FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It isn’t enough to repeatedly ask your franchise quarterback not to make a mistake.
As the games get bigger, you better have a franchise quarterback who can play bigger than that.
The Jets did not have that quarterback again on Sunday, and against Bill Belichick.
The Jets have a Quarterback Problem.
And now this just happens to be a convenient week to ponder a more significant question than what would it take for Robert Saleh to take the ball from Zach Wilson (9-for-22, 77 yards) and let Mike White try to spark the offense:
Did GM Joe Douglas and Saleh blow it when they passed on Justin Fields with the No. 2-overall pick of the 2021 draft?
Oh how the MetLife natives will be restless this coming Sunday when the emerging Bears quarterback — who was carted back to the locker room with an apparent shoulder injury after going 14-for-21 for 153 yards and 1 TD passing, 18-for-85 and 1 TD rushing in a 27-24 loss to the Falcons — is taking a second-year leap over a faltering Wilson.
Belichick and the Patriots were practically begging Wilson and the Jets to take the game, and he refused to take it. So an 84-yard punt return TD by Marcus Jones with five seconds remaining that felt like a blow to the solar plexus took it.
And so it ended Patriots 10, Jets 3 on a windy afternoon on which Wilson gave the Jets absolutely no chance to climb into first place, no chance to avoid a 14th consecutive loss to the Belichicks and no chance to avoid falling into last place in the AFC East.
All gas no offense.
All gas no quarterback.
Here was Wilson in the second half: 4-for-11, 12 yards, 4 sacks.
Here was Saleh on the Jets’ offense — two total yards — in the second half: “It was dogs–t.”
Yes, there was Darth Belichick, and yes there was a 17 mph east wind, and yes, there was no running game (23-for-59, 20-for-33 not counting Wilson), but this was unacceptable and inexcusable even for a rookie quarterback.
And so was this:
When Wilson was asked if he felt he left the heroic Jets defense (six sacks) down, he said: “No. No.”
He would have been better served shattering the deathly silence in the visitors’ locker room with “Yes. Yes.”
One of the major responsibilities that comes with the franchise quarterback position is taking every bullet there is to take for a loss — even sometimes when it is not your fault. It’s called accountability. Teammates recognize real.
The closest Wilson came to looking in the mirror:
“I feel like I had some balls that got away from me.”
That was easily the most accurate he had been on a day when he missed elementary throws that sailed on him and several others that had no chance.
“I got to find a way to make the easy ones on the sideline and try and let my guys get on the outside and run. It really comes down to execution.”
It really comes down to quarterback execution in the NFL.
“We have to get better in the passing game if we want to be where we want to be at,” a frustrated Garrett Wilson said, “and we know we can be there, so that’s the most frustrating part. We ain’t gotta be in these games like this. They didn’t even score on offense and we lost the game. We got our ass beat on offense and the results showed.”
Garrett Wilson and Denzel Mims expression frustration with Wilson and Garrett Wilson’s boiled over enough to call out offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur after only being targeted three times.
“It starts in the practice week, man, it’s gotta be better,” Garrett Wilson said. “Things that we see and don’t call out, it’s gotta start getting called out. This is unacceptable, and no one wants to feel like this, but that’s not enough. You gotta do something about it. Hopefully this is a wake up for some people in the facility, first in the facility to get on our details.”
The Good Ship Saleh has now entered stormy seas. Zach Wilson entered with seven interceptions in his two previous full games against Belichick. He didn’t throw any on Sunday, although one that sailed over the head of Tyler Conklin was dropped by tormentor Devin McCourty. And another that Jonathan Jones jumped nearly became one. You won’t win in November and December if your quarterback is preventing you from winning.
Saleh did not consider turning to White. Would he if the quarterback’s struggles continue?
“No, that’s the furthest thing on my mind,” Saleh said. “I told you guys before, Zach’s our quarterback and we’re going to, we’ve got to find ways to help him get better.”
Saleh cannot afford to be stubborn here.
He needs to get Mike White warmed up in the bullpen.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But it sure looked broke on Sunday, and Saleh better be on guard for the growing possibility of natives growing more restless.
“They were doing a good job of making it hard for us to get easy ones in the pass game,” Zach Wilson said.
Without one 34-yard sideline lob to Mims, well you can do the math.
The Jets came here looking for payback and respect.
They left shell-shocked and in disbelief with a Quarterback Problem.