Zach Wilson taking positive attitude during Mike White ride: 'My time will come'

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Zach Wilson with OC Mike LaFleur laughing sidelines
Zach Wilson with OC Mike LaFleur laughing sidelines

There has never been a quarterback in the NFL who thought that sitting on the sidelines would be a good idea. They all believe they learn the most from playing. They all desperately want – and believe they deserve – to be on the field.

That’s why the attitude of Zach Wilson was so refreshing when he spoke about his weird and unexpected situation on Thursday afternoon. It’s not his fault that he hurt his knee. It’s not his fault that Mike White has become a shooting star in his absence. Sure, he wants to play. And someday, probably soon, he’ll be playing again.

So in the meantime, why not make the most of his plight?

“I feel like I can take advantage of that opportunity -- be able to learn from the reps that he’s going through and things that he’s seeing and doing,” Wilson said. “My time will come.”

Yes it will, and nothing that has happened in the last three weeks has changed that fact. Ask anyone in the Jets’ organization and they’ll tell you how committed the franchise is to Wilson as their franchise quarterback, even as they’re enjoying the Mike White ride. Because as much as Wilson struggled at times during his first six games, there were enough flashes of greatness to make everyone believe his future is still bright.

What many of them believed, though, is that things were happening too fast for Wilson, that his head was spinning with too much information, and that he was too often passing up the easy, safe play while he looked for the bigger opportunity down the field. None of that is abnormal, especially for a 22-year-old quarterback.

It just led many of Wilson’s supporters – including his coaches – to believe that he could really benefit from this unexpected, unwanted opportunity to sit back and watch.

And Wilson insists he has.

“One hundred percent,” Wilson said. “I would say it’s almost just as beneficial as playing. Maybe you don’t feel it as much as far as just actually going through it, but we all think and see the same things. I understand why Mike made a certain decision on something that he did in a game or didn’t. It’s cool to see because, I would say really only the quarterback room knows what our reads are, what we’re going through and all that other stuff.

“So I feel it’s very beneficial.”

Mike White and Zach Wilson
Mike White and Zach Wilson

It’s more than that, too. Wilson said he’s also benefitted from watching himself on film and, in some ways, comparing what he did when he played to what White is doing now.

“It’s been really cool for me just to kind of sit back and see (how) he did something different than I might have,” Wilson said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, that was really cool to see how this worked out because he did that.’ … I have times where I’ve watched every single game so far this year that I’ve played in and I go back now and I’m just like, ‘Jeez, what am I doing?’ There’s times for that where you feel like you’re learning a lot from them.”

All of this is going to help Wilson whenever he is back in the Jets’ huddle. It may not make him an instant success, but it certainly will make him a better quarterback. The hope is that this break will jumpstart a learning process that appeared to be stalling. It gives him a chance to clear his head of clutter, take a deep breath, and eventually start again.

But when? Wilson, to his credit, isn’t worried about that yet. He may be itching to return to the field, but he’s not pining for it. And he’s even openly rooting for White, even though the better White plays, the longer Wilson will not.

“The whole situation,” he said, “it’s been a lot smoother than you would think it would be, right?“

It has, considering Wilson is The Chosen One and White is a virtual nobody who had been overlooked by an entire league, and considering a fan base starving for success sure took no time at all to jump off the Wilson bandwagon and on to Team Mike White. And it has considering the Jets coaches have expressed a willingness to let this play out as long as White keeps doing what he’s doing – no matter how long that lasts.

Caption: New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) runs off the field with the game ball after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-31, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in East Rutherford.
Caption: New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) runs off the field with the game ball after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-31, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in East Rutherford.

Which means yes, theoretically, there is a possibility that Wilson won’t play again in his rookie season. There’s even a chance, if White proves to be more than just a flash, that Wilson will have to head into the offseason battling for a job that was once gift-wrapped for him.

All that could have been too much to handle for a kid who has known nothing but success and stardom, who had a future that everyone predicted was going to be great. But it’s not. Wilson has turned it into an opportunity, without ever forgetting that “My time will come.”

“I mean that’s the coolest part is that I think we both understand that it’s part of the business of football,” Wilson said. “And we both understand that I want to play, he wants to play. It’s just how it is. So, what’s the point of butting heads when we can help each other out? I think we can both benefit from the situation.”

That’s a pretty mature take for such a young player. And the fact that Wilson believes that he will benefit from this unwanted, uncomfortable reality, shows that he probably already has.