NY Jets: Rookie quarterback Week 1 success not indictive of career

NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson
NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There have been four rookies who have started the first game of the season for the NY Jets and their performances have not been indicative of their careers in the green and white.

It is easy to get excited when your team starts a rookie quarterback on Week 1 and that quarterback has a good day. Suddenly, the future looks bright and hope begins to shine brightly within our hearts.

Unfortunately, that opening day success has not led to the best long-term results for those quarterbacks. In all of Jets history, four rookies have been given the nod to start the first game of the season, and all have delivered a win.

The three most recent rookie quarterbacks thrown right into the fire were all early-round draft picks. The fourth was the first quarterback to start for the Jets (then known as the Titans) franchise ever in 1960 and was a 25th-round pick.

Week 1 success for NY Jets rookie quarterbacks has led to false hope.

All four rookie quarterbacks who started the first game of the season have won that game for the Jets. 4-0! While it takes more than good quarterback play to win games, each of these players performed well in those wins.

  • Dick Jamieson - 1960 - 9-18, 152 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions, 27-3 win
  • Mark Sanchez - 2009 - 18-31, 272 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 24-7 win
  • Geno Smith - 2013 - 24-38, 256 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 18-17 win
  • Sam Darnold - 2018 - 16-21, 198 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 48-17 win

As a whole, those are pretty good numbers. Each offered a degree of hope and excitement for the future of the franchise. Those debuts, however, did not prove to be a true foretelling of their futures with the Jets.

That start in 1960 proved to be Jamieson's only start in his brief two-year career. His nine completions were about 25 percent of his 35 career completions.

Mark Sanchez started 62 games for the Jets, and had a winning record (33-29) but he threw more interceptions (69) than he did touchdowns (68) with the team.

Smith logged just 30 starts in four years with the Jets, losing 18 of them. He completed only 58 percent of his passes and he had eight more interceptions than touchdowns.

Darnold, probably the best of the bunch, like his predecessors on this list, didn't have a great supporting cast. He won just 13 contests in three years, threw for just 8,097 yards in 42 games, and averaged just 15 touchdowns passing a year.

Zack Wilson is the next NY Jets quarterback of the future

This brings the conversation around to Zach Wilson. The Jets drafted him second overall after jettisoning Darnold to the Panthers. Wilson is, for the present, the next great hope at quarterback for the Jets.

Wilson had a phenomenal junior season last year at BYU. He completed 73.5 percent of his passes and connected on 33 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions.

It will be quite the feat if Wilson can lead the Jets to a Week 1 win against the Carolina Panthers considering the Jets compiled just two wins in 2020. It would be even sweeter if that victory comes with Darnold under center for Carolina.

No matter the outcome of that game, do not judge Wilson too much on that game. If the Jets happen to win, it may not mean that he is the new franchise savior.

All four previous rookies that started the first game won, and three of them won convincingly. History proved their performances were mirages.

On the other hand, if the Jets lose that game, it doesn't mean the Jets picked the wrong quarterback either. Tamper down your immediate reactions.

Wilson was dominant in college but he may still need time to develop into the player the Jets want him to be. Remember, Josh Allen needed a couple of years of seasoning to develop into an MVP candidate for the Buffalo Bills. It's been encouraging so far. The coaching staff has been pleased with what they've seen during OTAs.

Patience, no matter the outcome, will be needed. The team overall seemed to improve as the season went along in 2020. They won two of their last three games heading into the offseason. Adding a new quarterback brings a new excitement to the team and it will be interesting to see how they play early.

It will also be interesting to watch how the careers play out for Darnold and Wilson. If Darnold turns things around and has a productive season with the Panthers and beyond, then maybe his overall performance in New York can be blamed more on the Jets.

If he fails miserably outside of New York, like Sanchez and Smith, maybe it wasn't all the Jets' fault.

While that storyline will be intriguing to watch, it is unimportant. Is Wilson the franchise signal-caller the Jets have been searching for? Will he be the right player for the job? Or will it be just another bad decision by the Jets?

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Regardless, don't make a snap judgement based on the first game of the season. That can only lead to heartbreak.