Jets’ Joe Douglas has message for Zach Wilson: Cut down on turnovers

Jets general manager Joe Douglas would make one heckuva defense attorney. And with the stakes as high as they are for him, and for this franchise, it goes without saying that he stands on the side of completely innocent until proven guilty on Zach Wilson.

Douglas conducted a conference call on Tuesday following a quiet trade deadline day for him, and in the midst of understandably professing his unrequited love for the quarterback he drafted with the second pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, he indirectly sent a message to Wilson more than anyone else … shrouded in kisses, of course.

Douglas, asked what Wilson needs to show him across the last nine games of a season of possibility said: “I think when you’ve watched us play this year … it’s tough, because when you lose, the quarterback gets the blame, and it’s not always just the quarterback’s fault.

“But I think when you see how he played [his] first [five] games of the season, we’re gonna be tough to beat when we take care of the ball, when we don’t have self-inflicted wounds. We talk about that every week, how games aren’t won in this league, they’re lost. When you take care of the ball, and with our defense and special teams, we’re gonna be a tough team to beat. So just focus on the turnover battle, focus on eliminating the self-inflicted wounds.”

Douglas ended his answer this way: “And that’s not just for Zach, that’s the entire team.”

Zach Wilson and Joe Douglas
Zach Wilson and Joe Douglas
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Yes. The Jets can’t afford Michael Carter to fumble. Or James Robinson. Or Garrett Wilson. Or Tyler Conklin. Or Elijah Moore, if he ever gets a target or two, even as Douglas professed his love for him and fellow second-round pick Denzel Mims. Oh, and the Jets can’t afford Mims to fumble.

But if your crown-jewel quarterback, your second-year franchise quarterback is throwing interceptions and/or fumbling, the Jets will be watching the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year.


Douglas has done everything in his power, most recently the trade for RB James Robinson to help replace Breece Hall, to aid and abet Wilson.

Wilson appeared primed to take the second-year leap that Sam Darnold never took with that dramatic fourth-quarter comeback in Pittsburgh, and resembled a rookie savaged by troubling growing pains against the Patriots.

Of course if Douglas is concerned, he won’t let anyone see him sweat.

Publicly supporting your young franchise quarterback is the right thing to do, the only thing to do.

Yes, even Trevor Lawrence has been struggling along with the other Class of 2021 quarterbacks, but no one has a right to ask the long-suffering Jets fans for patience, which means he will hear the “We Want White” chants for Mike White should Wilson falter Sunday against Josh Allen and the Bills. In other words, the honeymoon is over.

Joe Douglas, for the defense: “Look, we’re 4-1 with Zach as our quarterback.”

Look, the three straight games he didn’t throw a touchdown pass he didn’t turn the ball over.

Apparently he thought, and thought wrong, that he was ready to put the team on his back with Hall and Alijah Vera-Tucker lost for the season.

The Jets are not an elite team, but if Wilson learns how to manage the game against the beatable teams remaining on the schedule, the Jets will have a chance. He can’t be the game mismanager.

Robert Saleh bent over backwards for Wilson with a public vote of confidence that he is the starter, end of story, for the rest of the season, and Douglas referenced the Pittsburgh heroics.

The Patriots disaster? Joe Douglas for the defense: “He also had nine explosive passes. There’s a lot of good to take away from that game. I know the focus was on the turnover, but we love Zach, we love his approach every week, he always competes, and he’s our quarterback.”

The 5-3 Jets have raised the bar from playing meaningful games in December to a wild-card playoff berth.

“All we’re thinking about right now is the Buffalo Bills, and we know the challenge that brings,” Douglas said. “We set ourselves up to play important games, but we all know the challenge in front of us. We know the schedule’s not getting easier, and we know we gotta play good football moving forward.”

And: “We know we haven’t accomplished the goal we set out to accomplish, but we’ve set ourselves up to have a good opportunity moving forward to have success.”

This line from Douglas is spot on: games aren’t won in this league, they’re lost. More often than not, they’re won by the quarterback, or they’re lost by the quarterback.

The defense rests. But it might be resting uneasily.