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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Joe Burrow and Bengals are what Zach Wilson, Jets hope to be

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One of these days, one of these years, the best young quarterback in the stadium will belong to the Jets, and to Jets fans. 

One of these days, one of these years, the best young quarterback in the stadium won’t be wearing, say, black, white and orange. 

One of these days, one of these years, perhaps on a Halloween Sunday, Jets fans will go trick-or-treating and won’t find a trick waiting for them instead of a treat. 

Joe Burrow will be wearing No. 9 for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, and he is everything the Jets need and want in a franchise quarterback. He’s everything they have wanted and needed in a franchise quarterback for an eternity. 

Zach Wilson won’t be wearing his No. 2 for the Jets on Sunday. He will be watching Mike White replace him because he is rehabbing a knee injury that could cause him to miss a month, which isn’t the worst thing in the world given his physical and mental rookie struggles. 

Jets general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh have staked their reputations and futures on Wilson being the answer to the franchise’s prayers, and no one should give up on the idea. 

But Burrow has been no Ordinary Joe from the time he left LSU and hugged Roger Goodell as the first-overall pick of the 2020 draft. 

“I don’t know if he got upset when I called him just a new version of Joe Montana,” legendary Giants quarterback Phil Simms told The Post. “I don’t think he got upset, but he’s like, ‘Oh, please, don’t do that to me.’ But that’s who he reminds me of. Just a modern-day Joe Montana, who’s a little bigger, probably a little faster, and has a little better arm. 

“Does that mean he’s gonna have [Montana’s] success? Of course not. [Montana] was one of the great quarterbacks. When I watched [Burrow] play, that was the first thing that came to my mind at LSU. Just smooth, graceful, definitely more athletic than people think. And the other thing that really has caught my attention this year — he might disagree, I don’t care, this is my opinion — he’s throwing the ball with a little more power.” 

Burrow, remember, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week 11 of his rookie season last year. He has 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions and a 68.9 completion percentage this season. 

“And the last thing is this, I was moaning and groaning during the summer: ‘Don’t start him to start the year, give him a few weeks,’ ” Simms said. “And I couldn’t believe they didn’t. And then I watched him play and I said, ‘OK, once again I’m wrong.’ Because after a game or two, he really was in great rhythm, great shape and every game that goes by, he looks stronger to me in every category you want to talk about.” 

In their first six games as a rookie: 

Burrow: six TDs, four INTs. 

Wilson: four TDs, nine INTs. 

Simms was talking about Wilson when he said: “I wasn’t expecting great things from him this year just because: new coaching staff, new coordinator, new players … building a roster … 

“But I’m gonna judge — let’s put a number on it — his 50 best throws of the year. And that’s who I think he’ll be. So I’m not getting caught up in, ‘Oh, he’s throwing interceptions. Oh, he’s not making good decisions.’ I don’t care. He has like three or four highlight throws every game, which you know, I just want to see the ordinary plays just made on a very, very high frequency. That’s what you must do to be an NFL quarterback. If you miss two throws a game, that’s max. NFL quarterbacks that are really good, they don’t miss open receivers.” 

Joe Burrow (17 TD's, 8 INT's) and the 5-2 Bengals represent what the Jets desperately hope Zach Wilson can replicate in New York.
Joe Burrow (17 TD’s, 8 INT’s) and the 5-2 Bengals represent what the Jets desperately hope Zach Wilson can replicate in New York.
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Wilson needs better coaching and better players around him to turn a corner, but ask Simms if the Jets have found their franchise quarterback and he says: “I do. Play a few more games, get experience, get better, and then when he plays in the preseason next year, I would like to look out in the field and go, ‘Oh, my god. What a difference.’ That’s what I expect.” 

Simms was on board with Wilson starting Week 1. 

“My belief in Zach Wilson has not changed,” Simms said. “I still think the high-end talent that I saw in college [BYU] and the high end throws that I see in the league now. He’s got 20 throws, that if I put ’em up there, and if I didn’t tell you who it was, you go, ‘Wow, Patrick Mahomes is really good!’ ” 

It is more than Wilson’s arm talent. It is his makeup. It is his mental toughness. It is his dedication. He wouldn’t have been the best quarterback on the field with Burrow on the other side. One of these days, one of the years, maybe he will be.

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