After watching Zach Wilson's rookie season in green and white, Jets legend Joe Namath isn't convinced that the former No. 2 overall pick is the answer for this franchise at quarterback.
In an interview with The Michael Kay Show on Wednesday, Namath discussed Wilson's first year in New York, making some critical comments on the quarterback's durability.
Here's what Namath had to say, as transcribed by ESPN's Rich Cimini:
He certainly has the physical ability to buy time, to throw strikes. Most guys can improve on their accuracy and should in this day and age practicing it year-round. I like him, but I don't know how long he's going to last. You'd like for a guy to be 6-6, 6-7 back there in the pocket. School's still out on how Zach's going to do.
I think there's a side of school that's still out, a side that's still out. We've got to see more, but the other thing is, I know it takes a group. Zach couldn't perform at his best for a couple reasons. He's not there yet, certainly, and it was new for him and his team is not that solid. He needs more help around him. With help around him, it's amazing how much better a guy can play.
Wilson certainly struggled during his first NFL season, learning with experience to balance checkdowns and smart decisions with his ability to make off-script plays outside the pocket, flexing his elite arm talent. He was inaccurate and threw plenty of interceptions early on (nine before his knee injury in Week 7), but showed significant signs of growth in the second half of the season.
That in mind, Namath's argument that the jury is still out on Wilson is fair. To reference Wilson's height as the source for those concerns, however, is interesting analysis.
Sure, Wilson isn't the biggest quarterback to suit up in the NFL, but the BYU product is listed at 6-foot-2. Plenty of successful quarterbacks—like Aaron Rodgers (6'2"), Russell Wilson (5'11") and more—are that same height, if not shorter.
Plus, Namath mentioned that you'd like quarterbacks to be 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7, but how many signal-callers are actually that tall in the league right now? Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence are both listed at 6-foot-6, but a quick search will show that most NFL quarterbacks are shorter than that benchmark. Heck, Namath himself is listed at 6-foot-2—although the game has changed quite a bit since he was under center.
Namath's second comment was spot on, though. Wilson needs much more help on offense before he can succeed at this level. Next season, New York needs a top wide receiver, they need contributions at the tight end position, the offensive line can provide more protection and the Jets need to improve on defense as well so Wilson isn't playing from behind every single game.
The Jets are in a rebuild, so Wilson has some time to figure it all out. Same goes for general manager Joe Douglas, head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Then again, with the Bengals set to play for a Super Bowl on Sunday just two years after a two-win season, the timing of a rebuild doesn't need to be five-plus years.
In the meantime, Wilson still has plenty to prove. Add longevity to that list.
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