Hope wore No. 2. Not long ago, Hope wore No. 14, and No. 6 before that, and No. 10 before that, and No. 7 before that, and No. 14 before that, and of course No. 12 way back when.
Zach Wilson wore No. 2 Saturday as a small portion of a tortured fan base, which so often has sagged into hopelessness, watched his every move, his every throw, and wished upon a star yet again.
The young franchise quarterback is the symbol of hope for a better and brighter tomorrow, and so with 1,000 Jets fans filling the stands for the first time since the pandemic began, and others lined up behind a fence overlooking Field 1, Zach Wilson’s honeymoon began, a love affair that will last long enough for the Jets to end a playoff drought that has already spanned a decade.
You saw Sam Darnold No. 14 jerseys, Chad Pennington No. 10 jerseys, and of course Joe Namath No. 12 jerseys and Wilson No. 2 jerseys among the faithful.
A great roar went up each and every time Wilson flashed some magic, pocket magic and improvisational magic.
The highlight was an 80-yard missile launched down the right sideline for a touchdown to precocious rookie receiver Elijah Moore, after which left tackle Mekhi Becton patted his new franchise quarterback atop his helmet.
From the stands: J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS.
“I always give him confidence in everything he does, so I always try to keep his head up, for sure,” Becton said.
The kid didn’t look like he needed any kind of pep talk. Day 2 (14-for-20 passing) went a lot smoother than his rusty Day 1.
“There’s a lot of stuff he’s out there doing that you don’t expect him to do,” Becton said. “I can’t key in on one thing.”
Allow me to:
Escaping pressure to his right, Wilson throws a dart to Denzel Mims.
Wilson backpedals, throws a strike over the middle to Lawrence Cager.
Wilson flicks his wrist and throws a low, catchable ball over the middle that a diving Braxton Berrios could not handle.
“He can throw off his right, left, sidearm, whatever motion, platform you want to talk about, that’s what kinda makes him unique,” head coach Robert Saleh said.
Ideally, Wilson will stand tall in the pocket — only slightly taller than Drew Brees, mind you — behind Becton and be the surgeon.
“But at the same time,” Saleh said, “there’s a clock that’s gotta go off in the sense of, ‘All right Coach, you put me in a jam here, save us.’ And that’s where those elite quarterbacks are able to improvise and make something out of nothing. But the discipline to not just look at his first read and just bail. There’s a lot of those out there.”
Wilson’s leadership style is evolving. But he has made a good first impression.
“The guys love him, and that’s the main thing, having the rest of the team embrace you,” Marcus Maye said,
Needless to say, the Jets desperately want to embrace him.
Fan Kyle Geddes was wearing a Wilson jersey. “I love watching him. I really can’t wait for the season,” Geddes said from behind the fence. “The long pass to Elijah Moore was, like, perfect.”
This was a sun-splashed day that could have caused the most rabid Jets fan to rent a limo and offer to take Wilson to Canton to pick up his gold jacket and pose for his bust.
Saleh was referencing every rookie when he said: “There’s gonna be a lot of hair-pulling moments, there’s gonna be times where they look like they’re Pro Bowlers, there’s gonna be times where they look like they’ve never been coached before.”
Ah yes, the inevitable turbulence. What would life be like without turbulence for the Jets and Jets fans?