Had this been the previous regime in New York led by the embattled former head coach Adam Gase, excitement would have been tempered, or even nonexistent, for Jets and BYU fans alike.
Now, with a new coaching staff in place, the two fanbases walk hand-in-hand (unless you have previously hitched your wagon to a Jets rival in the NFL) towards a brighter future in New York led by BYU’s former signal caller. Robert Saleh brings a lot of energy to a previously hapless franchise and Mike LaFleur brings an effective and familiar offensive scheme.
Will Zach Wilson have enough around him to be successful in his rookie season?
First, we need to establish what a “successful season” looks like for a team that just went 2-14 last season and is 23-57 over the last five years. Expecting Wilson to just come right in, put his headband on, trot onto the field and lead the Jets to the AFC East title in year one is completely unrealistic and frankly, unfair.
The Jets have not had a winning season since 2015, when they went 10-6. However, they missed the playoffs that year and have not been in the postseason since 2010. They have not won the AFC East since 2002, when Wilson was a toddler. A successful season for the Jets in 2021 would be single-digit losses, at 8-9 (remember that the NFL is moving to 17 games this season).
Many quarterbacks and coaches have tried and failed in New York. What makes Wilson any different?
Pro Football Focus ranked the Jets’ offensive line at No. 29 at the end of the 2020 season. In fact, PFF has ranked New York’s offensive line 25th or worse in three straight seasons. That did Sam Darnold no favors.
What did the Jets do as soon as they chose Wilson second overall? They traded up later in the first round to take a stout guard out of USC, Alijah Vera-Tucker. He, next to the 11th overall pick of the 2020 draft, left tackle Mekhi Becton, make up a very solid left side of the line. Clearly, the new coaching staff is prioritizing protecting their new franchise quarterback.
They didn’t stop there. Their next selection, in the second round, was touted receiver Elijah Moore out of Ole Miss. Pro Football Focus had Moore has the fifth-best receiver coming out of this deep class.
The receiving corps is really where the Jets have made strides this offseason. Before selecting Moore, they brought in former No. 5 overall pick Corey Davis, fresh off of a career year for the Tennessee Titans with 984 yards and five touchdowns. Jets GM Joe Douglas also signed Keelan Cole, a speedy threat from Jacksonville, where he had 642 yards and five scores in 2020 despite shoddy quarterback play.
Jamison Crowder returns after racking up 1,532 receiving yards the last two years for the Jets.
Denzel Mims was New York’s second-round selection last year and showed flashes of brilliance while battling injuries. If he can realize his potential with the veterans New York brought in, the receiving corps could be a strength.
The Jets also revived the situation at running back. After rolling with 37-year-old journeyman Frank Gore at the position in 2020, they signed Tevin Coleman, who helped the 49ers win the NFC and reach the Super Bowl in 2019, as well as drafted North Carolina’s tailback Michael Carter, who NFL.com ranked as the third-best running back in this class.
All in all, the Jets already have put Wilson in a much better situation than Darnold had in New York. While there are bound to be growing pains still, as this team flirted with going 0-16 last year, it seems as if a more solid foundation has been laid for Wilson to be BYU’s most consistent quarterback in the NFL since Steve Young.