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Jets’ Zach Wilson on benching after season-long struggles: ‘Not surprised’

Sarah Stier/Getty Images North America/TNS

NEW YORK — Getting benched is challenging for any player.

That includes Zach Wilson, who was benched for the third time in his career during Sunday’s 32-6 loss to the Bills.

But after all the Jets' offensive struggles through 11 games, the former No. 2 overall pick understands why coach Robert Saleh made the decision.

“Not surprised,” Wilson told reporters on Tuesday. “Like I said to you guys, when you’re not scoring touchdowns consistently and we are letting our defense down and you’re not putting up points, what do you expect?

“You can sit there and be happy with the progress that I made personally, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t score and I truly understand that. It starts with the quarterback and it starts with finding a way to get it done and we are not doing that.

“If you keep doing the same thing, nothing is going to change, so I understand.”

Tim Boyle — who will start Friday against the Dolphins — replaced Wilson with 2:17 left in the third quarter against Buffalo after he completed just 7 of 15 passes for 81 yards with one touchdown and one interception. That game was a microcosm of Wilson’s career.

Since being selected in the 2021 NFL draft, Wilson’s NFL experience has been a roller coaster. In 32 games, Wilson has thrown for 5,966 yards, 21 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.

From the moment he was drafted, the Jets handed Wilson the keys to the organization, but he failed to live up to anyone’s expectations coming out of BYU.

Inept play and injuries have been the story of Wilson during his three seasons in the NFL. After he was benched twice during the 2022 season, the Jets decided to acquire Aaron Rodgers in a trade with the Packers last April. Gang Green wanted Wilson to watch and learn from the former four-time MVP and be his backup.

However, after four plays into the regular season, Wilson was back to being the Jets starting quarterback again. Rodgers tore his Achilles on Sept. 11 against the Bills and has been rehabbing from surgery ever since.

The Jets commended Wilson throughout the summer on his maturity and professionalism after the team traded for Rodgers. They also spoke about how much Wilson has grown off the field. However, the results never translated to performance.

“It’s frustrating,” Wilson said. “I have so much love for everybody in this locker room. The amount of work ethic everyone puts in this, including myself.

“I dedicated my life to this and I absolutely love this game and it sucks to come short and feel like it hasn’t been there. I still believe this offense can be great.”

This season, Wilson threw for 1,944 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He is tied for 32nd in the league in completion percentage (59.2%) and ranks 30th in Total Quarterback Rating (30.8).

Ultimately, the lack of scoring and wins was why Wilson was benched. The Jets have scored just nine offensive touchdowns through 10 games. Gang Green is averaging 15 points per game, which ranks 30th.

The Jets are also dead last in third-down conversion rate (22.9) and red zone efficiency (26.09%). With seven games to go, the Jets are 4-6 and on a three-game losing streak.

Not only will Wilson not start this week against the Dolphins, he will be inactive. Trevor Siemian, who was signed to the Jets practice squad on Sept. 26 and their active roster on Tuesday, will back up Boyle.

Wilson will be the third-string emergency quarterback.

“You gotta look at the situation,” Wilson said. “One play and I can be right back in there. Obviously, with how things have gone, what we had isn’t working.

“Whether we go to Tim or if something happens, let’s try Trevor. We are kind of at that point where let’s find something that’s working because whatever we are doing is not working. I can’t take it personally, it is not a shot at me and I know Saleh would never do that and I understand the situation.

“We need to make changes, things aren’t working and we have to score points. That’s how you do it.”

Wilson could have already thrown his final pass in a Jets uniform. Next offseason, the team must decide if they will exercise Wilson’s $23 million fifth-year option for 2025. Picking up the hefty option seems unlikely at this point, which means Wilson could be released or traded in the near future.

The Jets will have Wilson under control for the 2024 season with a base salary of a little over $1 million. Saleh told reporters the Jets will decide on Wilson’s future during the offseason.

So far, Wilson hasn’t thought about his future past this season.

“I truly have so much love and care for this offense,” Wilson said. “Really to the point where I want to see us succeed whether I’m out there or not.

“Me and Timmy have grown extremely close. He’s someone I’m very close with and a dear friend that I have a lot of love for.

“So how can I help him, how can I help the guys to be part of this team and this offense because regardless of me being out there, I have a lot of love for these guys and everyone in this locker room, so how can I help them and we will handle the rest later.”