The Zach Wilson Conundrum

How Did the Jets (and Most of Us) Seem to Get it Wrong?

Phil Rossi
6 min readJan 1


Zach Wilson/New York Jets

Gone are the days when rookie quarterbacks, regardless of their pedigree, were given the keys to the kingdom. ‘Back in the day’ — the 70s and 80s, they were handed a baseball cap and a clipboard: Learn the offense, work on your mechanics, study game tape. Listen loud, pay attention, ask questions. Bust your ass and be ready when we call your number.

There were always exceptions to this rule. For the most part, this philosophy ruled the day. During the 90s, teams around the league began ushering the rookie QB a bit faster.

Currently, the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the Players Association (NFLPA) and the NFL, the high-powered collegiate offenses, today’s drafted QB is an immediate starter. The chief reason, economics.

Once the rookie contract expires, QBs are on track to make upwards of 25–40 million per season. The investment is too great to not know, much less justify what a team is paying for. Are we willing to pay a good QB great money? This is the NFL’s To Be, or Not to Be riddle.

If a QB is deemed and evaluated as good, but not great or elite, they are often released. The team would rather take their chances on another unproven draft pick. It’s a much cheaper option. If it’s a home run prospect, it’s a win-win — for the team.

The Bill Walsh Philosophy

One of the greatest offensive minds, QB gurus, and architect of the West Coast Offense, the late-great Bill Walsh, is often quoted as saying It takes roughly 25 games to tell what kind of quarterback you have.

Who are I to argue? Here’s my take: ‘Back in the day’ when a QB came off the bench after a season or two of tutelage, it appeared a fairer and more accurate assessment. In our rush for results present, 25 games seem quick, especially when that QB is often thrown into the starting lineup off the bat.

With the exception of Dan Marino, there are very few QBs who have stepped in and taken off in meteoric fashion (both Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes didn’t start their rookie seasons). Again, there are exceptions, where young QBs grasped their offensive schemes and game plans, finding success…