Zach Wilson staring down Tom Brady should ease Jets’ heartbreak

If you are a Jets fan, or a Jets coach, or Joe Douglas, or Woody Johnson, you hated the way Bucs 28, Jets 24 ended; you hated that your rookie quarterback decided that a fourth-and-2 keeper up the middle from the 7 was smart; you hated that the rookie coaches trusted him to make the smart decision; and you hated that Tom Brady marched 93 yards down the field — most of it without a timeout — to beat you in the last minute.

And you would be wise to temper your enthusiasm over the way your Quarterback of the Future comported himself for 57 minutes and 43 seconds against The Quarterback of The Past and Present.

You would be wise to refrain from jumping to knee-jerk conclusions because you witnessed how it ended for Sam Darnold, and too many other Quarterbacks of The Future before him.

But until the mindless Only-the-Jets moment that might have left you temporarily deflated, or numb from previous countless assaults on your green-and-white soul, you should remember how for 57 minutes and 43 seconds, Zach Wilson had gotten Tom Brady’s GOAT, that he had stared eyeball-to-eyeball with him and would not blink, that he was the picture of poise, that he was throwing with pinpoint accuracy and elite decision-making, that he would not throw an interception for the fourth consecutive week.

Wilson had functioned at a level that helped everyone forget about all the roller-coaster moments and all the growing pains.

He didn’t have his three top receivers? He didn’t have left tackle George Fant (knee) and running back Michael Carter (concussion) for the second half?

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady meet at midfield after the Jets lost to the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

It was stunning how Wilson elevated the play of everyone around him and energized Gang Green and MetLife Stadium at the same time.

For the first time, he looked every bit the second-overall pick of the draft.

“We took a step in the right direction, and I think guys gotta understand that,” Wilson said, “because it’s exactly what we needed. We needed to give those guys a game, and we came in ready to play. … Guys gave it their all.”

Robert Saleh might want to remind him that there are no medals for trying, but for 57 minutes and 43 seconds, Wilson had filled the place with more hope than the place has seen in two years.

“I think I’m just starting to get a better grasp of the offense,” Wilson said.

Wilson (19-for-33, 234 yards, 1 TD) converted three third downs on the drive that culminated in a 9-yard TD pass to Braxton Berrios in the second quarter.

“For me it was just where can I feel space, and then just go through my reads and progressions,” Wilson said, “and just get our playmakers the ball. How efficiently can I be going through the reads?”

Now, for those last two minutes and 17 seconds: When Brady recognized Winning Time, the rookie quarterback did not. And neither did the rookie coaches.

Saleh, up 24-20, had called timeout and he was not kicking any field goal, because 27-20 is never safe against Brady, and you’re 4-11 anyway. Riverboat Robert. Good.

Wilson keeping it into the belly of the beastly Buc defense for no gain? Bad.

Zach Wilson
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“Quarterback has an option based on the look that he has to sneak the ball,” Saleh said. “In that situation, we wanted the ball handed off [on an end-around] to Berrios, but we did a very poor job as a coaching staff communicating that in the huddle, and Zach executed the playbook as it’s designed.”

A quarterback keeper on fourth-and-1 is an option. Not on fourth-and-2.

The only voice Wilson should have heard was offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s telling him: “Just hand it to Berrios no matter what!”

The voice in Wilson’s head should have been telling him: “Just hand it to Berrios no matter what!”

He didn’t hear it.

Zach Wilson celebrates a touchdown with Braxton Berrios.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“If next time they really do want that handed off, then we’ll communicate that,” Wilson said.

But common sense abandoned him at the worst time.

“I did what I thought was necessary to do right there,” Wilson said.


Woulda been a first down and game over if he just handed it to Berrios no matter what. “It just makes you sick,” Saleh said.

Brady, of course, finished the job.

“Good game,” Brady told Wilson afterwards. “Head up, and just keep working.”

Maybe one day, Zach Wilson will do more than just scare Tom Brady.

Artmotion U.S.A

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