Why Zach Wilson will be the backup for New York Jets in season finale

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New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) passes against the Jacksonville Jaguars during an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. Wilson will be the team’s backup quarterback in the season finale this week.

Adam Hunger, Associated Press

Zach Wilson won’t be inactive for the New York Jets’ regular-season finale after all.

The former BYU quarterback will be the backup for the Jets’ game at the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, with veteran Joe Flacco getting the start, as first reported by The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt.

That’s because Mike White, who was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice, will miss the game while still recovering from a lingering ribs injury. 

White started at quarterback last week for the Jets against the Seattle Seahawks while Wilson was inactive. 

“He is still dealing with four broken ribs, but was toughing it out and could manage. Then he took a hard hit early vs SEA & was struggling to function. Somehow got through it… but deteriorated throughout the week. Now, simply can’t go,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport explained, as to why White won’t start again Sunday.

White originally replaced Wilson as the team’s starting quarterback back in late November to give Wilson a chance to reset after experiencing struggles during his second NFL season.

White, though, already missed two previous games with the ribs injury, and Wilson was thrust back into the starting role for those games in mid-December.

Why is Joe Flacco getting the start over Zach Wilson?

This time, though, New York is going with Flacco, a 15-year veteran who hasn’t started for the Jets since Week 3, when he was playing in place of a then-hurt Wilson.

“Flacco gives us the best chance to win,” Jets coach Robert Saleh told reporters Friday morning, per Rosenblatt.

As for Wilson, the coach wants his embattled quarterback to focus on the future and not on the final game of 2022.

“I want to get him to the offseason so we can attack the plan that we’ve been building,” Saleh said, per ESPN. “Putting him out there right now is not going to do him any good; it’s not going to do anyone any good. For Zach, it’s all about ‘23.”

What’s happened with the Jets’ QB situation this season?

The Jets have rotated through several different quarterbacks this season, whether due to ineffectiveness or injury.

Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, missed the first three games this year with a knee injury sustained in the preseason, then started seven games before getting benched for White.

He returned to the lineup after White was hurt in a loss to the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 11, and Wilson started the Jets’ next two games. He was replaced in the second half of their loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 22, though, by practice squad call-up Chris Streveler after struggling again.

Wilson’s lack of development has been a major topic of discussion surrounding the Jets organization, particularly during the back half of this season.

He was inactive as the team’s No. 3 quarterback during White’s three starts in Weeks 12-14.

Wilson has thrown for 1,688 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions this season while completing just 54.5% of his passes. His QB rating of 72.8 this season is last among qualifying NFL quarterbacks.

What are Jets coaches saying about Zach Wilson’s development?

On Thursday, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur suggested that perhaps it was a mistake to thrust Wilson in as the team’s starter from Day 1 when he was a rookie in 2021.

“In hindsight, it probably would’ve benefited (him) just to sit back and learn a little bit and watch a veteran and just kind of grow in this league — kind of in the backseat, watching,” LaFleur told reporters.

“Get better in practice, get better through the scout team and all that. But that wasn’t the course that we went.”

On Friday, Saleh countered that Wilson “earned that right” to start at the beginning of last season.

“When we reflect back on Zach’s rookie year … he was our best QB in rookie minicamp, in OTAs, in training camp, the preseason … he earned the right to be our starter,” Saleh said, according to Rosenblatt.

Still, the lack of consistent play at quarterback has been a sore spot for the Jets, who at one point were 7-4 before a five-game losing streak eliminated them from playoff contention this season.

“It’s something we’re going to get fixed in the offseason,” Saleh said, per Rosenblatt, about the Jets’ QB issues.

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson with teammates against the Jacksonville Jaguars during an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. Wilson will the team’s backup quarterback in season finale this week.

Adam Hunger, Associated Press

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