December 2, 2023

Aaron Rodgers can’t help but feel slightly responsible for the tough situation fellow New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson finds himself in.

Jets coach Robert Saleh benched the former No. 2 overall pick on Monday. Tim Boyle will start at quarterback for New York in a Black Friday matchup with the Miami Dolphins, while Wilson has been demoted to third-string QB behind new backup Trevor Siemian.

Wilson’s season wasn’t supposed to go this way. The 24-year-old was in line for a redshirt season or two of sorts behind Rodgers, the Jets’ supposed savior. But then the four-time MVP tore his left Achilles tendon just four offensive snaps into the season-opener, Wilson was thrust into the starting role once again and now his NFL future is in question.

And that’s not lost on Rodgers.

Aaron Rodgers
Injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the New York Jets stands on the field during warm-ups before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on November 12, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rodgers said he feels some guilt over the Jets benching quarterback Zach Wilson.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images/Getty Images

“This was obviously not the way any of us thought it was going to go down,” the 39-year-old said Tuesday on the Pat McAfee Show. “It was going to be me and my show, and Zach getting to learn and watch it first-hand and not have the pressure to go out there and play. So obviously this is disappointing.

“I have some personal guilt around the whole thing. I’m pissed that I wasn’t able to play. And frustrated. If I was out there, I feel like I’d be playing well and there would be different narratives around our team, and again, Zach would have the opportunity to learn and grow and see what it looks like without the pressure on.”

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The Jets rank 30th in the NFL in points per game and yards this season while sitting in last in passing touchdowns and first downs. After Wilson was forced onto the field on the fifth offensive play of the season, the Jets managed only nine touchdown drives in nearly 10 games with him as the starter.

Saleh said at a press conference on Monday that the blame for New York’s offensive struggles don’t fall squarely on the third-year QB, who was also in and out as the team’s starter last year. The thought behind the benching was to “give [Boyle] an opportunity, a different style of quarterback. It’s really just to give him an opportunity to see if we can do something with the offense.”

Rodgers echoed those sentiments on Tuesday.

“We need a spark and obviously this was the decision that was made,” Rodgers said. “I feel for Zach, I love Zach. Zach is such a great kid and I do think he still has a bright future in the league. This has been a tough go for all of us.

“A lot of times in these situations, there’s certain guys they have to scapegoat. But I think there’s enough blame to go around at a number of different positions. If you have 10 guys doing it right on a play and one guy’s not, it’s hard to be efficient.”

The Jets (4-6) have lost three games in a row and are coming off a 32-6 blowout defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. New York went 0-of-11 on third down in its loss, the latest poor showing for one of the worst third-down offenses in NFL history.

Wilson threw for 81 yards, a touchdown and an interception before being pulled in favor of Boyle.

“When things aren’t getting done, change has to be made, and I understand that,” Wilson told reporters after the game in reference to Boyle taking over.

Saleh said Wilson’s future with the franchise will be addressed in the offseason. And a potential Rodgers return this season is a moot point, the coach explained, until the QB is medically cleared. So for now, New York’s attention is on Boyle.

The 29-year-old is a journeyman backup who has made three NFL starts, all of them in 2021 for the Detroit Lions. Boyle went 0-3 in those starts and threw three touchdowns compared to six interceptions. After relieving Wilson on Sunday, the former Green Bay Packers reserve QB behind Rodgers completed half of his 14 passes for 33 yards and a pick.

“We’re all gonna support Tim and move forward,” Rodgers said on Tuesday. “But we’re also gonna put our arms around Zach and love on him because he’s a great kid. And it’s not all his fault. And this is the way it goes sometimes.”