It’s been a wild couple of months for New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.
He went from an interesting prospect with upside to the No. 2 pick to the face of the franchise for the green and white.
Along the way, he has sought advice from a variety of people on being a professional, jumping to the NFL, and some.
Although often the best advice is the one you didn’t ask for.
On the Badlands feed former Pro Bowler and most importantly former Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody shared a few words of wisdom for Zach Wilson heading into his first year with Gang Green:
“Be yourself. Just because you play in New York now that doesn’t mean you have to become a different person. Being yourself brings out the best in who you are. Wilson at some point is going to struggle. He’s a rookie playing in a tough market and in a tough division. The important thing is everything isn’t going to be on Wilson. They’ve got talent around him. Just be yourself, go play ball, and let the game come to you.”
So Why Should Wilson Listen to Woody?
There are two reasons the youngster should heed Woody’s advice.
Firstly, Woody knows this market both as a player and as an analyst. The former NFL veteran spent the last three years of his NFL career with the Jets. It’s not a coincidence that those three years coincided with some of the best years this franchise has experienced since Super Bowl III:
- 2008: 9-7
- That was the Brett Favre year. They would’ve made the playoffs if they didn’t experience the 1-4 finish to the season after an 8-3 start to the year.
- 2009: 9-7
- The Jets finished the regular season strong and carried that momentum into the playoffs. That was the first appearance in the AFC Championship game for Gang Green in the 21st century.
- 2010: 11-5
- It was the height of the Rex Ryan era as the Jets went to back-to-back conference title games behind the ground-and-pound ideology.
But beyond simply playing for the team and knowing the market so well as a media analyst, Woody was a starting offensive lineman during the 2009 campaign that also featured a top-five pick in the huddle at the quarterback position.
Mark Sanchez was taken No. 5 overall out of USC by the Jets after a draft-day trade-up from No. 17. Woody knows what worked and what didn’t during the run of “The Sanchize”.
Taking a Closer Look at the Advice
Woody’s advice was super important: you don’t have to be superman, you have talent around you, just be you.
When Wilson received the call from the Jets one of the first things head coach Robert Saleh uttered to him over the phone was, “the biggest thing I want to tell you, just remember, this organization is going to lift you, not the other way around.”
Too often players, especially those that are drafted high, try to prove themselves to their teammates, the media, and the doubters by playing hero ball. Trying to make every play a home run and that’s where the mistakes start.
Look at the best players in the game right now, is every pass Tom Brady throws a touchdown? No, he takes what’s in front of him. That’ll be key for Wilson early in his NFL career and quite frankly throughout it.
If there’s a drag across the middle wide open for a marginal gain, take it. The key is taking what the defense gives you. If you do that enough times, you’ll eventually find the endzone.
To make a basketball analogy, when you get in a fastbreak situation, everyone loves stopping and shooting a wide-open three-pointer. If you make it, the crowd goes wild, but if you miss it you come across as an idiot.
Just take the layup. Make the play and move on to the next one.
In the past Jets, quarterbacks were forced to try to make chicken salad out of chicken you know what. Those days are over.
This offense has been completely revamped with new weapons (Elijah Moore, Corey Davis), better protection (Alijah Vera-Tucker), and a new philosophy (Mike LaFleur). If Wilson just plays within himself, he’s destined to have a great rookie campaign in 2021.