Nearly 10 years after the ButtFumble, a next-generation Jets quarterback is fumbling his job away and coming across like a buttface in the process. There was no escape for the Jets quarterback on Sunday or afterward. Based on reports from Jets insiders such as Rich Cimini, the Jets’ fractured locker room is divided along the Zach Wilson fault line. Ultimately, the fissure led head coach Robert Saleh to bench the signal-caller for Week 12.
But before that calamity ensued, on ESPN’s Monday Night Football Countdown pregame show, Booger McFarland’s remarks about Wilson evading responsibility for one of the worst outings in 2022 sparked a discussion about wealth and accountability.
“Let’s understand who this young man is before we ask him to accept accountability,” McFarland said. “He’s a young man who grew up with a lot of money. I don’t think he’s ever had to accept accountability. So now on the biggest stage, we want this quarterback to accept accountability.”
Steve Young disagreed vehemently and he may have a point. McFarland’s pseudo-psychological evaluation falls flat. Dragging Wilson’s privileged background into the discussion felt like a kick to his ribs while he was already down. The Wilson family’s wealth — Zach’s uncle is JetBlue founder David Neeleman — isn’t an excuse for his mother’s support of anti-mask conspiracy theories, her unhinged thoughts on child trafficking conspiracies, or her espousing anti-mask ideology during a pandemic. It’s no wonder Zach has been accused of sharing her admiration for the alt-right’s political figures who don’t hold themselves accountable. Unfortunately, the Jets are more of a meritocracy than the world outside of it. News came down this morning that Zach Wilson has been benched.
Countless humble quarterbacks in the NFL came from privileged backgrounds. And some of the NFL’s cockiest quarterbacks came from humble means. At the same time, Wilson is shrugging off his low-grade performance reviews, newly benched Jameis Winston is grousing over being benched in New Orleans.
“It hurts my soul…” grumbled Winston. “I lost my job due to injury, and the policy has always been you don’t lose your job because of injury.”
Who lied to that man?
Winston’s upbringing couldn’t have been more different than Wilson’s, but they’re entitlement twins. Take Winston for instance. He’s more accomplished than Wilson, but he was also credibly accused of sexual assault at Florida State — Winston and his accuser settled the federal suit — suspended a game for shouting, “f–k her right in the pussy,” was caught on video shoplifting crab legs, then settled a civil suit with an Uber driver who claims he groped her and shouted obscenities at her during his ride. His father once opined that the reason Winston got in so much trouble at FSU was that they didn’t have someone chaperoning him 24/7.
For those reasons, Winston is fortunate to even have a job in the NFL, much less a starting one. Just like with his previous chances, he’s squandered his opportunities. On the field, Winston has avoided accountability for his actions since he spearheaded a national championship-winning squad at Florida State. His NFL career is defined by how he throws like a degenerate gambler betting his entire bankroll on red at the craps table. Aside from his 14-touchdown, three-interception injury-shortened season in 2021, Winston’s most memorable season was his 30-touchdown, 30-interception (it was 40 touchdowns if you count his record-breaking seven pick-sixes) final season in Tampa Bay the year before Brady led that same roster to a Super Bowl.
And yet, Winston’s arrogant response to getting benched for his more measured backup Andy Dalton reflects a character flaw. When asked about his demotion by a media gaggle, Winston was so despondent he muttered something about imaginary universal football laws about losing your job to injury. Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe don’t ring a bell?
The charismatic, upbeat team-first Winston we’ve seen during his New Orleans stint is gone. We saw a glimpse into the entitled Winston who believes starting jobs are given to him, not earned. Dennis Allen’s obligation is to win games, not to satiate Winston. New Orleans’ 4-7 record looks bleak. But they’re only 2.5 games behind the NFC South leaders. Dalton isn’t a franchise quarterback anymore, but has seen a plethora of career highs and fewer lows.
The only commonality that explains Wilson and Winston’s allergy to accountability is how they entered the league. Wilson and Winston have been the best passers on their teams since they were playing pee-wee football. Winston can’t seem to believe that he’s been outplayed by a former second-rounder and he’s probably coming to terms with the end of his time as a full-time starter in this league. Wilson is in an earlier stage of that realization.
Quarterbacks are the most influential figures within any organization. However, in Winston and Wilson, we’ve seen what happens when that power gets taken for granted.