Zach Wilson May Have Worn Jets Uniform For Final Time, JaMarcus Russell Comparisons Evoked

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If Zach Wilson indeed donned a New York Jets uniform for the final time on Thursday against Jacksonville, what a way to go out.

Wilson was thrust back into action after Mike White suffered an injury. The Jets announced Monday that White is healthy and will start Sunday against Seattle. A few hours later, head coach Robert Saleh said that not only is Zach Wilson being benched, but he will not dress.

Joe Flacco assumes the duties of backup quarterback and Wilson will be inactive.

With Wilson relegated to third-string duties — and possibly even fourth-string duties after he was replaced by previous fourth-stringer Chris Streveler in Thursday’s game — it seems likely he will not wear a Jets uniform again.

Fox’s Jay Glazer reported Sunday that the Jets are probably going to “move on” from Wilson this offseason.

Right, Robert, we got ya. WINK!

Wilson’s potential final game in New York was quite the microcosm of his career. He completed 50% of his passes (9 of18) for 92 yards, no touchdowns, an interception and three sacks. Streveler replaced him in a 19-3 loss that crippled the team’s playoff hopes.

Zach Wilson’s ranking among biggest NFL busts ever

Just last week, Josh Rosen signed with the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad. In my opinion, Rosen is the worst quarterback ever drafted in the Top 10 of any NFL Draft. I wrote about why here.

In that piece, I did write about Wilson. Here’s what I said: “Although I believe players like Trey Lance and Zach Wilson will likely grace lists like this in the future, I’m willing to allow that it’s still too early to determine their future.”

Less than a week later, I’m basically ready to give up on Wilson, just like the Jets. Seeing the No. 2 overall pick in an NFL Draft off the team that selected him after just two seasons is unprecedented. Even JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf — widely regarded as two of the biggest busts in NFL history — lasted three seasons.

While I still believe Wilson is a slightly better player than Rosen — which was the point of my previous list — Wilson is clearly the bigger bust. Bust takes into account draft position. The Cardinals picked Rosen at No. 10, which doesn’t compare to the Jets using the second overall pick on Wilson.

The obvious modern comparison is JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders selected Russell with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Their numbers are eerily similar, according to

JaMarcus Russell's poor career with the Raiders looks a lot like Zach Wilson's terrible Jets tenure.
JaMarcus Russell’s poor career with the Raiders looks a lot like Zach Wilson’s terrible Jets tenure. (Credit: & Grayson Weir photoshop skillz)

Part of what makes inflates a bust is who a team did NOT select. The Raiders, for example, selected Russell and the Detroit Lions took Calvin Johnson — a Pro Football Hall of Famer — with the next pick.

Joe Thomas, an offensive tackle picked by the Cleveland Browns at No. 3, is a semi-finalist for the 2023 Hall of Fame class. So, yeah, those hurt.

To the Raiders credit, if they were dead-set on picking a quarterback, they stood no chance. Not one quarterback in the 2007 class really amounted to anything. In fact, the career leader in passing yards from that draft is Trent Edwards (#92 overall to Buffalo) with 6,033.

Too early to tell how badly the Jets screwed up the 2021 Draft

We don’t have enough information to fully determine the impact of their 2021 NFL Draft mishap. Trevor Lawrence, who beat Zach Wilson in likely his final Jets start, was the No. 1 overall pick by Jacksonville.

Lawrence certainly looks like a franchise quarterback, but the Jets couldn’t draft him anyway, so that part is irrelevant. The San Francisco 49ers traded up to draft Trey Lance at No. 3 and I don’t think any Jets fan wishes they had taken him instead.

Plenty of people are suggesting that Justin Fields was the clear choice and the Jets will regret not picking the now Chicago Bears quarterback. I say “plenty of people” because I am not one of them.

I have gone on record several times and will do so again — I don’t necessarily think drafting Wilson over Fields is the massive mistake others do.

Fields is a better NFL player than Zach Wilson, so by that criteria, they did make a mistake. However, if the goal is to draft a franchise QB, I’m not sure they had one available. Mac Jones also went in the first round to the Patriots and, again, I don’t believe Jets fans wish they had Jones instead.

It’s possible there were no great quarterbacks for the team to select with the second overall pick. So, like the Raiders with Russell, if that was the plan no matter what, I’m not sure it mattered what they would have done.

A pair of #2s, Zach Wilson and JaMarcus Russell, never panned out for the Jets and Raiders, respectively.
A pair of #2s, Zach Wilson and JaMarcus Russell, never panned out for the Jets and Raiders, respectively. (photos via Getty Images)

The fourth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and first non-quarterback, belonged to Atlanta. They selected tight end Kyle Pitts. Again, too early to know about him. Ja’Marr Chase went fifth, and yeah I think Jets fans would like to have Chase on their roster.

It’s early, but the next stretch of picks seem to have all been better choices. Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle went 6th to Miami, offensive tackle Penei Sewell 7th to Detroit, cornerbacks Jaycee Horn (8th to Carolina) and Patrick Surtain (9th to Denver) followed while wide receiver DeVonta Smith rounded out the Top 10 (Philadelphia).

The Cowboys selected potential 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Micah Parsons at No. 12. There were plenty of non-quarterback options available, so it could end up looking really bad for Wilson.

It’s still JaMarcus Russell’s crown

JaMarcus Russell went No. 1 overall, so the Raiders had their choice of any player in the draft. The Jets certainly would have taken Trevor Lawrence if given the opportunity. This is the reason that Russell remains ahead of Ryan Leaf.

Leaf had worse stats than both Russell and Wilson, but the Chargers would have taken Peyton Manning if given the option. Like Russell, the Chargers really had no QB option, though. Other than Manning, no other quarterback taken in the first three rounds did much in the league.

Brian Griese and Charlie Batch were serviceable, but certainly not top pick material.

Career stats for Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell and Zach Wilson
Career stats for Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell and Zach Wilson (credit:

Oh man, I just realized that two of the biggest busts in NFL history have last names that add up to “Russell Wilson.” Apropos of nothing, but funny nonetheless.

The Raiders passed on future Hall of Famers that went with the next two picks following Russell. The Chargers also passed on two Hall of Famers for Leaf.

The Raiders took Charles Woodson 4th in the 1998 NFL Draft and the Vikings selected Randy Moss in the first round. Jacksonville took near Hall of Famer Fred Taylor with a Top 10 pick, as well.

Add it all up and I think Wilson will rank behind both Russell and Leaf. Russell gets the edge because he was the No. 1 pick and Leaf gets the edge because he was objectively worse at football. And I still think Josh Rosen is the worst quarterback — talent-wise — ever taken in the Top 10.

Hopefully, Zach Wilson finds comfort in those thoughts.

I doubt it, though.

Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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