Ryan Leaf’s advice to Jets’ Zach Wilson: ‘No more talking’
Ryan Leaf has some advice for Zach Wilson: Shut up and ball.
Like Wilson, Leaf was once the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. Their circumstances of failure were obviously different — Leaf went through some well-documented substance struggles after his playing career and wound up incarcerated for burglary — but the former quarterback spoke to The Post on behalf of PointsBet about what advice he would give Wilson to salvage his career.
“Right now it’s gonna be all about action — no more talking about anything,” Leaf said. “If anyone wants to talk to him, just say, ‘When I’ve figured it out and I’m a decent quarterback, then I’ll talk.’ There’s nothing he can say that’s going to change the minds of anybody right now — he’s got to go out and perform.
“Unfortunately, when you’re a top-three draft pick, you might not get that opportunity again because expectations have been set so high. Hopefully he ends up in a place where he has the chance to be a starter again, but this just weighs like an anchor. It just does. Unfortunately, you don’t get many second chances to start when you’re a top-three drafted quarterback. You might get to back up somewhere else.”
Wilson was drafted second overall by the Jets in 2021. He lost his starting job this past season due to a combination of poor play and perceived leadership issues. The final blow came when he said he did not feel he let the defense down after a brutal, turnover-filled loss to the Patriots.
Leaf and Wilson were tied together in headlines in November when Leaf tweeted, “I’ve had a better life than Jets fans the last decade and I spent 3 of those years in prison, respectfully of course.”
Asked what type of situation would be ideal for Wilson, Leaf said, “I would love to see him kind of do what Mitchell Trubisky did and go to a place where you’ve got an established star in Josh Allen, and you’re a backup, and you kind of learn how to do it, and then you’ve got an opportunity to go somewhere else and be a starter again, like Mitchell did in Pittsburgh.”
One ideal situation that came to mind for Leaf for Wilson is Kansas City.
“To learn from arguably the best out there playing right now in Patrick Mahomes, and a coach in Andy Reid, and go through that process,” Leaf said.
Leaf said he has developed a pretty good relationship with Jets quarterback Mike White, but has not had any communication with Wilson.
“Zach was the second overall pick, struggled, and is getting hit with a lot of the B-U-S-T word. It would be a perfect opportunity for someone like that to reach out,” Leaf said. “But he hasn’t. I get it. Because I had opportunities like that too. Terry Bradshaw and John Elway and stuff reached out to me, and I just kind of told them to f–k off. So I get it. I understand it. But I want him to be as successful as he can be.”
Leaf said that he could have had an opportunity to catch on as a backup with the Bucs, who were coached by Tony Dungy at the time, but his pride and ego got in the way of taking a pay cut as a backup.
“He’s gotta remove his pride from his thought process,” Leaf said of Wilson. “He’s gotta think, ‘Do I want a 15-year career in the NFL?’ If that’s the case, most likely it’s gonna be as a backup.”
Aside from being an ambassador for PointsBet, the 46-year-old Leaf is calling games for Westwood One and ESPN and is an analyst for SiriusXM NFL Radio. He also speaks about mental illness and substance abuse around the country and has partnered with the Menninger Clinic, a psychiatric hospital in Houston.
PointsBet, meanwhile, has odds posted for the Jets’ Week 1 starter. Aaron Rodgers is the Favorite at 2-to-1, with Jimmy Garoppolo at 2.5-to-1, Lamar Jackson and Derek Carr at 4-to-1, Mike White at 10-1 and Wilson at 16-to-1. Daniel Jones and Geno Smith are both listed at 20-to-1, while longshots Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Will Levis all have 30-to-1 odds.