The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Trevor Lawrence first overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. One pick later, the New York Jets chose Zach Wilson out of BYU. While Lawrence has solidified his place as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Wilson was demoted following a subpar outing in Week 11. Looking back, the Jags should remember how fortunate they are to have landed the top selection and not the No. 2 overall in 2020.
The Jets announced Monday they're benching Wilson in favor of Tim Boyle, with Trevor Siemian serving as the primary backup on the roster. This means that Wilson is the third-stringer and could potentially be a healthy scratch the remainder of the season barring a change of plans.
"We want to give him an opportunity," Jets head coach Robert Saleh said Monday, via Jack Ball of the team's official website. "He's a different style of quarterback. It's really to give him an opportunity to see if we can do something with the offense."
Saleh had previously said that not all the team's offensive woes fell on Wilson but noted that they needed to give someone else — Boyle in this case — a chance to see "if something can change."
Wilson was dreadful against the Buffalo Bills in Week 11, completing 46.7 percent of his passes for 81 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Now, no player is exempt from a bad day but this isn't an outlier. This season, Wilson and the New York offense have struggled as a whole. In fact, they're on pace to make the NFL books for the wrong reasons. They went 0-of-11 on third downs in a 32-6 blowout loss, and have a 22.9 percent completion rate on such downs. That's the lowest of any club in recorded history, per Zach Rosenblatt of The Athletic.
Meanwhile, Trevor Lawrence is coming off arguably his best performance in the season, completing 75 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Tennessee Titans. He also added two rushing touchdowns and wasn't sacked a single time.
The Jacksonville Jaguars managed to get out of the 2021 draft with Trevor Lawrence
The Jets weren't the only club that failed to land a franchise quarterback in 2021 though. Trey Lance, the third overall selection was originally picked by the San Francisco 49ers but was traded earlier this year to pave the way for the ascending Brock Purdy. Mac Jones, the No. 15 pick, made the Pro Bowl in his first NFL season but wasn't able to build on his early success.
Justin Fields, on the other hand, has flashed throughout his season but injuries and an inadequate coaching staff have held him back. Then again, availability is the most important ability in football, and if you can't suit up, it doesn't matter how much talent you have. So far, Fields hasn't been able to finish a full season, and it's fair to wonder if he can eventually put it all together.
This failure rate should put an even bigger spotlight on the fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars managed to clinch the No. 1 pick the year prior.
Had Jacksonville beaten the Chicago Bears and/or the Jets had loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and the Cleveland Browns one week later late in the 2020 season, there's a strong chance New York would've gone with Lawrence at No. 1. That would have likely left the Jags with either Wilson or Justin Field, and at this moment, it's fair to say that neither option is particularly enticing.
In the Jets' defense, they went all in on Aaron Rodgers in the offseason in hopes of turning into a Super Bowl contender. While they were able to trade for Rodgers, he only played a few snaps before suffering a season-ending ACL tear. Then again, they wouldn't have been in the need to pursue him if Zach Wilson hadn't struggled so much.
Now, the Jaguars are 7-3 and looking to earn the highest playoff seed possible while the Jets are trying to salvage their season. Things could be playing out very differently if the Jets had lost a couple more games in 2020.