Jets' Saleh: Zach Wilson wants to play but QB call still TBD

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets are immersed in a quarterback controversy, but not the usual kind. This one revolves around Zach Wilson and whether he wants his old job back.

Right now, the Jets don't have a starter for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, as coach Robert Saleh declined Monday to pick a quarterback from Wilson, Tim Boyle and Trevor Siemian -- none of whom has played well in the aftermath of Aaron Rodgers' Achilles tendon injury.

The decision might have been muddied when The Athletic reported that the team is leaning toward Wilson, but that he's reluctant to play because of the perceived injury risk.

Saleh insisted that isn't the case, saying Wilson came to him around 3 p.m. ET on Monday and expressed a desire to start. It's not clear if Wilson sought out his coach because of the report.

"If he was reluctant to play, guys, he wouldn't be here," Saleh told reporters.

"The young man wants the ball. He wants to start," the coach added. "He believes he's the best quarterback in the room and the best quarterback for this team and the guy who gives us the best chance to win. And I'll tell you guys the same thing I told him: I appreciate it. I appreciate the fact that he wants to play. I'm just not there yet [with a decision]."

It's an unusual twist for a team that has been hampered for years by quarterback instability. The season was built around Rodgers, but his Week 1 injury forced the Jets to turn to Wilson, who was benched after nine starts in favor of Boyle. He in turn was replaced by Siemian in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 13-8 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Jets (4-8), losers of five straight, have scored only 45 points during the skid.

Chances are, Saleh will return to Wilson, but the delay in the decision is curious. When he went from Wilson to Boyle, the announcement was made on a Monday. Saleh might want to take the temperature of the locker room before promoting a player perceived to be apprehensive about the job.

Later, in his weekly spot on "The Michael Kay Show" on ESPN New York radio, Saleh said it's "conceivable" that Wilson made a comment to a teammate about being reluctant to return to the lineup, which got leaked. Saleh said he wouldn't hold that against a player; he said he makes judgments based on direct conversations with players.

Wilson, drafted No. 2 in 2021, has been benched three times over his career and probably will be released after the season. He has one year remaining on a four-year, $35 million contract, including $5.5 million fully guaranteed in 2024. He gets that money no matter what, but a significant injury would hurt his overall value on the open market.

Saleh admitted there could be some concern about Wilson's head space after being bounced around so much.

"Empathetically, I'm sure there would be," he said. "We had this story last year and I think it's different. I think last year he truly lost confidence in himself. I think this year, as demonstrated by [Monday's meeting], he knows damn well he should be on the football field."

Publicly, Wilson accepted his latest demotion without complaining, although he has been "very upset" about not playing, Saleh said on the Kay show. He was dropped to third string for two games, as the Jets continued to sputter on offense. Boyle led only one touchdown drive in 18 possessions; Siemian completed only 5 of 13 passes for 66 yards off the bench.

"I think the cool thing about Zach is he's been working really hard, because no matter what his future holds, I think he understands that he wants to become the best quarterback that he can become still, no matter what that is," tight end Tyler Conklin said.

The Jets have played four different quarterbacks for the second straight year under Saleh. If Siemian gets the starting nod, it would be the first time since 1989 that the Jets have started four quarterbacks in the same season. Wilson had only six touchdown passes in 10 games, but at least he moved the offense at times, passing for 1,944 yards.

Then there's Rodgers, who hasn't ruled out playing again. But it's a long shot, especially with the Jets on the verge of mathematical elimination from the playoffs. Rodgers, nearly three months removed from Achilles surgery, is expected to practice for a second week. But don't expect him to suit up Sunday against the Texans.

"I'm going to piggyback on what he told you guys and that anything's possible," Saleh said. "But don't hold your breath."

In injury news, tight end C.J. Uzomah (knee) is going on injured reserve and is expected to miss the remaining five games.