Zach Wilson has a real shot at redemption with Broncos after failure with Jets

Looking back in order to understand the present.
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

Rewind the clocks and let's revisit the best draft for the Denver Broncos in recent memory. That's right. You know which one I'm talking about. The one where George Paton selected the All-Pro cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Now, fast forward to the present, and George Paton has acquired another top-10 selection from that same draft: Quarterback Zach Wilson.

If you watch that throw you will at minimum understand why some people thought Zach was going to truly be something special in the NFL. It goes beyond that though. He had the traits, star presence, and the media behind him. Those three things prove to be very powerful tools in today's landscape. Combine that with what he did in his final year at BYU, and you've found yourself a top football prospect who was rising up draft boards at a historic rate.

A prime example is the tweet above. Dane Brugler is a highly respected NFL Draft Analyst for The Athletic. When someone of his stature puts a tweet out like this, you don't scroll on by without taking notice. What did he do in his final season at BYU before captivating the world with his awe-inspiring Pro Day? Zach threw for just shy of 3700 yards with a 33/3 TD/INT ratio to the tune of a 73% completion percentage. Cap this off with a 196.4 RTG. Zach absolutely lit up opposing teams his junior year.

With all that said, the question still needs to be answered. What happened to Zach Wilson, the #2 overall pick of the New York Jets? How did he go from a rising superstar to a player trying to resurrect his career only 3 seasons later?

Often times as we've seen in the NFL, rookie quarterbacks struggle early on. The Jets however did Zach no favors. Coming out of college, Wilson had all the tools to succeed but he was still a raw 21-year-old prospect who needed time and stability to polish his overall game. This is where the major part of this entire riddle comes into play. Robert Saleh was hired the same year to be the new head coach for the Jets. A rookie head coach combined with a rookie starting quarterback historically doesn't yield great results early. CJ Stroud and DeMeco Ryans, Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano -- that's a short list of the most recent dual rookie pairings that had success in year one.

That's not all though. Greg Knapp was hired in January of 2021 to be the Jets passing game coordinator. This is the same coach who had worked with multiple quarterbacks throughout his coaching career with a couple of the most notable names being Steve Young and Peyton Manning. Greg tragically passed away a few months later in a biking accident. So not only were the Jets behind the 8 ball with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback, but now the guy they specifically brought in to help Zach become the best version of himself has passed away before ever getting to see this team take a snap of football.

The Jets and Wilson were just never able to get on the same page. Zach made a bunch of inconsistent throws and untimely mistakes during games. Combine that with some off-field distractions and it leads one to think there was never any cohesion from the outside looking in. Oil and water, so to speak. Some things just don't mix and this appeared to be one of them. Now, entering season three, the Jets front office made some major off-season noise. The team decided to bring in future hall-of-fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers to usher in a new winning era of New York Jets football.

This is where the final stop of this rocky train ride would soon come to an end. The Jets traded for Aaron Rodgers while bringing in his past offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to run the offense. Zach goes from the prized #2 overall pick to the backup on the same team in the span of one day. Not an easy thing to do.

Here comes our final time jump in this story. Aaron Rodgers four snaps into his Jets career tears his Achilles tendon. Disaster on night one of the 2023 NFL season. What happens next? Zach enters the game and ends up beating the Buffalo Bills on the national stage for all to see. The Jets end up rolling with Zach for a few more games as the starter until coincidentally benching him against the same Bills during the third quarter for Tim Boyle. It goes further than this. Wilson remains benched for the following two games versus the Dolphins and Falcons only then to be brought back to the starting lineup for the game against the Texans.

That game ended up being one of Zach's best games to date throwing for over 300 yards with a couple of touchdowns while beating the Texans 30-3. The season ended a few weeks later with the Jets ultimately missing the playoffs again.

As we entered the 2024 offseason, everyone knew the inevitable. Zach Wilson and the Jets were destined to move on from one another sooner rather than later. The former #2 overall pick can be marked as a failure on their board but for Wilson, he could be looking at a golden opportunity to rejuvenate his career with a Hall of Fame head coach in Sean Payton who historically has revamped multiple quarterbacks whose first stint in the NFL didn't go as planned.

Time will tell if Wilson can reclaim some of that captivating magic he displayed his Junior year of College along with his spectacular pro day.