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Zach Wilson-Mac Jones battle full of intrigue in Jets’ home opener

The long-suffering faithful will welcome Zach Wilson on the first official day of his honeymoon as only they can, and they will welcome intruder Bill Belichick and his own rookie quarterback for what will be a compelling man-a-mano rivalry for as long as it lasts. 

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And for the sake of these J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets! fans, their Zach better be better than his Mac. 

Belichick ripped off his Cam Newton Band-Aid after making Mac Jones the 15th pick of the draft, after Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh made Wilson the second pick. 

The worst nightmare for the Jets and their fans would be Belichick coaching longer than Tom Brady plans on playing in Tampa because Mac Jones blossoms into MJ10. 

And makes the Jets and their fans wish they had drafted Mac over Zach. 

Zach can allay any such Murphy’s Law fears among Jets fans by making a loud statement here and now, drawing first blood in his first duel against Mac. 

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It will be the biggest challenge of his young football life — with the diabolical Hoodie obsessed with making him look silly and overmatched — but a defensive guru like Saleh, in his MetLife coaching debut, should be expected to have some tricks up his sleeve coaching against a rookie quarterback. 

Zach Wilson and Mac Jones
Getty Images

You may recall that the intrigue in the days leading up to the draft centered around whether 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan would really have the stones to draft Jones with the third-overall pick. 

There were naysayers who raged that Shanahan could not possibly have surrendered the 12th pick and first-rounders in 2022 and ’23 for the right to draft a quarterback lacking elite physical tools. 

Which is precisely why the Jets were seduced by Zach Wilson, he of the wow plays at BYU and the off-platform arm angle throws that Aaron Rodgers can make in his sleep. 

Shanahan ultimately opted for the immense upside of Trey Lance then the Bears opted for the immense upside of Justin Fields before Jones fell into Belichick’s lap. 

Which made too much sense. 

Because if the following conversation didn’t happen between Belichick and Nick Saban, who coached Jones at Alabama, it should have: 

Belichick: “I can’t win another Super Bowl with Cam. What can you tell me about Mac Jones? 

Saban: “You’ll love him.” 

Belichick: “Tell me more.” 

Saban: “Team guy. Good leader. Smart. Mentally tough. Makes good decisions. Coachable. A winner. Can make all the throws. Hard worker. Committed to being the best Mac Jones he can be. A lot to work with there.” 

Belichick: “Sounds like another quarterback I coached once. What about his athleticism? 

Saban: “Well, he was a tennis player in high school, Bill.” 

Belichick: “What’s his temperament like? 

Saban: “Well let me give you an example. We beat Kentucky 63-3, right? And when the media starts sounding like they were ready to call a limo to take him to Canton, all he said was: ‘We’re on to Auburn.’ ” 

Belichick: “And Urban drafted Trevor Lawrence instead?” 

Much was made of Jones rejecting his first TD ball against the Dolphins because the game wasn’t over. His answers this week sound as if Belichick wrote them for him: 

“It’s not about me, and it never will be, and it shouldn’t be.” 

“It just comes back to the little things, and it all starts with practice.” 

“Just take it day by day, and obviously there shouldn’t be any focus on the past.” 

“There needs to be more of an urgency and stuff. It just all goes back to doing what we’re supposed to do every day.” 

“I think it’s just more about us just focusing on what we need to do. Just moving on because the last game is the last game, and now we’re just ready to play against a really good team in the Jets.” 

You could see how natural Jones looked around his teammates at the Giants’ joint practices with the Patriots in Foxborough, clapping his hands, patting a teammate atop his helmet. 

Bill Parcells and the Jets drafted Chad Pennington with the 18th pick in 2000. Belichick and the Patriots drafted Tom Brady with the 199th pick that same year. It wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Jets if Zach Wilson turned out to be Chad Pennington, minus the injuries. It would be the worst thing for the Jets if Mac Jones turns out to be Tom Brady, minus Gisele and the avocado toast. 

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