American Football

Players are people too: A friendly reminder


NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get the obvious out of the way:

  • Players in the National Football League make a lot of money, especially guys who were taken early in the draft or signed a lucrative second contract.
  • Many of us would happily sign up for the lifestyle this profession provides.
  • Players that are good don’t typically get booed.
  • Players that are not good should be better.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s highlight a tweet that made the rounds across the Twittersphere just a few days ago. Credit to Doug Rush for sharing the image of the Direct Message but who did not send the direct message himself.

This exchange is a direct message on Instagram between an unnamed ‘Jets fan’ and the mother of New York Jets Quarterback and former #2 overall pick Zach Wilson. This season, Zach Wilson has left much to be desired, as he has struggled to the tune of ~188 passing yards per game, drawing the ire of many Jets fan as the offense has struggled.

Regardless of one’s thoughts about Zach Wilson the player, the above exchange as initiated by the fan is multiple kinds of inappropriate. Many will focus on the response of Zach’s mother, including the lines reading “It’s not possible for anyone to be successful here. Your fan base is toxic,” but I think it’s important that we keep in mind the context of this exchange and instead focus on the initial sender who started the social media ‘altercation.’

  • The direct message was sent to Zach’s mom some time between the Jets game on Thursday night and the following Friday by 4PM based on the content of the first message and the time the image was posted. (Looks like 3:27 PM on Friday to be exact.)
  • The Thursday Night game was probably the low point of Zach’s career, as it all but signaled the end of the Jets’ faith in him as a QB for the rest of this season as minimum. In support, he will not be dressing for the upcoming Jets game this Sunday as even the second string backup.
  • The Jets declaring the end of their faith in him is the undesirable culmination of a lifelong process and dream for Zach. One does not become an NFL player without putting countless hours in. In Zach’s case, he not only made the NFL, but did it against the odds to some extent given his high school ranking (three star prospect) and his projected draft ranking the year before his breakout season at BYU (perhaps undrafted). That kind of rise at the college level does not happen by accident, and is the result of a guy who by all accounts put the time in to improve at the college level (some of which is detailed here:
  • That same work ethic was apparent with Zach at the NFL level, with Saleh providing the below quote to Albert Breer ( about Zach during Zach’s rookie year. This isn’t a guy who got his money and then mentally clocked out.

“He’s a relentless worker. And I mean this, there’s guys who watch film, and then there’s guys that watch film almost religiously, and he’s one of those guys. He’s constantly trying to find ways to absorb information and learn. He’s wearing out the quarterback coach with film study. He’s relentless in that regard. His mental horsepower is off the charts.”

  • The direct message was sent to his mom. I’m not sure about you all, but few people in my experience are more defensive, protective, and supportive than an involved Mom, which, by all accounts, Zach’s seems to be. Given the context of Zach’s struggles despite trying to work through them and said struggles leading to the uncertainty around his long-term career prospects to do his dream job, I get why the message would have elicited an emotional response.
  • The direst message was sent to his mom the day before Christmas Eve. Talk about the ‘Jets fan’ being a Scrooge-esque character.

All of this to say, I get that Zach has been bad. I imagine Zach and everyone around him knows the same. While there may be some arguing as to why, it doesn’t change the fact that this isn’t how he saw his career going. And by some accounts, his struggles have already been doing some harm to his mental health with him developing the dreaded ‘yips.’

While he stinks, there’s still room for kindness. Players are people too with hopes and dreams and loved ones that care about them. We shouldn’t lose sight of that. Be better than this ‘Jets fan.’

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