SPORTS STARS RALLY AROUND FORMER BYU QUARTERBACK
Zach Wilson has had what many may describe as a turbulent NFL career since being drafted 2nd overall by the New York Jets in 2021.
Here in Utah, Wilson had emerged as a superstar and had become one of the newest names to a storied list of great quarterbacks for Brigham Young University. Despite the strength of schedule dispute, what Wilson did in college was impressive, the Heisman votes speak for themselves.
The year before Zach jetted to the big leagues (pun intended), Wilson threw for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. He was connecting with Cougar receivers for 11 yards a completion and also scrambled for 10 rushing touchdowns on the season. It was a special season from a top talent, that many BYU fans won’t forget. If you forget his NFL tenure entirely, one could truly appreciate how fun of a signal caller he was in the royal blue.
As fun as living in the past is, the harsh reality, is that Zach Wilson has been a bust in every sense of the word. Now slogging through his 3rd professional season as a starter after the injury to Aaron Rodgers, that statement isn’t necessarily shocking. Wilson has eight wins in 25 starts, 19 touchdowns to 22 interceptions, and a rating of 71.1 while being sacked 77 times, or roughly three times a game per pro football reference. Wilson has been criticized and critiqued by everyone under and over the sun, as most draft picks with such high expectations are. It’s come from coaches, fans, teammates and of course media.
Unfortunately, a lot of the criticism has been warranted due to Wilson’s play at times, but just the other night against Kansas City, Zach shut everyone up for at least just a moment. In a 23-20 defeat, Wilson outdueled a walking Hall of Famer in Patrick Mahomes, becoming the first ever quarterback to have less interceptions, more completions, more touchdowns and more passing yards in a direct contest with the Chiefs QB.
That takes into account both college and the NFL, meaning that every time Mahomes took the field win or lose, he was always the best quarterback from a statistical standpoint on the field. Zach Wilson ended it all by playing not only the best game of his pro career, but by looking like a totally different player. Zach was 28 of 39, had 245 yards and tossed two touchdowns in the narrow defeat, while making the types of throws that only elite Quarterbacks can manage.
Despite a potential career turnaround, Wilson told the media after the game “I lost us the game” in reference to a late fumble he lost with 7:24 in the 4th with the Jets down three. Fumble aside, people were very impressed with what they saw from the former Cougar and recognized he deserved credit for his effort. It can’t be easy to struggle so heavily game after game and find a way to play like that three years later while everyone has written you off. The support started pouring in from teammates after the game.
Both of Aaron Rodgers teammates brought in from Green Bay, Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard, surrounded Wilson after the game speaking words of encouragement to the young man. It was a neat scene, as Wilson has been rumored at times to have little support from the locker room. He looked supported here, and Lazard had this to say afterwards:
“I was just consoling him, saying we all made mistakes today, he wasn’t the only one. Zach played amazing today. He did a great job. He led us down the field multiple times, made big time throws, put us in position to be successful, & he made some plays with his feet as well, so very proud of Zach.”
Another Jets Wide Receiver gave praise to Zach after the loss in Garrett Wilson:
“He’s locked in on what we’ve got going on here. Anyone on the outside can say whatever, but Zach is locked in. He’s focused on what really matters & [his teammates].”
Head Coach Robert Saleh has taken a lot of flack the last week for sticking with Zach by thinking he gives the team the best chance to win. Media member and fans have ripped him, but Saleh got to witness the sports world see what he claims to see daily in practice. Saleh was both confident and excited moving forward.
"I'm pumped for him and I'm pumped for the locker room. I think everyone sees it and to go out and show that you're capable of it is a whole other thing."
Zach Wilsons play traveled far outside of the big apple, even catching the eye of LeBron James himself, who made sure to comment on social media how impressed he was.
Helluva game kid! You win as a team and lose as well as a team! 1 play doesn't define the whole game! Keep ya head up high and keep pushing forward!! If it was easy everyone would do it!"
Wilson was not devoid of haters after the performance, as NBC analyst and former Patriot, Rodney Harrison, had some words post-game. While interviewing Chiefs star defensive tackle, Chris Jones, Harrison appeared to be baiting Jones into discussing how “garbage” Zach Wilson was. He asked Jones if Zach was better than anticipated compared what Kansas City has seen on tape, telling him he could “be honest.”
Despite Jones claiming that Zach seems to get better week by week, Harrison stated that “watching that tape, you gotta look at his dude, aw, he is garbage, like, we should really tear him apart.” When Jones responded by saying that “Zach Wilson is special, you just have to give the guy time”, Harrison seemed more than disappointed with the response and proceeded to rip apart the idea that Zach Wilson was special in any way.
This debacle not only bumped Chris Jones up in Jets and BYU fans rankings, but brought forth more support from other athletes. Key among them was Dallas Cowboys star defensive end Micah Parsons. Parsons would comment on Harrison during a live stream and back up Zach Wilson in one swift move.
“To me that's a fraudulent move... Zach Wilson is special in his own way." "You can't sit here and say, you look at the tape and he's garbage, like... you can say he's not a Mahomes tier but you can't say he's not a good quarterback, he's a starting quarterback in the NFL." Parson’s support came in the form of becoming Zachs newest fan: "I hope you win; I hope you grow into the player no one thinks you can grow into.”
Whether Wilson maintains this pace or falls off next week, it was pretty neat to see the massive changeup on how he has been perceived as an NFL quarterback. It may be one of the quickest changeups of how a player is perceived by fellow athletes in recent memory. Like Micah Parsons we too hope this a sign of good things to come and that Zach “grows into the player no one thinks he can grow into.”