Jets OC Mike LaFleur: Zach Wilson ‘Would’ve Benefited’ By Sitting As A Rookie

Jan 5, 2023, 4:52 PM
Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets reacts after a game against the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium on December 18, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITYNew York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said that former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson “would’ve benefited” from learning from the sidelines instead of the field as a rookie in 2021.

The second-year OC discussed his young quarterback during a press conference on Thursday, January 5.

After he was drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2021, Wilson was immediately thrust into the Jets’ starting lineup as a rookie. The former BYU star experienced a rollercoaster-like season full of ups and downs, as well as an injury. Wilson’s second year in the league began with a preseason injury and more turmoil, including a pair of benchings.

“In hindsight, it probably would’ve benefited [Wilson] 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 said. “Get better in practice, get better through the scout team and all that. But that wasn’t the course that we went.”

Wilson was instantly under the spotlight as a top draft pick in the country’s No. 1 market, as the quarterback of a franchise full of fans with high expectations.

“If you think back to the preseason, I think everyone wanted to crown him after the first preseason, right?” LaFleur added. “I don’t think any of us got too high or too low on the preseason, but he was playing pretty good football through that.”

After posting a 2-14 record in 2020, the Jets improved to a 4-13 record in Wilson’s first season. This season, New York is currently 7-9 and has been eliminated from the playoffs.

Despite his struggles, with Wilson on the field in 2022, the Jets have had a 5-4 record.

“There’s a two-way street with it. The player has to meet us in the middle of it, but you want all these guys to play at their absolute best,” LaFleur continued. “We all know Zach hasn’t played at his absolute best. He has shown spurts. He has shown the talent. Like [Jets head coach Robert] Saleh said yesterday, through hell or high water, we’re going to work with him.”

The Jets plan to have Wilson as a healthy inactive for Week 18. They currently sit in fourth place in the AFC East.

After the season, the Jets reportedly don’t have plans to shop Wilson but rather work with him on improvement.

“We’re going to have to look back and see…what indicators were there that said he wasn’t ready,” LaFleur said. “Hindsight is 20/20. It really doesn’t matter. We just have to learn from it, and we will.”

New York’s final regular season game is on the road against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, January 8 at 11 a.m. (MDT) on FOX and NFL Sunday Ticket.

About Zach Wilson

Before his time in the NFL, the Corner Canyon High School product had a standout career at BYU. Wilson helped the Cougars to an 11-1 record during his final season in Provo.

During Wilson’s rookie campaign last season, the former BYU standout missed four games because of a knee injury and threw for 2,334 yards, nine touchdowns, and 11 interceptions with a 55.6 completion rate.

The former BYU star underwent surgery in August after suffering a knee injury in New York’s preseason opener. He also suffered a knee injury last season as a rookie.

Without Wilson, the Jets opened the 2022 season with a 1-2 record. After returning, the Jets posted a 5-2 record before Wilson was benched for the first time.

RELATED: Report: Jets Don’t Plan To Shop Former BYU QB Zach Wilson In Offseason

This season, Wilson has thrown for 1,688 yards, six touchdowns, and seven interceptions with a 54.5 percent completion rate. He has a rating of 72.9 and a QBR of 37.1

During his two seasons in the league, the former BYU star has thrown for 4,022 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. He’s also run for 287 yards and five touchdowns.

Kyle Ireland is a Locals in the NFL Insider for KSLSports.com and co-host of the Yards After College Podcast. Follow him on Twitter (@kyleireland) and Instagram (@kyleirelandksl).

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Jets OC Mike LaFleur: Zach Wilson ‘Would’ve Benefited’ By Sitting As A Rookie