Jets’ Zach Wilson Putting Struggles Behind, Embracing Chance To Learn From Aaron Rodgers

Jun 11, 2023, 10:08 AM | Updated: Jun 12, 2023, 11:27 am

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson never expected to be here at this point in his NFL career.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft is the New York Jets’ backup quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers. It has been a two-year stretch that has seen Wilson go from the future of the franchise to a reclamation project.

And learning from the player he has always wanted to be like.

Jets QBs Zach Wilson and Aaron Rodgers

“It’s interesting, right?” Wilson said Friday, the first time he spoke with reporters since the end of last season. “Of course I wish things had gone differently the past two years and I would’ve played amazing. But I truly believe things happen for a reason.”

Trying to discern what that reason is has been part of what has been a tumultuous journey for Wilson, who has shown brief flashes of why he was so highly coveted. But overwhelming struggles have marked his short time in the NFL.

In 22 starts, Wilson has 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions with a lowly 55.2 completion percentage and an unsightly 70.9 quarterback rating. As his production dipped, so did his confidence — to the point he was benched twice last season and coach Robert Saleh insisted Wilson needed a mental reset.

Meanwhile, the Jets knew they needed to address the quarterback position in the offseason. They were open with Wilson, telling him they’d bring in a veteran who presumably would take over as the starter.

“I can’t be bitter at the situation,” Wilson acknowledged. “I didn’t perform well.”

General manager Joe Douglas pulled off the trade that shook up the NFL in April, when he acquired Rodgers from Green Bay after months of speculation.

Wilson, who in January declared he would make an incoming veteran’s life “hell” at practice, was suddenly going to be teammates with his idol.

“How old is he 40?” a smiling Wilson said. “He’s double my age. I’m like, ‘You’re like my big brother I never had.’ Sometimes your little brother has to make your life hell.”

The 39-year-old Rodgers, however, said the 23-year-old Wilson has “been incredible” this offseason.

“He hasn’t made my life hell every day,” he said with a grin. “He’s been a joy to work with and I give him so much credit because it’s a tough situation what he went through.”

Rodgers attended every voluntary practice this offseason while getting to know his new teammates and helping offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett install his system. And that’s after the four-time NFL MVP hadn’t attended voluntary sessions his last few seasons with the Packers.

“The last six weeks have been about the most fun I’ve had in a while,” Rodgers said. “It’s fun to come to work and be excited about what we’re doing.”

Rodgers’ presence has raised expectations for a franchise that has failed to make the playoffs the last 12 seasons, the longest active drought in the NFL.

He has insisted he is no savior. But he might be exactly that for Wilson.

“They have a really nice relationship and because of it, guards are down and there’s really good communication back and forth,” Saleh said of Zach Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. “I think there’s a level of trust in the quarterback room right now between the coaches and the players amongst one another where communication isn’t met with cynicism.

“It’s met with acceptance and because of it, I think it’s going to help him get better.”

Wilson was thrust into the starting job as a rookie, learning life in the NFL on the fly — and taking plenty of criticism along the way. Now, the pressure is off. Wilson can watch Rodgers and get a mental blueprint of what success at this level looks like.

“The QB room being with Aaron, I think it’s feeling like every single day there’s so much to learn,” Wilson said. “You know, it’s like every day I’m just like, ‘Wow, like I just learned 10 different things about playing the quarterback position.’”

Zach Wilson spent time with Aaron Rodgers in January in California, several weeks before Rodgers decided he wanted to continue playing — and intended to do so for the Jets. The two, who hit it off when the Jets and Packers had joint practices in Green Bay two summers ago, talked a little football.

There’s plenty of that now.

Wilson, who said he was humbled by his struggles, is now hopeful about his future.

“Like I said, I think everything happens for a reason,” Wilson said. “Am I going to have this opportunity to learn from the greatest quarterback of all time and this staff if things didn’t happen the way they did?”

“So, I’m very optimistic about it.”

Take us with you, wherever you go.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings



Josh Dubow, AP

Christian McCaffrey, 49ers Win 13th Straight In Regular Season, Beat Giants

Christian McCaffrey and the San Francisco 49ers won their 13th straight regular season game, beating the New York Giants on Thursday night.

10 hours ago


Kyle Ireland

Rams WR Puka Nacua Voted As NFL’s ‘Rookie Of The Week’

Puka Nacua received NFL Rookie of the Week honors for his performance during the second week of the 2023 season.

13 hours ago


Kyle Ireland

Pat McAfee Celebrates ‘LDS Thursday’ With Guest Host Kyle Van Noy

Pat McAfee nicknamed his show "LDS Thursday" after former BYU star Kyle Van Noy joined the program as an in-person guest host for the day.

13 hours ago


Kyle Ireland

How To Watch Local Players, Coaches In Week Three Of 2023 NFL Season

Here is how to watch the players and coaches with ties to the state of Utah during the third week of the 2023 NFL regular season.

23 hours ago

Braxton Jones injury...

Chandler Holt

Chicago Bears Place Former SUU OL Braxton Jones On Injury Reserve

The Chicago Bears placed former SUU lineman Braxton Jones on the injury reserve with a neck injury following the game against the Buccaneers.

2 days ago

Jamaal Williams injury...

Chandler Holt

Former BYU RB Jamaal Williams Expected To Miss Some Time With Hamstring Injury

Former BYU Cougar and Saints RB Jamaal Williams is expected to miss some time after suffering a hamstring injury against the Panthers.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.


KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.

Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.

ksl sports logos...

KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.


KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.

Jets’ Zach Wilson Putting Struggles Behind, Embracing Chance To Learn From Aaron Rodgers