If anyone knows he’s not living up to sky-high expectations, it’s Ryan Leaf.
Leaf was the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft behind Peyton Manning by the San Diego Chargers, and is widely considered the biggest bust in NFL history. A combination of poor play, injuries and bad behavior brought his career to an end in 2001 after just 25 games.
At the moment, that sounds pretty similar to the beginning of Zach Wilson’s career. He was the second overall pick in 2021.
The New York Jets quarterback has completed just 55.2% of his passes for 4,022 yards, 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 24 games in his first two seasons.
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The Jets’ front office did everything in their power to take Wilson to the next level, but he was arguably the worst quarterback in football this year. Many think that if the Jets had had another starter, they would have made the playoffs.
Amid his poor play, Wilson hasn’t taken the blame, once saying he didn’t let the Jets’ defense down after the offense racked up three points in a game in New England. That drew criticism from teammates, coaches and the media, and Wilson was sidelined for several weeks.
Wilson’s situation is all too familiar to Leaf, who gave the 23-year-old some advice.
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«Right now, it’s going to be about action. No more talking about anything,» Leaf told the New York Post. «If somebody wants to talk to him, just say, ‘When I’ve figured him out and he’s a decent quarterback, then I’ll talk.’ There’s nothing I can say that he’s going to change anyone’s mind right now. He has to go out and perform.
«Unfortunately, when you’re a top three pick in the draft, you may not get that opportunity again because the expectations have been set so high. Hopefully, he’ll end up in a place where he’ll have a chance to start again, but this it just weighs like an anchor. It just does. Unfortunately, you don’t get a lot of second chances to start when you’re a top three quarterback draftee. You may have to backup elsewhere.»
The Jets have made it clear that they are in the market for a quarterback, and all signs point to an interest in Aaron Rodgers.
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Leaf made his criticisms of Wilson known in November.
«I’ve had a better life than (sic) Jets fans for the last decade and spent 3 of those years in prison, with respect of course,» Leaf tweeted.
Leaf said he is in a relationship with Mike White, who took over for Wilson after he was benched. But she hasn’t talked to Wilson.
«Zach was the second overall pick, he struggled and he’s getting hit with a lot of the BUST words. It would be a perfect opportunity for someone like that to get close,» Leaf said, adding that Wilson’s fate in the league is «the most Probably…as backup.”
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«But he hasn’t. I get it. Because I had opportunities like that, too. Terry Bradshaw and John Elway and stuff came up to me, and I just told them to fuck off. So I get it.» I understand. But I want him to be as successful as possible.»
The Jets went 7-10 and were alive for the postseason heading into Week 17. They recently hired Rodgers’ former Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett for the same role.