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Jets must get new quarterback even as Saleh’s spin continues

Unmercifully, there’s still a game to play for the Jets — one agonizingly inconsequential game at Miami on Sunday — before the 2022 season is put to bed.

Once this season is mercifully tucked under the covers, there will be fallout, beginning at the quarterback position.

The Jets might as well post a “HELP WANTED’’ sign at their Florham Park facility or across their social media channels, because they’ll be in the market for a new quarterback the moment the offseason begins.

There’s no avoiding fallout considering what’s transpired over the final six weeks, which has been one of the worst collapses in Jets history from what was a promising season at 7-4 spiraling to 7-9 and playoff elimination after Sunday’s dismal 23-6 loss at Seattle.

At the root of the free fall has been the fact that the Jets’ offense has produced just four TDs in the past five games and is without a single TD in the last eight quarters.

Change is inevitable. And the most dramatic change for 2023 will come at quarterback, which is positively stunning considering that the Jets invested the No. 2 overall draft pick in Zach Wilson before last season.

Coming off of a rookie year for both Wilson and Jets head coach Robert Saleh in 2021 in which Wilson was 3-10 and the Jets were 4-13, this season was always going to be about Wilson and his development. The Jets were hoping — expecting — to see tangible improvement from Wilson and become at least fairly certain that he is their future.

That, however, hasn’t happened.

Jets coach Robert Saleh
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You can make a strong argument that the Jets lack of clarity at quarterback is a more damaging development than their failure to turn the 7-4 start into a first playoff berth in 12 years.

Saleh has gone out of his way all season to protect Wilson, insisting that he’s improved, that he’s going to be a really good quarterback and that he remains in the team’s future plans. Saleh has no choice but to take that public stance.

But none of those things seems to be true. There’s simply been too little evidence of it.

On Monday, Saleh conceded, “We definitely need better play from that position. The play hasn’t been what we want it to be, [but] that doesn’t mean that it can’t get to where we want it to be.’’

Mike White was thought to be an answer for Wilson’s shortcomings, but the reality is that White, who struggled in Seattle, appears to be exactly who the Jets thought he was when they signed him as an insurance backup: an insurance backup.

When you peel away all the adoration for White and his terrific story of determination and toughness, he’s 2-5 as an NFL starter with eight TDs and 12 INTs. As much as Wilson’s struggles have been scrutinized, White has led the Jets to just one TD in his last 23 possessions.

Mike White
Getty Images

Saleh did what he could to make the argument that Wilson simply needs time, using Giants quarterback Daniel Jones as an example.

“This is Year 4 for him and he’s having a remarkable year and flashing all the things that made him a top-five pick [actually No. 6 overall],’’ Saleh said. “It takes time. It takes time to get these guys [developed] and for them to see the amount of reps they need.

“The easy answer is, ‘Well, just get rid of him and go get somebody new.’ The hard part is to stay true to your conviction and continue to develop a young man who you know can be capable of doing anything. But that comes with time.’’

Here’s the thing, though: Saleh doesn’t have a lot of time. He’ll be entering his third season with the Jets in ’23 and, with the strong core of a roster the Jets have, anything short of a playoff berth and it’s highly possible his job will be in jeopardy.

This makes it impossible to believe the Jets quarterback room won’t be completely different in ’23. Veteran Joe Flacco almost surely will retire. White is a free agent and probably should be re-signed at a reasonable price. And Wilson, until he proves otherwise, is damaged goods.

This makes it impossible to believe the Jets won’t bring in a veteran like pending free agent Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason. Garoppolo, while not the end-all, be-all quarterback, is a proven winner who’s familiar with the Jets’ offensive system since it’s essentially the 49ers’ system.

It doesn’t take an NFL expert to see that mere competent play at the quarterback position this season and the Jets would already have locked up their first playoff berth in 12 years by now.

Zach Wilson
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Pos

Can you imagine what the Jets’ record would be this season with Daniel Jones at quarterback? They might have challenged for the AFC East title.

This is what makes their plight so damning right now. There should be more games to play for the Jets after this weekend. Saleh knows it. His locker room knows it.

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