Jets QB Zach Wilson on Aaron Rodgers: ‘I can’t be bitter about the situation’

Tribune Content Agency

Imagine being proclaimed the next big thing by a franchise only to be demoted after two seasons.

That’s precisely what Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is going through this season with the arrival of Aaron Rodgers.

“Of course, I would like to be the guy,” Wilson said on Friday. “You’re not always happy about that. But I’m extremely psyched that out of any quarterback we could have brought in, it was him.

“I had been talking to him this offseason. I was with him earlier this offseason before any of this was being talked about. We got to spend some time together. It was really cool to see how it all went together.

“I have to look at kind of where I’m at as a quarterback and look to be the best that I can be and I do think this can be a big part of it. What he brings to the table, what Coach Hack (Nathaniel Hackett) and (Todd) Downing bring to the table, can be really good for me in my development and this offense.”

Just two years ago, the Jets and head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas drafted Wilson out of BYU with the second overall pick with the hopes of him being their franchise QB. After a rocky rookie season marked by inconsistent play, Gang Green hoped Wilson would ascend in 2022. However, Wilson never got on track following a bone bruise and torn meniscus in his right knee during the preseason.

When he did return after missing the first three games of the year, the Jets were having team success, but individually Wilson was not. Despite some ugly numbers, Saleh continued to stick by Wilson until he failed to accept responsibility for the Jets’ embarrassing 10-3 loss to the Patriots last November, in which he completed 9 of 22 passes for 78 yards.

Saleh finally benched Wilson, but he later would be forced back into action following Mike White’s rib injury. Another dismal performance — 9 of 18 for 92 yards and an INT in a 19-3 loss against the Jaguars in December — sent Wilson to the inactive list.

After a 7-10 season, the Jets wanted an upgrade at the quarterback position. In the final media availability of the season, Wilson had an idea the Jets would bring in competition as he famously said, “I’m going to make that dude’s life hell in practice every day.”

After flirting with the possibility of signing Derek Carr, the Jets decided to pivot to Rodgers.

“They were extremely open about everything,” Wilson said. “I can’t be bitter about the situation, I didn’t perform well and you have to take situations as they come.”

During OTAs this spring, Wilson had the opportunity to work with the first-team offense on several occasions. Following Rodgers’ calf strain, Wilson played most of the snaps during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills with some success. While it is a small sample size without pads, Wilson was more accurate than he was a season ago and he would check the ball down when receivers weren’t opened down the field.

“He’s a very, very talented player and I think for him, his eyes are wide open right now,” Hackett said. “He’s got so much that he’s had to learn. It’s a new system.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand that when you go two years, you come from college, go two years in one system, then transition into another system, it’s ground zero for him, and it’s so new. He’s very talented, he’s a pleasure to work with. He’s got a great smile on his face, and I mean, he can sling the ball over the field and we’re just going to slowly get that system to him.”

Since Rodgers arrived in Florham Park, Wilson has been like a sponge.

Wilson grew up idolizing Rodgers. Now not only does he get to watch Rodgers on a daily bases and learn from him, but the two’s friendship has also grown since they first met each other during joint practices in Green Bay in 2021.

“He’s been incredible,” Rodgers said. “He hasn’t made my life hell every day. He’s been a joy to work with and I give him so much credit because it’s a tough situation what he went through.”

“I think we stripped down some of his fundamentals and I think you’ve seen him throw the ball on time and make accurate throws and good decisions. I love it, sometimes the best thing to happen is like what happened.”