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3 takeaways from The Athletic’s explosive report on Aaron Rodgers, Zach Wilson and the Jets

In-depth reporting from The Athletic offers a behind-the-scenes look at the New York Jets organization

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New York Jets quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers (8) and Zach Wilson (2) warm up during practice at the team’s training facility on July 21, 2023.

New York Jets quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers (8) and Zach Wilson (2) warm up during practice at the team’s training facility on Friday, July 21, 2023, in Florham Park, N.J.

John Minchillo, Associated Press

Even a casual observer would conclude that Zach Wilson had a tough season.

The New York Jets quarterback was forced back into one of the NFL’s harshest spotlights after Aaron Rodgers, the superstar brought in to be his mentor, went down with an Achilles injury just moments into the season.

As was the case in his first two years, Wilson often struggled to get the Jets’ offense going. But this fall, much of the trouble stemmed from the fact that he was operating in an offensive scheme designed around Rodgers’ unique skills behind an offensive line that was failing to do its job.

Within a few games, NFL pundits and Jets fans alike were calling for Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft, to be benched. Jets head coach Robert Saleh finally made that move in mid-November and also told Wilson that the team planned to trade him in the offseason, as the Deseret News previously reported.

A new, in-depth report from The Athletic confirms that the trade conversation took place and also lays out why Wilson ended up back in the starting role in December.

Drawing on multiple unnamed sources, the article attempts to explain where Saleh and the rest of the Jets organization went wrong this season and where the organization will go from here.

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, right, talks to head coach Robert Saleh before a preseason game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, right, talks to head coach Robert Saleh before a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J.

Seth Wenig, Associated Press

Although it’s not focused on Wilson, The Athletic’s report offers a behind-the-scenes look at what the BYU product was dealing with as he tried to get his NFL career back on solid ground.

Here are three Wilson-related takeaways from The Athletic’s report on the Jets:

The relationship between Wilson and Rodgers soured after Rodgers’ injury

In the weeks and months after Rodgers joined the Jets, much of the media coverage was about the veteran quarterback’s strong relationship with Wilson.

Articles highlighted the two men’s past praise for each other, as well as Wilson’s willingness to learn from the future Hall of Famer.

“Being with Aaron, I think it’s feeling like every single day there’s so much to learn. You know, it’s like every day I’m just like, ‘Wow, like I just learned 10 different things about playing the quarterback position,’” Wilson said last summer, according to the team.

But after Rodgers tore his Achilles in September, the relationship between him and Wilson soured, per The Athletic. Wilson “barely heard from” Rodgers, and got tired of Saleh’s praise for him.

“As Rodgers was pushing the limits of torn Achilles rehab, determined to return in a little over three months — an unprecedented recovery time for that injury — Wilson, along with some Jets teammates and coaches, grew tired of the way Saleh fawned over Rodgers, according to team sources,” The Athletic reported.

Wilson struggled with plays designed for Rodgers

After Rodgers’ shocking injury, the Jets’ offense seemed to be stuck in a low gear. One key problem was that the offense had been designed around Rodgers and, in some cases, by Rodgers, The Athletic reported.

“Both Rodgers and (Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel) Hackett call the offense ‘quarterback friendly,’ but as the Jets learned in 2023, that might only apply to one quarterback,” the article said.

Unnamed coaches and players told The Athletic that the offense, including Wilson, suffered due to Hackett’s unwillingness or inability to make needed adjustments.

Saleh did not have confidence in Wilson

For much of the fall, Saleh defended Wilson when asked about whether the team would bench the young quarterback. He repeatedly pointed to issues with the offensive line and with receivers, noting that Wilson was far from the only offensive player who needed to improve.

“If it was just him, it would be something that would be worth discussing, but this is a collective issue that we all need to get on the same page with. Whether it’s dropped balls, players being where they’re supposed to be, executing the way we need to execute, calling plays that need to be called, putting players in the positions they need to be put into — that’s all of us,” Saleh said in early December, as the Deseret News previously reported.

But Saleh wasn’t nearly so positive or kind when commenting on Wilson in private, according to The Athletic.

“Publicly, Saleh avoided criticizing Zach Wilson or even acknowledging his struggles. Privately, the coach pinned many of the team’s offensive issues on Wilson, the line and the receivers and told people getting to eight wins with Wilson at quarterback would be a ‘miracle,’” the article said.