Photo from USA Today Sports
Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and Jets rookie head coach Robert Saleh received an indoctrination about playing Bill Belichick-coached New England Patriots in their first meeting ever on Sunday.
It wasn’t pretty, to say the least. It was a day to forget for both of them.
There was no reason for a Jets fan to watch the game after halftime if he or she watched it at home, saloon or MetLife Stadium. Speaking for myself, I took a nap after Wilson’s third interception before the half as a way to wait for the 4 o’clock games.
The Jets took a 25-6 beating by the New England Patriots. For Saleh and Wilson, it was their first loss against them. For the Jets, it was their 11th straight loss against them. For the Patriots, it was another moment of them embarrassing Jets quarterbacks to Mark Sanchez’s Buttfumble to Sam Darnold seeing ghosts.
No one said this would be easy for Saleh and Wilson. They knew this the moment they signed up to be members of the Jets. There will be more games like that for them, especially when the Jets play the Patriots.
Wilson received his rite of passage against the Patriots early and often. The Patriots intercepted him twice in his first two throws. It served as an inkling this would be a long day for the kid. He finished the game with four interceptions to go along with 19 of 33 for 210 yards performance and no touchdowns. He became the first Jets quarterback to throw four interceptions since Darnold threw four in that infamous ghost game against (you guessed it) the Patriots in 2019.
Oh yes, Wilson received the obligatory boos for his performance. To his credit, he said they should be booing. Good for him that he did not take lessons from Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso on how to educate fans. It was the only thing that he got right on that miserable day.
As for Saleh, he offered no answers on how to counterattack Belichick’s defensive schemes. Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur couldn’t come up with any wrinkles or schemes to put Wilson in a position to succeed. If we are being honest, Belichick schooled the Jets coaching staff like he always does. Ex-Jets coaches such as Rex Ryan, Todd Bowles and Adam Gase can only emphasize what the first-year Jets head coach went through. They have been there, and they know it wasn’t fun.
The Jets are no longer Ryan’s, Bowles’ and Gase’s problem anymore. It’s Saleh’s.
It’s up to him to make sure it does not get any worse past this season. Most importantly, he and his staff must make sure that Wilson does not lose confidence the way Darnold did as the years went on.
Saleh’s success comes down to what Wilson does. This means he has to make sure his quarterback does not get worn down with the losses and struggles. He has to make sure he and LaFleur put Wilson in a position to succeed.
Belichick and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels put rookie Patriots quarterback Mac Jones in a position to succeed by not making him do too much. They made him throw checkdown passes and use the running game often. They scripted plays for Mac not to do too much.
It was admirable to let Wilson throw as many shots as he can, but this turned out to be foolish. First off, he does not have an offensive line to let him throw all day. Second, the Jets don’t have a dynamic receiver yet for him to do that. Finally, he is not a finished product where he can call his own plays.
The Jets should have calmed Wilson down after his second pick of the game. They should have told him to keep it simple by throwing only short passes. They should have told him not to focus on Elijah Moore only. It shouldn’t have come down to halftime to make adjustments.
Consider this lesson learned for Saleh and Wilson.
How they respond and what they learn will affect the future of both men here with the Jets. It’s up to them to make sure it does not get any worse.
If it does, and they will join a long list of Jets quarterbacks and coaches who failed to beat Belichick and Patriots at the end of their tenure.