The New York Jets have lost five straight games since starting the season 4-3, and they are seeing their odds to make the playoffs quickly dwindle. The Jets (4-8) benched quarterback Zach Wilson for Tim Boyle in hopes it would improve the offense, but Boyle was then replaced by Trevor Siemian on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. On Tuesday, the Jets released Boyle and signed Brett Rypien from the Seahawks practice squad. Now, the Jets are reportedly considering another quarterback change.
According to The Athletic, the Jets are leaning toward going back to Wilson. However, the former No. 2 overall pick is reluctant to step back in under center, according to the report. Dianna Russini reported that Aaron Rodgers reached out to the young quarterback in an effort to advise him with his potential return to the lineup, but Wilson reportedly remained apprehensive due to injury risk.
When asked Tuesday on The Pat McAfee Show about Wilson's reported hesitation to play, Rodgers was passionate about speaking up for the young quarterback. Rodgers repeatedly said he "loves" Wilson and had strong words for whoever the source was.
"When you use sources and whether intentional or unintentional to try and assassinate someone's character like that report does for Zach I have a real hard time with that. ... You're basically saying that this kid is quitting on the team and doesn't wanna play and is giving the middle finger to the organization," Rodgers said.
Rodgers added that he does not understand why someone would think it is OK to become a source in that matter. He said the team needs to investigate and figure out where the news is coming from, so it does not continue to happen.
"What is your motivation to try to bury someone like that? And that's a problem with the organization, we need to get to the bottom of whatever this is coming from and put a stop to it privately ... I think its chicken shit at it's core and I think it has no place in a winning organization."
Rodgers noted that he does not want to speak for Wilson and that the former first round pick will get to speak for himself this week.
"[Wilson's] gone through a lot of shit in the last three years and he has every right to be frustrated and disappointed about it. I think he's done a good job of standing up and taking accountability this year when it's been his part to do it," the Super Bowl winning quarterback said.
Head coach Robert Saleh also spoke up for Wilson. Saleh told reporters he has not decided on a starting quarterback for Week 14 vs. the Houston Texans, but that Wilson "wants the ball."
"Let's be clear. If he was reluctant to play, guys, he wouldn't be here," Saleh said. "All right? I actually coincidentally just got done speaking with him, he came in about half hour ago and we had a really good conversation. The young man wants the ball, he wants to start, he believes he's the best quarterback in the room and best quarterback for this team and the guy who gives us the best chance to win. And I'll tell you guys the same thing I told him, I appreciate it, I appreciate the fact that he wants to play. I'm just not there yet."
Wilson was officially benched for the second time in as many years following New York's 32-6 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 11. The Jets offense was in a terrible slump, as they became the first team since 2009 to record fewer than 10 offensive touchdowns through 10 games. Boyle was declared the new starter, but in three total games played with two starts, he's thrown for 360 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He was replaced by Siemian in the middle of Sunday's eventual 13-8 loss to the Falcons.
Wilson said he understood his most-recent benching, and that he did not feel like the scapegoat for the offense's struggles.
"I don't think I was scapegoated. Absolutely not," Wilson said, via ESPN. "You've got to look at the situation. We're not scoring touchdowns. Regardless of what I'm doing, my job as a quarterback is to help us score points. I can sit here and say I've had a bunch of growth and tremendous whatever this year, but if you're not scoring touchdowns, it doesn't matter. It really doesn't. And I get that."
This season, Wilson has gone 3-6 as the starter, and thrown six touchdowns compared to seven interceptions while averaging 194.4 passing yards per game. Despite his struggles, Wilson is not the reason for why the Jets have underperformed. New York's offensive line has been hit hard by injuries, and performed like one of the worst in the league, while the pass-catchers have been inconsistent as well.