New York Jets vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Zach Wilson

Image: AP

If the NFL playoffs started today, the New York Jets would be outside-in and currently in possession of the AFC’s ninth seed. They’re just one game away from a playoff spot, and that makes every game a must-play for the rest of the season. The Jets need to do their best, and 2022 has shown that their best foot is under center with Mike White, not former No. 2 overall Zach Wilson.

White won’t be able to play Thursday, meaning the season will likely depend on Wilson’s arm, the same arm that has completed less than 55 percent of its passes and thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns. I mean, for goodness sake, Wilson has just one game out of eight starts in 2022 with a 100-plus passer rating. That’s as many as Mike White has in three starts.

I’m not saying Mike White is the solution. I’m just saying that Zach Wilson isn’t either. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars found their solution in Trevor Lawrence. After a slow start to his career — thanks largely to Urban Meyer’s incompetence — Lawrence has transformed mightily, Power Ranger-style, into the generation-long QB talent most people have come to expect of him. As of Week 9 of this season, Lawrence is first in the NFL in passing rating (111.2), completion percentage (70.4), and second in passing touchdowns (14) while throwing just one interception.

The Jaguars are 4-2 in that span and have placed themselves squarely in the AFC playoffs picture – just a game behind the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans. Also, Jacksonville holds the tiebreaker.

Yes, it seems the Jaguars have found their man of the future, but he should have been a jet. If Jets fans haven’t already pushed those memories away, they probably remember starting the 2020 season with an 0-13 record. The “tank for Trevor” mantra was in full effect, and unless crazy-eyed Adam Gase magically flipped the Jets in the last three weeks of the season, the biggest quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck would be going to MetLife.

However, Gase couldn’t even properly refuel. His Jets have won two of their last three games against the Los Angeles Rams 10-6 and the Cleveland Browns 11-5. This was the same team that lost to the Seattle Seahawks at 37 the week before. But suddenly, the Jets turned on their jets … and played their best ball of 2020 by the end of the regular season. The Jaguars, meanwhile, lost 15 straight games after winning their first game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts. That’s the right way to refuel.

If Gase had done his job and lost just one more game, the Jets wouldn’t have Zach Wilson now. They would have had the first overall pick which they would undoubtedly have used for Lawrence. I’m not sure the Jaguars would have picked Wilson with the second pick, but the nightmare that has Jets fans wondering if Wilson’s potential will ever be unlocked wouldn’t even have begun.

The visions of what could have been will be visible on Thursday. Wilson isn’t anywhere near Lawrence’s level right now, and I doubt he ever will be, at least at his current pace. Adam Gase prevented the Jets from finding their long-lost answer at quarterback. They were forced to settle for Wilson and look where that got them…stuck in QB purgatory once again.

Can the Jets win on Thursday? Absolutely, but don’t be shocked if Lawrence outshines Wilson ten times over. Even so, Wilson’s record stands at 5-3, and the Jets are averaging 20.5 points per game with him as a starter, up from their season average of 20.1. There are some positive signs, but not nearly enough to gasse for what he has done. Not even close.