Jets bench Zach Wilson ahead of Week 12 matchup against Bears; Mike White starts at QB

Zach Wilson’s tough 2022 season has hit a new low.

Mike White will replace Wilson on the bench in New York’s Week 12 game against the Chicago Bears, head coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday. Veteran Joe Flacco will serve as a backup as Wilson will not dress for the game.

“The big thing I want to make sure I address is this one, just want to make sure you all listen to this very carefully, please. Zach’s career here isn’t over yet,” Saleh said. “I know that’s going to be the narrative, I know that’s what everyone wants to shout about and it’s not even close. The intention, the full intention, is to make sure Zach gets back on the football field sometime this year. When that happens, I’ll make that decision, I’ll make it day by day. The biggest thing about Zach, it’s the same things we’ve talked about, is that the young man needs a reset.

Wilson’s bench press wasn’t long in coming, but it’s not shocking either. The sophomore quarterback has struggled a lot this season, completing just 55.6% of his passes and posting a 4-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 72.6 passer rating. His worst performance was his most recent, a 9-for-22 game for a whopping 77 yards in a 10-3 loss to New England.

After the game, Wilson told reporters he didn’t feel responsible for New York’s second loss to New England in the last month. His response forced his teammates to respond for him in the days that followed, and on Wednesday Saleh decided Wilson needed a sabbatical to maintain his long-term ambitions to become New York’s franchise quarterback and told reporters he didn’t want to continue “throw him out of there” and see how Wilson progresses.

New York’s two losses to New England account for half of the Jets’ losses this season, and the blame isn’t entirely on Wilson. Saleh admitted his team needs to get better as a whole in order to maximize the opportunities that come their way.

“This isn’t just a Zach thing,” Saleh said. “We all have to get better. We’re not going to be the Greatest Show on Turf just because we change a player.”

Saleh said he believes Wilson’s time on the touchline would benefit the quarterback in the long run and focused on Wilson’s work ethic while emphasizing the importance of improving his fundamentals rather than preparing for the next opponent. When asked if the move also gave the Jets their best chance of winning, Saleh replied in the affirmative.

The timing of Saleh’s decision, while unintentional, is fitting. New York meets a Chicago team that is enjoying a significant improvement from fellow 2021 draft classmate Justin Fields, whom the Bears selected nine picks after the Jets chose Wilson. Rather than prepare for a showdown of former first-rounders, the Jets are turning to White to lead them against Fields, whose status is uncertain after suffering a shoulder injury in Chicago’s Week 11 loss to Atlanta.

It’s also intriguing because the Jets don’t exactly run into a defensive buzzsaw at the Bears. Chicago possesses a mid-range defense that’s better against the pass than the run, but is also in a transitional period after trading away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith before the deadline.

What could have been a proper game for Wilson is now a career milestone for the QB, who is still young but may also have reached a final fork in his NFL road. It’s up to Wilson to respond positively to his bench press and use it as motivation to fix his underlying issues before working his way back onto the starting lineup.

Meanwhile, the 6-4 Jets will continue their playoff push. Whether that ends up including Wilson remains to be seen.

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