The New York Jets have gone 11 straight quarters without a touchdown, but they’re not blaming the quarterback.
In his latest defense of Zach Wilson, coach Robert Saleh said Wilson “is actually playing pretty good” and that it would be unfair to blame the team’s profound struggles on one player or coach.
“It’s hard to make changes just to make changes, just to pacify something, especially when someone is not deserving of that,” Saleh said Monday. “If he was deserving, I gotcha, let’s change something. That’s always [the case] for every position.”
Along those lines, Saleh said he’s planning to continue with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as the playcaller.
The Jets (4-5), losers of two straight, failed to reach the end zone for the second straight game in Sunday night’s 16-12 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. In the past two games, the Jets have almost as many penalties (17) as points (18).
In Vegas, Wilson tied a season-high with 263 passing yards — he also rushed for a season-high 54 yards — but he was intercepted with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter at the Raiders’ 15-yard line.
Since replacing the injured Aaron Rodgers on the first series in Week 1, Wilson has orchestrated only eight touchdown drives. He has only five touchdown passes — one in the past five games.
The fan base is outraged, calling for Saleh to bench Wilson for Tim Boyle or Trevor Siemian (practice squad). Despite mounting pressure, Saleh is standing by the former No. 2 overall pick.
With a road game against the Buffalo Bills (5-4) up next, Saleh said he’s “looking across the board” for ways to jump-start the offense, including schematic tweaks and potential personnel changes. But Wilson is staying put.
“He’s much better than he was a year ago,” Saleh said. “He’s year one in a new system — a system that was built for Aaron — let’s be real — and we’re trying to make a shift to where everyone is comfortable.
“I think [Wilson] is doing a good job. It’s not all perfect — there’s been some peaks and valleys — but [Sunday] we were moving the ball. … To try to pinpoint it all on one person, with everything that’s been happening, I don’t see how that’s productive.”
Saleh said he “never felt like making one guy the fall guy is going to make everyone around him better.” But that’s what he tried to do last season.
He benched Wilson twice in 2022, each time in favor of Mike White, who provided energy, if not efficient football. White was 1-3, with three touchdowns and four interceptions, but the offense functioned better with him than Wilson. White signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins.
Evidently, Saleh doesn’t have that kind of confidence in Boyle or Siemian, who signed in late September.
With the offense sputtering and the defense holding opponents to 19 points per game, Saleh is risking a locker room fissure by opting for the status quo. The frustration among players is rising.
“The main thing is unity,” tight end Tyler Conklin said Monday. “We’ve got to come together as a team and say, … ‘What do we need to do to fix this offense? What do we need to do to go on a run here?'”
After the game, wide receiver Garrett Wilson said a players-only meeting might do some good. At 4-5, Conklin believes it’s not too late to make the playoff run.
“Are we going to sit here and wave the white towel and act like it’s the end of the world?” Conklin said. “Or are we going to come together as a team and stop making excuses or whatever the hell is going on from game to game, play to play, and get it fixed? Knowing the type of guys we have in this building, I have a feeling that is something we can do.”