to do everything he can to win his starting job back,” cornerback D.J. Reed told ESPN. “He made that very clear.”

But is that realistic?

The Jets made a very loud statement Wednesday with their quarterback shake-up, saying for the first time they’re willing to live in a world without Wilson. From the moment they drafted him No. 2 overall in May 2021, he has been their everything. After 20 mostly unimpressive starts, he’s now their third-stringer.

Coach Robert Saleh, whose strength is spinning negatives into positives, stated his intention to make sure Wilson gets on the field again this season. (Talk about a lukewarm vote of confidence for Mike White, the new QB1.) Barring injury, the only way that happens is if the Jets (6-4) fall out of playoff contention. If White keeps them in the race, why would they yank him?

In throwing a bone to Wilson, who ranks 35th in Total QBR (37.6) over the past two seasons, Saleh opened the door for a potential quarterback controversy. That, of course, is the microview of this big and complicated quarterback change. The macroview is, will the organization entrust the team to Wilson in 2023?

It’s fair to wonder about the future even though Saleh cautioned reporters not to jump to conclusions.

“[I] just want to make sure you all listen to this carefully, please: Zach’s career here is not over,” Saleh said. “I know that’s going to be the narrative. I know that’s what everybody wants to shout out, and that’s not even close to the case.”

Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas are tied to Wilson, so they have a personal stake in his development. A lot of coaches and front-office types are afraid to admit mistakes and move on. Saleh and Douglas might not be that type, but we’re going to find out in the offseason because there’s a very big decision coming their way.

The Jets have a win-now defense, some intriguing parts on offense, and all they need is a good quarterback (not even a star quarterback) to make them legitimate contenders in 2023. Unless Wilson morphs into a productive starter over the final few weeks, it will be hard to run it back with him and him alone.

They can’t draft another quarterback because that would be starting over, and this franchise has been there, done that with 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold and Wilson. No, the situation would scream for a veteran, someone like the San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo, who will be a free agent. Saleh knows him from his days in San Francisco, and Garoppolo knows their offensive system.

The question is, could they keep Wilson and make a long-term commitment to Garoppolo or another top free agent? Do they pair Wilson with a middle-of-the-road quarterback — i.e. a bridge situation? Only two years after trading Darnold to the Carolina Panthers after 38 starts with New York, which led to Wilson, Douglas could be faced with a myriad of options.

The organization’s hope is Wilson is humbled by his demotion and does some growing up while toiling in the background as the third-stringer. A year ago, the Jets handed him the starting job with no competition. It was such a fait accompli that Saleh never announced Wilson was his starter; it was understood.

When Wilson hit a particularly rough patch last season — throwing nine interceptions in his first five starts — the Jets added his personal quarterback coach to the coaching staff, making him Wilson’s “babysitter,” as one team source said. Former quarterback-turned-analyst Ryan Fitzpatrick recently called the staff addition “a giant red flag. … That scares me a little bit.”

Maybe this will be a wake-up call for Wilson, a chance for soul-searching in a stress-free position. The apology to teammates was a good start, after he refused to shoulder any blame for the team’s pitiful performance against the New England Patriots — a 10-3 loss in which the Jets managed only 103 yards of total offense.

“The situation being what it is, I think that’s something that had to be done,” Reed said of Wilson’s address to the team.

Wilson needs to regain the trust of his teammates. He called the demotion a “humbling opportunity” to work on his game. His mechanics are a mess. Saleh acknowledged as much, saying “some basic, fundamental things that have gotten really out of whack for him.” According to coaches and Wilson himself, his footwork is sloppy. He doesn’t always set his feet and throws off his back foot. He misses too many layup throws. When under pressure, he looks at oncoming rushers instead of keeping his eyes downfield.

“The issues for him are so fixable, but I think he just needs to be able to reset to get those things fixed,” Saleh said.

Basically, Wilson is going into QB rehab for a few weeks. Or longer. It’s hard to say, really. This much is clear: The Jets’ forecast at quarterback is mostly cloudy.

 

Jets send Zach Wilson to quarterback rehab — is there a path for his return?

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A dethroned Zach Wilson stood before his teammates Wednesday in a crowded meeting room and apologized for last Sunday’s news conference fumble — the one that made him a national poster boy for lack of accountability. The New York Jets’ former starting quarterback’s mea culpa included a vow to teammates.

“He’s going to do everything he can to win his starting job back,” cornerback D.J. Reed told ESPN. “He made that very clear.”

But is that realistic?

The Jets made a very loud statement Wednesday with their quarterback shake-up, saying for the first time they’re willing to live in a world without Wilson. From the moment they drafted him No. 2 overall in May 2021, he has been their everything. After 20 mostly unimpressive starts, he’s now their third-stringer.

Coach Robert Saleh, whose strength is spinning negatives into positives, stated his intention to make sure Wilson gets on the field again this season. (Talk about a lukewarm vote of confidence for Mike White, the new QB1.) Barring injury, the only way that happens is if the Jets (6-4) fall out of playoff contention. If White keeps them in the race, why would they yank him?

In throwing a bone to Wilson, who ranks 35th in Total QBR (37.6) over the past two seasons, Saleh opened the door for a potential quarterback controversy. That, of course, is the microview of this big and complicated quarterback change. The macroview is, will the organization entrust the team to Wilson in 2023?

It’s fair to wonder about the future even though Saleh cautioned reporters not to jump to conclusions.

“[I] just want to make sure you all listen to this carefully, please: Zach’s career here is not over,” Saleh said. “I know that’s going to be the narrative. I know that’s what everybody wants to shout out, and that’s not even close to the case.”

Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas are tied to Wilson, so they have a personal stake in his development. A lot of coaches and front-office types are afraid to admit mistakes and move on. Saleh and Douglas might not be that type, but we’re going to find out in the offseason because there’s a very big decision coming their way.

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The Jets have a win-now defense, some intriguing parts on offense, and all they need is a good quarterback (not even a star quarterback) to make them legitimate contenders in 2023. Unless Wilson morphs into a productive starter over the final few weeks, it will be hard to run it back with him and him alone.

They can’t draft another quarterback because that would be starting over, and this franchise has been there, done that with 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold and Wilson. No, the situation would scream for a veteran, someone like the San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo, who will be a free agent. Saleh knows him from his days in San Francisco, and Garoppolo knows their offensive system.

The question is, could they keep Wilson and make a long-term commitment to Garoppolo or another top free agent? Do they pair Wilson with a middle-of-the-road quarterback — i.e. a bridge situation? Only two years after trading Darnold to the Carolina Panthers after 38 starts with New York, which led to Wilson, Douglas could be faced with a myriad of options.

The organization’s hope is Wilson is humbled by his demotion and does some growing up while toiling in the background as the third-stringer. A year ago, the Jets handed him the starting job with no competition. It was such a fait accompli that Saleh never announced Wilson was his starter; it was understood.

When Wilson hit a particularly rough patch last season — throwing nine interceptions in his first five starts — the Jets added his personal quarterback coach to the coaching staff, making him Wilson’s “babysitter,” as one team source said. Former quarterback-turned-analyst Ryan Fitzpatrick recently called the staff addition “a giant red flag. … That scares me a little bit.”

Maybe this will be a wake-up call for Wilson, a chance for soul-searching in a stress-free position. The apology to teammates was a good start, after he refused to shoulder any blame for the team’s pitiful performance against the New England Patriots — a 10-3 loss in which the Jets managed only 103 yards of total offense.

“The situation being what it is, I think that’s something that had to be done,” Reed said of Wilson’s address to the team.

Wilson needs to regain the trust of his teammates. He called the demotion a “humbling opportunity” to work on his game. His mechanics are a mess. Saleh acknowledged as much, saying “some basic, fundamental things that have gotten really out of whack for him.” According to coaches and Wilson himself, his footwork is sloppy. He doesn’t always set his feet and throws off his back foot. He misses too many layup throws. When under pressure, he looks at oncoming rushers instead of keeping his eyes downfield.

“The issues for him are so fixable, but I think he just needs to be able to reset to get those things fixed,” Saleh said.

Basically, Wilson is going into QB rehab for a few weeks. Or longer. It’s hard to say, really. This much is clear: The Jets’ forecast at quarterback is mostly cloudy.

 

Benched QB Zach Wilson apologizes to Jets for postgame comments

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — On the day he lost his starting job in a dramatic quarterback shake-up, Zach Wilson tried to win back his New York Jets teammates with an apology.

Under heavy criticism from fans and media, Wilson spoke to the entire team on Wednesday, admitting he botched Sunday’s postgame news conference — the one in which he refused to take accountability for his poor performance in a loss to the New England Patriots.

“I had a sick feeling in my stomach,” he said, alluding to the uproar he caused.

That game, combined with what coach Robert Saleh called a deterioration of basic fundamentals, led to Wilson’s benching. Mike White will start Sunday against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. Joe Flacco will be the No. 2 quarterback; Wilson will be inactive.

Wilson, acknowledging his poor play, didn’t question Saleh’s decision. Speaking to the team, he expressed support for White but also vowed to win his job back, players said. He wanted to clear the air with teammates, some of whom were upset by his postgame comments, sources said.

“It was the only thing I could think of the last couple of days,” Wilson said. “I wanted the opportunity to talk to those guys and really make it from the heart.”

Wilson’s benching was a significant pivot for an organization that had geared almost everything around him since drafting him second overall in 2021. It raises questions about the future of the team’s quarterback position, a proposition the Jets never thought they’d have to confront so soon.

Explaining the decision, Saleh said Wilson’s fundamentals are “really out of whack” and that he needs time to refocus. Saleh has “every intent” of playing Wilson again this season, insisting the Jets “haven’t wavered in our belief that he’s going to be the future of the franchise.” Saleh described the demotion as a temporary reset.

“Is it a small step back? Absolutely,” Saleh said. “But do I think it’s going to be a great leap forward when he gets a chance to reset himself? Absolutely. So, this is not putting a nail in his coffin. This is not that. This is not close to that. But I do believe, at the end of this, it’s going to be a rejuvenated, renewed young man.” Understandably, Wilson wasn’t happy with the decision, with Saleh describing his reaction as, “Why me? Why now? I want to play.”

“It’s tough, man. It’s never fun,” Wilson told reporters. “The first thing that went through my mind is I have to get to work, I have to get better.” The news didn’t come as a shock.

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“You know what? I wouldn’t say [I was] necessarily surprised because I haven’t been doing my job,” he said. “Of course, I would like to not agree with the decision and everything, but it comes down to I have to play better.”

Saleh declined to put a timetable on Wilson’s return, saying he will take it “day to day.” This, of course, opens the door to a potential quarterback controversy if White is successful.

The Jets (6-4), hoping to end their 11-year playoff drought, have shifted into a win-now mode. They believe their defense is championship caliber, and they don’t want to waste this opportunity because of erratic quarterback play.

They’re 5-2 since Wilson returned from a preseason knee injury, but his play has been wildly inconsistent — a two-year trend. With a 37.6 Total QBR, he’s ranked 31st out of 33 qualified passers over the past two seasons. He hit bottom with a career-low 77 passing yards in Sunday’s 10-3 loss to the Patriots.

Wilson was called out by coaches in Monday’s team meeting, sources said, leading some to believe his ouster was inevitable. Saleh claimed Wilson’s postgame comments weren’t a factor in his decision. Wilson said he had no idea he had caused a stir until his father reached out by phone and asked, “Bro, what are you doing?”

“It’s deserved,” Wilson said of the nationwide criticism. “The way that I handled the situation wasn’t right. I’ve got to be a better football player and then I’ve got to be a better leader for these guys. I have an opportunity to turn the page here as a player and a leader.”

Cornerback D.J. Reed appreciated Wilson’s apology.

“Everything he said came from the heart,” he said. “It was very genuine and everybody respected it.”

Only three weeks ago, Wilson received a strong vote of confidence from Saleh, who said Wilson would start for the remainder of the season, barring injury. What changed?

“There are some basic fundamental things have gotten really out of whack for him,” Saleh said. “This is just an opportunity for him to sit back, focus on those things and find a way to reconnect with all the different things we fell in love with during the draft process. It’s something I feel like he’ll be able to do.”

Saleh said there are “just a few things in his game right now … that will just continue to deteriorate if we just keep throwing him out there.” The team devised a practice plan that will allow him to focus on those fundamentals. Saleh said the issues are “fixable.”

Statistically, Wilson is historically bad when throwing under pressure. He has a tendency to look at the pass rush instead of downfield, often resulting in throws off his back foot. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur acknowledged that footwork is an issue.

“I have to find a way to get him to play fundamentally sound in the lower half,” LaFleur said.

White is hardly a sure thing; he has only three career starts.

With Wilson nursing a knee injury last season, White achieved near-cult hero status in his first career start, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns in upsetting the Cincinnati Bengals. The former Dallas Cowboys draft pick got two more starts — an incomplete game against the Indianapolis Colts (he left with an injury) and a four-interception clunker against the Buffalo Bills.

White actually began this season as the No. 3 quarterback, behind Wilson and Flacco. The Jets changed the depth chart in Week 8, promoting White to QB2 — a switch that left some around the team scratching their heads. Saleh said it was to “allow him the opportunity to prepare as if he is the next man up.”

And now he is.

“Initially, just excited,” White said of his reaction to the promotion. “It’s just what every player in this locker room wants, a chance to compete and prove themselves. But more importantly, it’s just a chance to be a good teammate and help the team and worry about the team first.”

 

Bears QB Justin Fields says he has separated left shoulder

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields said Wednesday that he is dealing with an injury to the acromioclavicular joint in his left shoulder and will evaluate how he feels later this week before determining whether he’ll play against the New York Jets.

“It’s a separated shoulder with partially torn ligaments,” Fields said, describing his injury. “Basically, like an AC joint. That’s my understanding of it.”

The quarterback landed on his left shoulder after he was tackled by Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dee Alford on a first-down run with 1:47 to play in Chicago’s 27-24 loss at Atlanta. The Bears continue to classify him as day-to-day and are leaving the door open for Fields to play Sunday.

“We’ll see where it goes, and then when we get to tomorrow, we’ll know more, and I think by Friday we’ll know more,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “It’s kind of one of those things, you work through the week, and we’ll see where it is and hopefully we’re getting better and better every single day.”

The Bears held a walk-through practice Wednesday. Fields’ projected status on the injury report was classified as limited, although the quarterback did say he threw during Wednesday’s session and felt pain in his injured shoulder.

“The pain is pretty high today just with throwing and stuff like that, finishing throws, just the pain with that,” Fields said. “I’m just going to work throughout the week to get that motion down, try to get that pain down a little bit and see what happens Friday night, Saturday. See how it goes.”

The quarterback said he was not sure whether he would have to wear a harness or brace on his left shoulder to play.

Fields was medically cleared to practice after going through a series of exercises to test his range of motion and the strength of his injured arm. He noted that he felt the most significant amount of pain on his follow-through and that he experienced discomfort handing off the ball on running plays.

Handing off the ball with his right hand, which would be the opposite of his current operation, is not something the quarterback plans to do.

“Nah. If I have to do that, I’m probably not going to play,” Fields said.

Eberflus said that once a player is cleared by the medical staff, the next decision on whether he will play is up to the player himself.

“Once the player says ‘yes, I’m good to go,’ and then the last hurdle is, or the last thing you have to say is, ‘OK, because of who this guy is, is he really, truly ready to go?’ But once the medical staff says he’s cleared, that’s what their job is, he’s cleared to go,” the coach said. “Then we’ve got to decide, can he go full speed? Can he operate? That’s like anything else. Like we had an injury a couple weeks ago with a defensive back. It’s like, can he go full speed, and can he operate? And that’s up to the player and the coaches’ eye.”

Although the Bears have lost their past four games and hold a 3-8 record, Eberflus sees a level of importance in playing Fields if he’s physically able.

“I would just say that if he’s ready to play, he’s going to play,” Eberflus said. “He feels that way, we feel that way. If he’s ready to go, feels good about it, he’s going to play the game. Really, the reason is because we’re trying to win. We want to win the game. There’s a lot of great things to getting the experience of playing a game, every single game we can. That’s an important part to this season.”

Fields noted that Eberflus said the decision would be up to him if he is cleared by the medical staff, and while his competitive nature has led him to play through other injuries — most notably cracked ribs and a partially torn hip muscle during Ohio State’s national championship semifinal game against Clemson in 2020 — weighing the effects that reinjury could have on the rest of his season is something he will consider.

“Of course, I’m not going to sacrifice playing in this game for me risking that I might not be able to play later in games,” Fields said. “I’m not going to have to sacrifice playing in this game and now I get hurt, I have to sit out two or three more weeks after that. Again, just seeing how my body feels, listening to my body and making sure I’m not forcing anything and stuff like that. Just seeing how it goes.”

Jets coach Robert Salah announced Wednesday that he will start Mike White at quarterback in place of Zach Wilson, who will be inactive and given “a reset.” If Fields is unable to play in Week 12, the Bears will turn to backup quarterback Trevor Siemian.

Wilson’s accountability came under fire after a 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots when the quarterback responded “no” when asked whether the offense had let the Jets’ defense down.

Fields was asked Wednesday about a report that he apologized to the Bears’ defense in Atlanta after Chicago’s offense failed to score on its final drive when trailing by three points.

“Yeah, I did,” Fields said. “I was getting my shoulder checked out, and before I went to go get the X-ray, I just wanted to talk to the team. Because, I mean, it was 27-24, the defense held them to a field goal, so they gave us that [opportunity]. Of course, any time we have that opportunity to either go tie the game or even go win the game for the team, we want to do that.

“So, I apologized to those guys, especially for that game-ending pick. I felt like they did their job in terms of holding them to a field goal. It’s not like they gave up a touchdown, so we needed to then score a touchdown. … They did their job of holding them to a field goal, and all the offense needed to do was go get points, and we didn’t do that. We just have to get better in those situations and keep going.”

 

Jets bench Zach Wilson, turn to Mike White as starting QB

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Embattled New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, hailed only a year ago as a franchise savior, is going to the bench in a dramatic shake-up.

Coach Robert Saleh made the bombshell announcement in a late-morning team meeting, later confirming to reporters that Mike White will start Sunday against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. Joe Flacco will be the No. 2 quarterback; Wilson will be inactive.

It’s significant pivot for an organization that had geared almost everything around Wilson since drafting him second overall in 2021. It raises questions about the future of their quarterback position, a proposition the Jets never thought they’d have to confront so soon.

Saleh said they hope to play Wilson again this season.

“Zach’s career here is not over,” Saleh said. “I know that’s going to be the narrative and I know that’s what everybody wants to shout out, but that’s not even close to the case. The full intent is to make sure Zach gets back on the football field this season. When that is, I’ll make that decision. I’ll take it day-to-day.”

That, of course, opens the door to a potential quarterback controversy if White is successful. Saleh, trying to create a positive spin on Wilson, said “the young man needs a reset.

“There are some basic fundamental things have gotten really out of whack for him,” Saleh said. “This is just an opportunity for him to sit back, focus on those things and find a way to reconnect with all the different things we fell in love with during the draft process. It’s something I feel like he’ll be able to do.”

The Jets (6-4), hoping to end an 11-year playoff drought, have shifted into a win-now mode. They believe their defense is championship caliber and don’t want to waste this opportunity because of erratic quarterback play.

Wilson passed for a career-low 77 yards in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots and created a firestorm by refusing to take any blame for the offense’s dismal showing. Saleh wasn’t happy with the comments but insisted that didn’t factor into the decision to bench Wilson.

On Monday, Saleh met with Wilson and told him he was evaluating the quarterback position, later telling reporters the same thing. The non-endorsement was significant because it marked the first time Wilson’s job security was called into question by the team.

Wilson addressed the team, according to Saleh. He declined to divulge specifics, but it was presumably about his postgame comments.

The Jets are 5-2 since Wilson’s return from knee surgery in August. Both losses were to the New England Patriots.

But the Jets are winning with defense, not with the passing attack. Wilson has only four touchdown passes and has exceeded 210 yards in only two of his seven starts.

Publicly, Saleh remained supportive, saying after the Oct. 20 loss to the Patriots that he would stick with Wilson for the remainder of the season. That came after a three-interception nightmare.

Everything changed Sunday, when Wilson was inept as he directed one of the worst offensive performances in team history. The Jets managed only 103 total yards, which Saleh called “unacceptable.”

White is hardly a sure thing; he has only three career starts.

With Wilson nursing a knee injury last season, White achieved near-cult-hero status in his first career start, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns in an upset of the Cincinnati Bengals. The 2018 Dallas Cowboys draft pick got two more starts: an incomplete game against the Indianapolis Colts (he left with an injury) and a four-interception clunker against the Buffalo Bills.

White began this season as the No. 3 quarterback, behind Wilson and Flacco. The team changed the depth chart in Week 8, promoting White to QB2 — a switch that left some around the team scratching their heads. Saleh said it was to “allow him the opportunity to prepare as if he is the next man up.”

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