The Zach Wilson reality Jets fans will just have to accept

The kid looks lost. The Robert Saleh Jets resemble an expansion team. You suffered through Adam Gase and 2-14 and now this?

You are Long-Suffering Jets Fan and of course you deserve better.

And of course you don’t want to hear about how John Elway and Peyton and Eli Manning struggled mightily when they were thrown to the wolves.

Understood. Any fan base that has been waiting 53 years for a second Super Bowl championship doesn’t want to hear something like it’s always darkest before the dawn when dawn never seems to come.

And of course you don’t want to hear that Zach Wilson is hardly the only rookie quarterback struggling. Remember how you were Tanking For Trevor? How is that working out in Jacksonville right now?

You aren’t asking for miracles. You just want hope.

Your plea to the Jets is this:


You couldn’t wait to see The Kid spray the ball all over the place, make all those Aaron Rodgers off-platform throws. After three seasons, you had your doubts about Sam Darnold, and understandably so. And of course with better coaching and a better team around him, Sam Darnold is 3-0 in Carolina.

I don’t know if Zach Wilson will one day be what Joe Douglas and Saleh believe he will be. No one does. Not even them. Hell, I thought Darnold might have a statue of himself erected outside the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center after he lit up the Lions in his prime-time rookie opener at Ford Field.

But in the meantime, how about we give The Kid more than a three-game honeymoon?

Isn’t that fair?

“Realistically,” Hall of Fame Jets fan Ira From Staten Island was saying, “you gotta give him at least eight weeks to see where he’s at, and really two years to really sum it up.”

Zach Wilson
Zach Wilson
Bill Kostroun/Gist Vile

But The Long-Suffering Jet Fan can’t help but be afflicted with his worst fear:

“With the Jets history of what they’ve done to quarterbacks, and with a rookie coaching staff and a kid that I think has all the talent in the world to be a really quarterback, I think you’re asking a little much right now, and I think they really made a big mistake by not having a veteran presence on the sideline,” Ira From Staten Island said.

Indeed, Darnold himself can vouch for the benefits of a Josh McCown as quarterback whisperer.

“I think there’s gonna be a lot more growing pains than I expected,” Ira From Staten Island said.

How concerned is he? “Extremely,” Ira From Staten Island said. “Because of the track history of the franchise, of spitting out quarterbacks one after the other that they ruined. Living it for so many years, I’m extremely concerned, early returns.”

Let me attempt to talk Long-Suffering Jets Fan off the ledge.

The 2009 Jets got to the AFC Championship game with a rookie head coach (Rex Ryan) and rookie quarterback (Mark Sanchez), but the Jets had been a 9-7 contender under Eric Mangini in 2008 and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had been retained for his fourth season.

Let me take you back to the 1989 season, when a Cowboys owner named Jerry Jones replaced the legendary Tom Landry with a head coach fresh out of the University of Miami named Jimmy Johnson.

Who used the first-overall pick in the draft on UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman.

The first-time offensive coordinator was David Shula.

The Imperfect Storm: rookie head coach, rookie quarterback, rookie offensive coordinator.

Aikman, who signed a six-year, $11.2 million contract that was the largest for an NFL rookie, recalled that day how he used to watch former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach on television back in Oklahoma.

“I remember all those comeback victories and I’d like to be part of that someday,’’ Aikman said. ‘’I can’t step into Roger’s shoes, but maybe I can do some of the things he did.”

Aikman started from Day 1. He was 17-for-35 for 180 yards and two interceptions in the Cowboys’ 28-0 Week 1 loss to the Saints.

An apparent 22-yard touchdown pass to Michael Irvin with 1:56 left was nullified by a holding penalty on Dave Widell.

“I could sit here and give you a dozen reasons why we didn’t get it done, but the bottom line is we just didn’t execute,” Aikman said afterward.

Following a 27-21 Week 2 loss in Atlanta, Johnson said: “I left Miami because I had done what I could do there. It was time for another challenge. Well, as it turns out, this is a big, big challenge — maybe bigger than I thought.” Aikman was 13-for-23 for 241 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs.

Aikman played 11 games and finished the season with 9 TDs against 18 INTs. Four of the picks came in the regular-season finale against the Packers, although two were desperation throws. The Cowboys finished 1-15.

“It’s been a long, hard season on everybody,’ Johnson said. “The best thing about it is that it is behind us and the Cowboys will have better days in the future.”

He and Aikman and Jones had two Super days in the future together four and five years into the new regime in large part because Johnson pulled off a Hall of Fame trade on Oct. 12, 1989 for five players and three first-round draft picks and more with the Vikings, who coveted Herschel Walker.

Unfortunately for Long-Suffering Jets Fan, Douglas won’t be getting any such kind of bounty for Denzel Mims.

Johnson, a master of draft day maneuvering, drafted Emmitt Smith in 1990 and made one significant change when he replaced Shula with Norv Turner in 1991. He and Aikman won Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII together as HOF coach and HOF quarterback. That’s a leap of faith for Saleh and Wilson no Jet fan can dare to make.

“Hopefully,” Ira From Staten Island said, “these Jets turn out to be half as good as the ’89 Cowboys.”

The Long-Suffering Jet Fan knows this much: 53 years after Broadway Joe, there are no guarantees.


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