Zach Wilson isn’t old enough to know this, but the general manager who drafted him knew the fictional Shane Falco. During an early scene in The Replacements where Falco reports to training camp, striking players confront him in the parking lot. Douglas is one of the meatheads who flips Falco’s truck. I hope he appreciates what he’s seeing right now from his quarterback.
What the 2021 NFL Draft’s second overall pick is orchestrating now may be equivalent to what Falco pulled off in an alternate history 1987. Since getting replaced by Mike White and then by future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers, Wilson’s career has had him on the verge of getting a regular 9-to-5. Just like Falco, Wilson is the most hallowed replacement starter in the league right now.
A mountain of hyperbole has been used to describe Wilson’s adequate play over the past two weeks. The New York Post’s Mark Cannizzaro believes the Jets are “on the verge of a breakout” despite the offense going 1-for-5 in converting touchdowns during red zone trips. That’s high praise for a quarterback who’s connected on 58 percent of his attempts, compiled a 1-to-3 touchdown-interception ratio, and averaged fewer than 180 passing yards.
Meanwhile, in reality, Zach Wilson’s career night was apparently a losing effort in which he barely outplayed Patrick Mahomes, throwing for multiple touchdowns without an interception for the first time in his career. If you ignore the fumbled shotgun snap that cost New York in the final eight minutes of the final frame, then he was flawless. The bar is set as low for him as it was for Falco.
Let’s be honest, Keanu Reeves’ swashbuckling Sentinels quarterback was a game manager. Extensive analysis agrees with that assessment. Footsteps Falco got hot for a quarter of the season before he was never heard from again. Putting aside The Replacements’ anti-union propaganda that depicted the franchise as the community glue and players as narcissistic wannabe plutocrats, Rodgers is even more unlikable than Eddie Martel.
The Washington team Falco’s Sentinels were based on rode that momentum to a Super Bowl. These Jets have Super Bowl aspirations. The circumstances are obviously different. Rodgers isn’t on strike. He ruptured his Achilles on the opening possession of New York’s season. The Jets are openly pining for Rodgers’ to mount the quickest comeback from Achilles surgery since Terrelle Suggs returned to the Ravens in five months. The odds are slim.
There are two and a half months remaining in the regular season and Rodgers’ experimental Achilles surgery is instilling New York with the hubris they need. We may eventually discover the extent to which rehabilitation and surgery have advanced, but it won’t matter if Wilson doesn’t do his part. Eventually, this magic carpet ride will end, either with a thud at the end of regular-season play or with Rodgers’ unlikely return. For the perfect script to even become a possibility, Wilson has to keep the Jets in the hunt.
In the meantime, Wilson is striding out of the tunnel with the same verve as a confident Falco, and playing exactly like Falco would.
After losing three straight following their miraculous opener, all hope seemed lost. During that time, Robert Saleh expressed a Jimmy McGinty level of blind faith in ‘his guy.’ Shockingly, it’s kind of working out. The Jets could have made calls to a host of starters whose teams would be willing to part with them like Kirk Cousins or quality backups. Now 3-3, Wilson’s Jets are dancing on a razor’s edge.
With every win, Wilson becomes tougher to depose. The odds are against him, but similar to Falco spelunking in the ocean, Wilson has climbed from Titan submersible-level career depths.
A young Alex Smith, Vinny Testaverde, and others have bounced back from worse career starts and proceeded to have fruitful years in the NFL. I’m not sure Wilson showing a pulse is that sort of emergence or a brief blip. Before this two-game span, Wilson was the 33rd-best quarterback in the league. Don’t ask me to rank them. It’s everchanging, but Wilson has always been always rated as a backup-caliber starter. However, Wilson — like Falco — is a symbol of the Never Was having a moment.
Falco only had to play at a league-average level for the final quarter of the schedule. Wilson is going to remain on this plateau much longer. Under even the best-case scenarios, Rodgers wouldn’t return until January, meaning Wilson has a much more extensive stretch ahead. But if he maintains this level of play mistake-free Falco football, he could etch his own name into Jets lore.
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