Zach Wilson found that wins and losses aren’t the only stats that matter.
The New York Jets benched Wilson this week despite his 5-2 record as a starter. Wilson, who is No. 2 overall in 2021, struggled in his sophomore year. He has the NFL’s second-worst passer rating and was terrible in a 3-10 loss in New England on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Wilson then failed to give an account after the game.
The Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans are also switching QBs, but they have nothing to lose. Both teams are going nowhere. Sam Darnold replaces Baker Mayfield in Carolina. Kyle Allen is expected to take over Davis Mills in Houston.
The Panthers (3-8) and Texans (1-8-1) should be in a prime place to draft a potential franchise QB next April.
The Jets (6-4) are in a different position. Wilson is said to be her type after Darnold wasn’t. They have a shot at their first winning season since 2015 and their first playoff appearance since 2010.
But New York won in spite of Wilson, not because of him. Also, leadership matters.
Wilson has completed just 55.6% of his passes with four touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games since returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss the first three games.
Wilson won’t even get dressed against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Joe Flacco will be Mike White’s backup while Wilson is allowed to “reset” according to Jets coach Robert Saleh.
“We truly believe that he will be the future of this franchise,” Saleh said of Wilson. “Is it a small step back? Absolutely for him. But do I think it will be a big leap forward if he gets a chance to rest? Absolutely.
“That’s not a nail in his coffin. That’s not that, that’s not nearly like that. But I believe he will end up being a rejuvenated, renewed young man who will show why he was the second choice once he reconnects with all the different things that we’re trying to reconnect with.”
Saleh takes a risk. If White plays well and the Jets win, he can’t immediately return to Wilson. He has to wait.
The Jets have two difficult away games ahead of them after the Bears. They face the Vikings (9-2) and Bills (8-3), so Wilson may come back for Buffalo. He had his best game earlier this month against the Bills, completing 72% of his passes for 154 yards, a TD and a 101.1 passer rating.
In Washington, winning matters more than style points.
The Commanders are sticking with Taylor Heinicke, who has led them to a 4-1 record since Carson Wentz broke his finger. Wentz returned to practice this week but is expected to be inactive for Sunday’s game against Atlanta. Rookie Sam Howell will continue to serve as a backup for Washington (6-5).
Heinicke has similar numbers to Wilson, but he has been lauded for the team’s resurgence. Heinicke completed 60.8% of his passes with five TDs, four picks and an 81.8 passer rating. Wilson’s QBR is 44.9 while Heinicke’s is 46.5. The Commanders don’t win because of Heinicke; they win with him. Washington’s running game has improved and the defense has played well.
“It was partly the defense game, it was the guys’ game up front,” said Commanders coach Ron Rivera. “It was part of the game with some individuals who just did some really good things and it just sort of all came together and went in the right direction. I mean there are a lot of things to point out. Is there a specific thing? I do not think so.”
Wentz was fickle in his six starts, throwing 10 TDs and six picks with an 84.1 passer rating and 32.8 QBR.
The commanders have more incentive to keep Wentz on the sidelines for at least one more game. You’d owe the Colts a second-round pick instead of a third-round pick if Wentz plays at least 70% of Washington’s offensive snaps in 2022.
If Washington keeps winning, there’s no reason to sit out Heinicke.
After all, it’s mostly about winning.