There is an adage around the NFL about there being two types of quarterbacks — those that can hide your team’s warts and those that expose them.
For so long now, the Jets have had the second variety. Then, they traded for Aaron Rodgers in April and it felt like they finally had the former. It felt like they finally had their own version of what they witnessed in New England for 20 years when Tom Brady could overcome whoever the Patriots put around him and make the offense hum regardless.
The Jets were counting on Rodgers being able to hide their team’s deficiencies. When the offensive line struggled this summer, the Jets talked about how Rodgers’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly would help the line. When you wondered if Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb were enough behind Garrett Wilson at receiver, it was pointed out how comfortable Rodgers was with them and how he could bring out their best.
All of that went up in smoke four plays into the season.
Now, the Jets have Zach Wilson back at quarterback. And as much as the Jets want to point out how much more confident he is or how his footwork is better, Wilson remains a quarterback who exposes a team’s warts, not one who hides them.
That was on display Sunday afternoon in Dallas. You can’t pin the 30-10 loss on Wilson. You can look at his stat line with a 44 percent completion percentage and three fourth-quarter interceptions and conclude that he did not play well, but he did not lose this game for the Jets. What you can pin on Wilson, though, is how small the margin of error for these Jets are with him at quarterback.
There were three main areas where the Jets lost the game on Sunday and none were directly on Wilson, but they were accentuated by Wilson’s inability to overcome them.
First, the offensive line got steamrolled by a very good Cowboys front, led by Micah Parsons. Look, it’s hard to see even Rodgers playing well against the Cowboys’ defense on Sunday. But maybe Rodgers would have recognized some of the games Dallas was playing up front and got the Jets into better protections. Maybe he could have slowed their rush with his cadence. Maybe he could have gotten the ball out quickly to hot receivers and slowed the Cowboys down a bit. Wilson looked helpless against the rush.
Next, the Jets could not run the ball at all. Part of the reason is that everyone knew that is what the Jets want to do with Wilson at quarterback. Dallas loaded the box and sold out to stop the run. If Rodgers is at quarterback, the Jets are going to have a more balanced attack and he can keep the defense honest by throwing a few deep balls.
Finally, the Jets’ defense had a bad day. I’m not going to suggest that Rodgers should have played linebacker but the feeling once Rodgers arrived was the Jets would be in every game no matter what. If the defense gave up 30 points, Rodgers could get the Jets 31. Wilson’s return has made this feel like last year again where the defense has to play great and hold teams to one or two scores in order to have a chance to win. The Jets have no shot in a shootout.
Jets coach Robert Saleh did not agree with my assessment when I posed it to him Monday that the margin of error has now gotten small with Wilson, saying any quarterback would have struggled Sunday because the Jets had just 46 plays on offense.
“If we play like that on defense, I don’t care who the quarterback is. It’s not going to be good enough,” Saleh said.
But it felt like the Jets made a bet this offseason that Rodgers could be the guy to hide all their warts. Now, he’s on his couch in Malibu and there were plenty of warts on display Sunday in Texas
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