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What does the future hold for Zach Wilson?

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson holds the football before a game against the Miami Dolphins on Dec 17, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The second phase of Zach Wilson’s professional career likely began with the end of the 2023 regular season, which saw the New York Jets miss the playoffs for the 13th consecutive year.

If the Jets keep their word, Wilson is done with the Jets, the team that made him the second overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft. As the Deseret News reported a month ago, Jets coach Robert Saleh has told Wilson that the Jets would trade him after the season.

But how marketable is Wilson now?

The case for Zach Wilson: In three seasons he threw for 6,293 yards, 23 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. In what was presumably his final season with the Jets, he had career highs in completion percentage (60.1), average passing yards per game (189), passer rating (77.2) and, for the first time, more touchdown passes (eight) than interceptions (seven). But his yards per attempt, a key stat, was nearly the worst of his pro career (6.2).

At times, Wilson looked like he was in his 2020 form at BYU. In a three-point loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, he completed 28 of 39 passes for 245 yards, two touchdowns, 0 interceptions. In a win over the playoff-bound Texans, he threw for 301 yards, two touchdowns and 0 interceptions. But those were the exceptions. His passer rating was 77.2, about 12-13 points below average.

On the other hand, there ought to be allowances made for a Jets quarterback, given their history with the position. Wilson was sacked 113 times in 33 games, including 46 this season. Maybe Wilson is holding the ball too long? Well, the other Jets’ quarterbacks were sacked 18 times, one of which knocked Aaron Rodgers out for the season. That’s 64 sacks in one season. Only three teams surrendered more sacks — Giants (85), Commanders (65) and Panthers (65). Those close to Wilson worry that he is damaged goods after such an experience, that his confidence is shot.

The Jets are a bad team, despite being loaded with talent on defense and at running back and receiver. They finished the season with a 7-10 record. Only three of the 16 teams in the AFC won fewer games. The Jets had the second worst offense in the league, just 56 yards better than the league-worst Carolina Panthers.

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Other teams have lost their starting quarterback to injury — as the Jets did in the season opener with Rodgers — but they didn’t sink into oblivion as the Jets did. The Browns’ starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson, played only six games before he suffered a season-ending injury. The Browns went on to make the playoffs with an 11-5 record. The Bengals’ Joe Burrow lasted 10 games, winning five of them, before a season-ending injury. With backup Jake Browning at quarterback, the Bengals won four of seven games and finished with a 9-8 record. The Colts were 2-2 when they lost starting quarterback Anthony Richardson to an injury. Under backup Gardner Minshew, they were 7-6.

A solid, well-coached team should be able to survive without their starting quarterback. But the Jets did not.

The Jets have a notorious reputation with quarterbacks. It’s been 25 years since they had a Pro Bowl QB, and they’ve had only two of them since 1975. In 2021, Wilson became the 11th quarterback the Jets drafted in 15 years, including six in the first two rounds. Before Wilson’s arrival, the Jets had switched quarterbacks 12 times the previous five seasons, using draft picks, free agents and journeymen.

It’s difficult to believe none of those had what it takes to succeed; the common denominator in all those failures is the Jets. Joe Flacco has won four of five starts with the Browns and carried them to the playoffs. He played for the Jets the previous three seasons and had a won-lost record of 1-8.

Anyway, it appears the Jets will draft yet another quarterback and start over once again. Can anyone succeed?

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As has been noted previously, Wilson was one of five quarterbacks taken in the first 15 overall picks of the ’21 draft. Only one could be called a success after three seasons — No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. Justin Fields’ future with the Bears is undecided. Mac Jones is likely out with the Patriots. Trey Lance was traded to the Cowboys and didn’t play this season. All but Lance were thrown into the starting lineup on opening day. One can’t help but contrast those experiences with that of Jordan Love, who stood on the sideline for three years before getting his chance to be the Packers’ starter this season, and now he is a rising star.

The 2020 class, by comparison, produced quarterbacks in Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts and Love, who have all become immensely successful in the NFL.

But back to Wilson’s future: He is only 24 — barely older than some rookies. He has put together some good moments on film to win a second chance, but his contract could be a problem. He has one year left on his rookie deal worth a guaranteed $5.4 million. How many teams are going to want to take a chance at such a price?

For Wilson to succeed, he needs to land a deal with a team that has an offensive-minded head coach (Saleh has a defensive coaching background) with an older veteran quarterback, allowing Wilson to spend a season or two on the sideline.

The Broncos have both the coach and the quarterback, but it appears they will unload the latter, Russell Wilson. The Rams would be a perfect landing spot, teaming with head coach Sean McVay and quarterback Matt Stafford, who will be 36 next season. The Vikings would be another excellent landing spot for Wilson. Head coach Kevin O’Connell is a former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator and quarterback Kirk Cousins will be 36 next season.

A team like any of those above would give Wilson a better chance to succeed than what the Jets offered him.

Miami Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb sacks New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson and causes a fumble during a game on Dec. 17, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Wilson was sacked 46 times this season. | Doug Benc, Associated Press
Miami Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb sacks New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson and causes a fumble during a game on Dec. 17, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Wilson was sacked 46 times this season. | Doug Benc, Associated Press