By late November, the Jets usually are already thinking about the next season. When the playoffs are out of the range of possibility, it’s not hard to turn your attention to the NFL Draft.
This year, though, the Jets are 6-4, in the thick of the playoff race — and yet it’s fair to wonder about the future as they prepare for Sunday’s home game against the Bears. The future at quarterback, at least. Wednesday, coach Robert Saleh benched Zach Wilson, the purported franchise quarterback, due to poor performance. He’ll be the third-string quarterback (and inactive on game day) until further notice.
That’s not a ringing endorsement for his future with this franchise, though Saleh said this isn’t the end of the road for Wilson with the Jets.
“He’s capable of so much more than what he’s playing at,” Saleh said. “The issues for him are so fixable, but I think he just needs to be able to reset to get those things fixed. We haven’t wavered in our belief that he’s going to be the future of this franchise. We have not. Like I said, we have every intent to get him back on the football field at some point.
“Consider it a slingshot,” Saleh said. “You might get pulled back a little bit, but I think when we let go, it’s just going to take off.”
The Jets obviously believed in Wilson’s talent. They wouldn’t have picked him second overall (ahead of Bears quarterback Justin Fields) just 19 months ago otherwise. But through 20 games, Wilson has been a massive disappointment, and statistically one of the worst highly drafted quarterbacks in recent memory.
It’s fair to wonder if the Jets truly view Wilson as their future, especially as it becomes clearer that this is a playoff-caliber roster in need of a playoff-caliber quarterback. Maybe that will wind up being Mike White, but that remains unclear. More likely, the Jets will bring in someone new in 2023, whether to compete with Wilson in training camp or to replace him entirely.
We narrowed the options down to some notable candidates who could be acquired via free agency, trades or the NFL Draft — with the most obvious name at the top of the list.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers): When Wilson got hurt in the preseason, a contingent of fans wanted the Jets to make a trade for Jimmy G. Maybe they were onto something. The connection is obvious: Saleh, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and many others on the Jets staff coached in San Francisco and developed close relationships with him. The Jets run a similar offensive system to the 49ers, too.