"There was a Hall of Famer [Sunday] that was inducted that had a 71 quarterback rating his rookie year," Saleh said Monday.
It was a reference, of course, to Peyton Manning, who threw 28 interceptions and finished with an unsightly 71.2 passer rating in 1998 for the Indianapolis Colts. Saleh wasn't predicting a HOF gold jacket for Wilson; he was simply emphasizing growing pains are the norm at quarterback.
Wilson is experiencing them right now, and there's nowhere to hide. He's the QB1 and, unlike the other four teams that drafted quarterbacks in the first round this year, he doesn't have an experienced backup to push him or be a safety net.
The Jets set it up this way, going all-in with their prized rookie. The advantage is that Wilson -- the No. 2 overall draft pick -- gets all the first-team reps and invaluable on-the-job training. It allows him to establish his leadership from the outset; it's a chance to make it his team.
The downside is the tremendous pressure that comes with the position, knowing the entire organization is counting on him to overcome the rookie hiccups and be ready for the Sept. 12 opener against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS) as well as his predecessor, Sam Darnold, the Jets' 2018 first-round draft pick.
Every team has its own philosophy when it comes to grooming quarterbacks. The Jets, in a rebuilding year, are taking a long-term view. They're prepared for the bumps, confident there's a smooth road ahead.
It shows how much they believe in Wilson. They considered him a no-brainer type of pick over Trey Lance (San Francisco), Justin Fields (Chicago) and Mac Jones (New England), who were drafted Nos. 3, 11 and 15, respectively. The Jets didn't bring in a veteran until last week, with the signing of journeyman Josh Johnson, but he's more of a mentor than a viable backup.
"It is going to get worse before it gets better," said Saleh, perhaps trying to tamp down expectations for Wilson. "But he's at that point now where he's going to be able to stack up [good] days, and we have all the most utmost confidence in him and his ability, his ability to figure out the mistakes and correct him and get to a better place."
Wilson hasn't been awful, but he's had a handful of mediocre practices. Under the lights, in an instrasquad scrimmage Saturday night at MetLife Stadium, he threw two interceptions and led the offense to three points in seven possessions. On Monday, it was a mixture of good and bad. In a red zone period, he lofted a perfect fade route to Corey Davis for a 9-yard touchdown. He followed with another scoring pass to Davis, delivering the ball with nice velocity.
And then he ended the practice with seven straight incomplete passes, four of which came in a third-down period.
The Jets expect Wilson to make strides, and one of the reasons is because the offense just finished its installation -- meaning the players now have the entire playbook at their disposal. The hope is Wilson can shift into review mode, drilling down on everything that has been taught by offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.
But that doesn't mean instant improvement. As Saleh noted, it usually gets worse before it gets better for most rookies.
"Really the biggest thing is, he's sharp," the coach said. "He'll talk through it all, he knows exactly where people are supposed to line up. He's very fluid in a huddle, he's got great command, he can correct people on the field. Now it's just a matter of getting reps and getting him opportunities to absorb all of the different things that he can see from the other side of the ball, and also just getting good timing with his receivers.
"So, he's fine. He's going to be just fine and ... there's a process that he's got to go through."
Wilson will play at least one quarter in the first preseason game, Saturday night against the New York Giants (7:30 p.m. ET). No matter how he plays, it's important to remember the learning curve. Even Hall of Famers can relate to that.