The Jets used the second overall pick in 2021 on quarterback Zach Wilson. They continue to hold out hope that Wilson will develop into the player that they, and many others, thought he would be.
The plan going forward is simple — Wilson learns from Aaron Rodgers, and potentially gets another chance to play, down the road.
But Douglas is willing to look back at how the Wilson experiment went wrong, if for no reason other than to handle a similar situation better in the future.
“I go back and I look at a lot of things and things that can be done differently, things that were in our control, out of our control,” G.M. Joe Douglas said in an appearance on #PFTPM. “And every situation’s different. I feel like in today’s NFL, when you take a quarterback in the first round, and you take a quarterback high, time’s against you. And you need to see what you have so you can make a decision in that four-year window, three-year window.
“I think going back, it would have been great to have a veteran quarterback like a Joe Flacco that first season. But ultimately, we made the decision to jump in head first with our youth movement. We had so many first- and second-year players, new staff. Let’s go in and attack this thing with youth. We know there’s going to be some growing pains, but we’re all going to grow together. I think we saw some of the benefits of that last year. But sometimes you don’t take into account the ramifications of playing a young quarterback early in his career. And so, I think if I had to do everything over again, I would have probably had that veteran presence in the room early for Zach.”
For teams that hold a pick so high in the draft, it’s hard to pick a player that the team isn’t ready to put on the field. If the Jets weren’t ready to play Wilson after making him the second overall pick, they arguably should have picked a different player — someone who would be ready to go right away.
“Those were all the things we talked about,” Douglas said. “We went through, just like we did this offseason, we went through every single scenario in terms of not using pick number two on a quarterback, trading pick number two to acquire more talent, using pick two on a quarterback and keeping Sam [Darnold] as a veteran presence. We went through every scenario. Ultimately, we decided to really attack the youth movement and go young and we didn’t look back.”
Now, they look ahead.
“When the change was made in the second-half of last year, the intent was for Zach to reset and really get back to basics,” Douglas said. “And that’s carried over into this offseason so far. . . . Zach has an unbelievable ceiling and Zach is wired the right way in terms of his love of the game, his work ethic, his attention to detail. And so, this is a great opportunity for him to shadow one of the best passers of all time in Aaron Rodgers and pick up every little thing he can from him and get better every day. And so, I know he’s attacking this offseason like no other. His energy level is unbelievable. It’s good to see him with a huge smile on his face and really working every day to get better.”
The better he gets, the better off the Jets will be. And maybe, in time, the baton will pass smoothly from Rodgers to Wilson — and the fans will be willing to give Wilson a second chance to make a first impression.