FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets coach Robert Saleh’s loyalty to quarterback Zach Wilson, amid one of the worst offensive slumps in team history, has sparked speculation that perhaps Saleh is being mandated by his superiors to keep Wilson in the lineup.
“No, we’re on the same page with that,” Saleh said Wednesday. “So any conspiracy theory that might be out there, we’re on the same page.”
Saleh may have contributed to the narrative with a comment he made late Tuesday during his weekly spot on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York radio. Asked why he’s not starting Trevor Siemian on Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, Saleh said, “Fair question. I don’t know. I’m going to plead the Fifth.”
Wilson has struggled since being drafted No. 2 overall in 2021, but the organization has remained committed to his development. Even after benching him twice last season, and eventually replacing him with Aaron Rodgers, the Jets have stood by Wilson with the hope that he could one day succeed Rodgers.
It’s not working out. Since replacing the injured Rodgers in Week 1, Wilson has failed to throw a touchdown in four of seven starts. He’s ranked 31st out of 32 quarterbacks in Total QBR and the offense has managed only eight touchdowns — none in Monday night’s 27-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Only twice have the Jets scored fewer than eight touchdowns through eight games — 1976 and 2020.
“Obviously,” Saleh said, “it’s not the Greatest Show on Turf.”
Saleh’s alternatives are backup Tim Boyle (0-3 career record) and Siemian, the former Denver Broncos starter who was signed to the practice squad in late September. The pressure is building to make a change. The Jets (4-4) believe they have a championship-caliber defense and they don’t want the season to go to waste.
And yet Saleh is riding with Wilson. He said “the knee-jerk reaction to this is to always hit the panic button.” He acknowledged “there are a lot of things [Wilson] can do better,” but he balanced that by saying the supporting cast needs to perform better, too.
“He’s doing the best that he can,” Saleh said. “But, again, he still needs to get better.”
Wilson acknowledged a sense of urgency.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “It has to be better at some point. We have to do something. It’s frustrating, but we have to find a way.”
The hot seat is familiar territory for Wilson, who was benched twice last season for Mike White (now the Miami Dolphins’ backup). In Wilson’s mind, he’s not that player anymore.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot and it sucks because we’re not doing a lot offensively,” he said. “But progressively, each week, I feel more and more comfortable. I feel like I’m getting better. That’s all you can do, really, in my eyes. If you’re progressively working to improve and get better, it’s going to click at some point.”
The Jets were 6-4 last season when they benched Wilson for the first time, as Saleh tried to prevent an offense-defense split in the locker room. Once again, the defense is outperforming the offense. For the sake of team unity, Wilson knows he needs to get better — quickly.
“They’re obviously playing lights-out and we’ve got to be better for them,” Wilson said. “I don’t know if I’d say we feel pressure, but we need to do something. We need to score points. It’s not good enough and we understand that.
“I think, as an offense, we know it’s close. It sucks because we keep saying ‘close.’ I get sick of that and I know everybody else does, too. But we really are.”