The Jets have missed on numerous quarterbacks over the decades. That doesn’t mean the potential Zach Wilson project won’t work though.
We’re just a few days away from the Jets acquiring yet another quarterback in the first round of the draft. It’ll be the second time in four drafts in which they’re doing so and the third time in 13 drafts — New York took Mark Sanchez in 2009 and Sam Darnold in 2018.
This time around? Enter: Zach Wilson (most likely), the star BYU quarterback who could be asked — from day one — to lead an offensive unit that finished last in both total yards and scoring last season.
The acquisition of a brand new starting quarterback is all too familiar with Jets fans. But once again, the organization has a chance to cash in on a new signal-caller, something it hasn’t done all too often in its history.
So how many quarterbacks haven’t exactly panned out for Gang Green?
Well, in recent memory, we have the aforementioned pair of individuals (Darnold and Sanchez) along with Geno Smith and Chad Pennington.
Of course, there were numerous players also around in those eras, but Ryan Fitzpatrick was never going to be the long-term answer and neither was Josh McCown. Brett Favre started every game in 2008, but everyone knew he was sort of on his way out (he eventually made his retirement and subsequent return an annual occurrence).
The Darnold story was simply a shame — many were intrigued by what he could bring to Florham Park, but amid a number of injuries, a lack of reliable on-field assistance, three consecutive years with single-digit win totals, and the team’s opportunity to potentially draft Wilson in 2021, his time with New York concluded (the Jets traded him to the Panthers this offseason).
The biggest argument for the Mark Sanchez supporters is that he led a team to the AFC Championship in each of his first two seasons. The top argument for the opposing side, however, is that Sanchez benefited from the Jets’ superb ability to run the football and succeed defensively — the Jets were atop the league in 2009 in both rushing yards gained and total yards allowed.
After 78.2 and 66.9 passer ratings (respectively) in 2011 and 2012 and a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the entire 2013 season, Sanchez’s time in Florham Park was done, and so was the hope that he was going to potentially be the next great Jets quarterback.
Many realized Geno Smith wasn’t the answer when he threw 12 touchdowns and 21 picks during his 2013 rookie season while Chad Pennington was a merely average quarterback who made his fair share of mistakes and was prone to injuries, having played just one 16-game season with the Jets.
What about prior to the Pennington era?
Vinny Testaverde did indeed earn a Pro Bowl bid as a member of the Jets in 1998 but was already up there in age and didn’t exactly make an impact year-in and year-out.
Boomer Esiason (who played for New York from 1993-95) was past his days with Cincinnati, and thus, the majority of his prime.
You could say Ken O’Brien (1983-92) underwent a productive Jets tenure, but the team won just 47% of its games with him under center.
Then you have Richard Todd (who threw 110 touchdown passes and 138 interceptions in eight years with the Jets), and before you know it, we’ve arrived back at the Joe Namath era.
So now that I’ve laid much of it out, it’s clear to you what the Jets’ starting quarterback position has mostly consisted of since Namath departed the team following the 1976 season — veterans mainly past their primes and promising young players who never ended up finding that spark at the professional level, regardless of when they were drafted.
Zach Wilson is expected to be another promising young player — more than that actually. Many believe he’ll eventually become a star. Him coming to Florham Park, not finding consistent success, and conjuring up multiple lackluster seasons in the process would thus be a familiar sight for the Jets organization and its fans, and it’s a sight no supporter of the team wishes to witness.
But everyone involved with the process — the Robert Saleh-led coaching staff, the Joe Douglas-led front office, the offensive weapons, offensive line, and Wilson himself — would have a chance to end this troubling Jets quarterback trend.
It may take some time, and it might take additional moves to enhance the talent level in and around the offensive side of the ball. Nonetheless, the entire operation is set to commence Thursday night when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes to the podium to announce the second overall pick many are anticipating.
From there, it’ll be up to the Jets to make sure their young quarterback isn’t another Sanchez; another Geno; another Darnold.