Even though his team has moved onto a different quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas still wonders if things could have been different had the team handled the development of former No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson differently.
"I go back and I look at a lot of things and things that can be done differently, things that were in our control, out of our control," Douglas told Pro Football Talk. "And every situation's different. I feel like in today's NFL, when you take a quarterback in the first round, and you take a quarterback high, time's against you. And you need to see what you have so you can make a decision in that four-year window, three-year window."
The Jets ended up giving Wilson only a two-year trial before making the move for Rodgers. When pondering what went wrong, Douglas identified the lack of a veteran mentor for Wilson early in his career as one of the possibilities.
"I think going back, it would have been great to have a veteran quarterback like a Joe Flacco that first season," Douglas said. "But ultimately, we made the decision to jump in head first with our youth movement. We had so many first- and second-year players, new staff. Let's go in and attack this thing with youth. We know there's going to be some growing pains, but we're all going to grow together. I think we saw some of the benefits of that last year. But sometimes you don't take into account the ramifications of playing a young quarterback early in his career. And so, I think if I had to do everything over again, I would have probably had that veteran presence in the room early for Zach."
For what it's worth, the Jets' plan for Wilson was to have him work with a veteran passing-game specialist during his first season in Greg Knapp. Unfortunately, Knapp, who had 25 years of NFL experience, with many of them as an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach, was killed when he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle during the summer of 2021. Having Knapp's voice in his ear may have contributed to the Jets' decision not to have a veteran backup, but that obviously never happened.
We don't know how Wilson's progression would have gone had Knapp been there to guide him, but we do know how it actually went over these past two seasons, and the results were not satisfactory. It got to the point that the Jets benched Wilson in favor of Mike White, and then made the decision to pursue Rodgers this offseason. The team said it wants Wilson to now learn behind Rodgers.
"When the change was made in the second half of last year, the intent was for Zach to reset and really get back to basics," Douglas said. "And that's carried over into this offseason so far. . . . Zach has an unbelievable ceiling and Zach is wired the right way in terms of his love of the game, his work ethic, his attention to detail. And so, this is a great opportunity for him to shadow one of the best passers of all time in Aaron Rodgers and pick up every little thing he can from him and get better every day. And so, I know he's attacking this offseason like no other. His energy level is unbelievable. It's good to see him with a huge smile on his face and really working every day to get better."