Jets QB Zach Wilson says he's not bitter after Aaron Rodgers trade: 'I didn't perform well'

Zach Wilson, speaking for the first time since the New York Jets traded for Aaron Rodgers, didn't shy away from the obvious: Two years after the Jets drafted him with the No. 2 pick to be the face of their franchise, Wilson had been supplanted by an older, more experienced and most assuredly better quarterback with four MVPs and a Super Bowl ring.

Tough to endure as a 23-year-old? Probably. Hard to accept? Probably, too. But upset? Seemingly, no.

“I can’t be bitter about the situation," Wilson told reporters Friday. "I didn’t perform well.”

Statistically, Wilson was the worst quarterback in the NFL over the past two seasons (among those with at least 600 passing attempts in at least 20 games). He ranked last in completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating among qualified quarterbacks and tied for 28th with only eight wins as the starter. His 2.9% interception percentage also tied for 27th with Davis Mills and Andy Dalton over that time.

Things could get awkward between Aaron Rodgers and Zach Wilson with the Jets this season. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Things could get awkward between Aaron Rodgers and Zach Wilson with the Jets this season. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

The Jets figured out they made a mistake with Wilson midway through the 2022 season when Robert Saleh benched him for Mike White in Week 11 in an attempt to save New York's playoff hopes. He was forced to return three games later because of White's rib injury, and lost two more games before Wilson was benched again in Weeks 17 and 18 as the Jets finished 0-6 to end the season and miss the postseason with a 7-10 record.

"I wish things had gone differently the last two years," Wilson said, "but I really believe everything happens for a reason ... I believe Aaron and [offensive coordinator Nathaniel] Hackett can be good for me."

Rodgers had nothing but positive things to say about his new backup and mentee as well. He even joked that Wilson "hasn't made my life hell every day," a nod to Wilson's infamous quote where he said he'd "make that dude's life hell in practice every day" if the Jets added a veteran passer in the offseason. Rodgers previously said he'd make Wilson's life "heaven off the field" by helping him build back his confidence.

For Wilson, learning under Rodgers will be a dream come true. When Wilson first met Rodgers during the 2022 preseason, he said Rodgers was "the quarterback I tried to replicate and steal things from" when he began his football journey in Utah.

"I've been watching him since I was a little kid," Wilson said in 2022. "I like the way he plays the game.”

It's tough to know how much of a positive influence Rodgers will have on Wilson's future with the Jets, or even in the NFL. Jets general manager Joe Douglas said earlier this offseason that Rodgers' presence will be "a great thing for Zach" and Wilson noted that he looks to Rodgers as a big brother.

But Rodgers' No. 1 job isn't to make Wilson a better quarterback. The Jets traded for him to win games in a competitive division and conference. That's the goal. Anything else is just gravy.