Aaron Rodgers says Wilson critics are ‘not helping the cause’ as Jets stumble

<span>Photograph: Adam Hunger/AP</span>
Photograph: Adam Hunger/AP

New York City has a population of nearly nine million, but it’s debatable whether many among that number would be willing to defend Zach Wilson or the team’s hierarchy.

On Monday Joe Namath, the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl with the team, became the latest person to go on the attack after the Jets announced they are sticking with Wilson, who was once the future of the franchise but is now the most popular target of frustrated fans.

“I wouldn’t keep him,” said Namath during an interview on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York. “I’ve seen enough of Zach Wilson. All right? I’ve seen enough.”

Wilson stepped in for Aaron Rodgers, whose season ended after four plays of the Jets’ opener when he tore his achilles tendon. That injury also appears to have ended the Jets’ Super Bowl hopes, after hype had built-up following Rodgers’s arrival from the Green Bay Packers in the offseason.

Related: The Jets are sticking with the Zach Wilson Show. Fans may want a refund

Namath took aim at Wilson’s performance in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots, calling it “disgusting”. He then turned his attention to the team’s head coach, Robert Saleh, and general manager, Joe Douglas.

“These guys aren’t picking the right players. They aren’t doing a good job of coaching. It’s evident. I mean, you’ve got to look and see. If you have an eye for football at all you see things are haywire,” said Namath. “It’s too crazy. They need to fix it and that’s getting rid of a lot of people and bringing new ones in.”

On Tuesday, Rodgers appeared on The Pat McAfee Show and said everyone around the team needed to show more unity.

“When we’re not having success, how do we respond? How do we respond to adversity? And that goes for our fanbase and former players as well,” Rodgers said. “You’re not helping the cause.

“I’d like to see everybody stick together – our fanbase, our former players and our current players because there’s too much negativity and the world is crashing down after three weeks. [It’s] a long season, a lot of time, a lot of things that can happen. So, let’s just take a couple breaths, OK? I’m not going to say we need to relax. Let’s take a couple breaths.”

It was Douglas and Saleh who drafted Wilson in the first place, although few criticised the choice at the time. Douglas also failed to strengthen the Jets’ offensive line and let Mike White, a solid backup quarterback, leave for the Miami Dolphins. Others have expressed dismay that the Jets brought in Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator. Hackett and Rodgers enjoyed success together in Green Bay but Hackett had a disastrous spell as Denver Broncos head coach last year before he was fired.

Saleh insisted on Monday the Jets will stay loyal to Wilson.

“I know it’s going to go on deaf ears and whatever, but what we see on a day-in and day-out basis is a young man who is much improved from a year ago,” Saleh said. “He’s much more confident, he’s much more accurate, he’s got much more command of the huddle. He looks better in the pocket.”

Wilson’s is ranked 33rd out of 34 starting quarterbacks in QBR rating this season. Only Justin Fields, another quarterback picked in the first-round of the 2021 draft, has a lower rating.

Wilson, the No 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft, has struggled throughout his NFL career, to the point he was benched twice last season. The idea was for Wilson to watch and learn from Rodgers.

Perhaps the Jets’ biggest blunder was not bringing in a proven backup for the 39-year-old Rodgers – or keeping White – during the offseason. That decision now looks particularly shortsighted after Rodgers’s injury. Fans’ frustration has increased due to the fact the Jets have a strong defense and talented young players such as Garrett Wilson and Sauce Gardner, who won offensive and defensive rookie of the year respectively last season.

Instead, Wilson was thrust back into the starter role with only Tim Boyle, who has eight interceptions to three touchdowns in his NFL career, remaining on the roster. There doesn’t appear to be a simple solution as names such as Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Carson Wentz, Colt McCoy and Jacoby Brissett have been floated around social media.

Jets fans can scratch Ryan off the list after he told CBS Sports – where he works as a TV analyst – that “I’ve got no interest in doing that right now.”

Garrett Wilson and running back Michael Carter were clearly frustrated during Sunday’s loss to the Patriots and could be seen arguing with coaches on the sidelines. Rodgers said such incidents need to stop.

“I think we need to hold our poise a little bit better across the board,” Rodgers said. “Just offensively, we need to not have some of those things happen on the sideline and to be a little better and to be a just be a little better competitors.”

Things could soon get worse for the Jets: their next game is on Sunday against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.