The Top NFL Storylines of Week 3: Zach Wilson, Jordan Love and Daniel Jones

Plus, there's a winless coach who needs to issue an apology

September 26, 2023 7:10 am
Daniel Jones take a hit against San Francisco.
Nick Bosa of the 49ers sacks New York QB Daniel Jones.
Ezra Shaw/Getty

With the NFL season’s third installment of Monday Night Football, in the books and another 16 games completed, Week 3 is done. While we can’t get to everything — like the way the Colts are criminally mismanaging Anthony Richardson — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from the NFL’s third week and whether we’re buying or selling ’em. (Here’s a look back at Week 2.)

Buy: Sean Payton owes Nathaniel Hackett an apology

Prior to the start of the season, new Broncos coach Sean Payton ripped his predecessor Nathaniel Hackett and criticized the way the organization had handled quarterback Russell Wilson during his first season in Denver following his blockbuster trade from the Seattle Seahawks.

“They can only beat the shit out of you so much,” Payton said. “But everybody’s got a little stink on their hands. It’s not just Russell. It was a [poor] offensive line. It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was. Everything I heard about last season, we’re doing the opposite. It doesn’t happen often where an NFL team or organization gets embarrassed. That happened here.”

That also happened on Sunday in Miami when Payton, who has a contract that’s believed to be worth somewhere between $17 million and $20 million annually and runs for at least five years, led and his team got beat by 50 points in Miami against the Dolphins in one of the most lopsided games in NFL history.

The loss dropped Payton to 0-3 as Denver’s head coach. Through his first three games with the Broncos, Hackett was 2-1. Of course, Hackett and the Broncos did lose nine of their next 10 games and Denver was probably right to fire him before the season ended — and maybe they’ll have justification to fire Payton before the end of his year.

There’s no way that will happen as the Broncos are too financially invested in the former Saints coach to move on from him so early on in his contract, especially if the team believes he can help salvage Wilson. There’s some evidence that they should as Wilson now has a 6:2 TD:INT ratio with almost 800 passing yards through his first three games and tossed back-to-back 300-yard efforts in Weeks 2 and 3 for the first time since Weeks 3 and 4 of the 2020 season. Wilson’s improved play hasn’t resulted in wins, but at least isn’t playing like a complete mess anymore.

Wilson’s improved play notwithstanding, there’s not much to be optimistic about in Denver with Payton in charge and there’s a real chance the Broncos will have the same record as they did last season (5-12), or worse. “It was a tough day,” told reporters on Monday. “Today’s not going to be fun. It probably won’t be fun anytime soon until we start winning some games. This is one of those weeks, where you take a butt-whipping like that, where you find out a lot about everyone.”

Considering what the start of this season has revealed about Payton, he probably never should’ve opened his mouth about Hackett.

Swaggy Jets Rookie Corner Sauce Gardner Is Ready to Cover New York
The fourth overall pick should have a huge role for a defense that finished dead last in yards and points allowed last season

Sell: The Jets can keep allowing Zach Wilson to play

With plenty of Week 1’s starting quarterbacks banged up or injured by the conclusion of Sunday night, backup quarterbacks including Gardner Minshew (Colts) and Jameis Winston (Saints) were forced into action and another second-stringer (Brian Hoyer) should be preparing to take the field in Week 4 as first-stringer Jimmy Garoppolo entered concussion protocol after loss the Raiders lost to the Steelers on Sunday Night Football.

Another backup quarterback, Tim Boyle of the Jets, should have seen game action on Sunday as Zach Wilson may have played the worst game of his disappointing career against the Patriots in Week 3, but New York refused to bench the former No. 2 overall pick and the franchise sounds committed to continue rolling with him. That’s a mistake.

Wilson did not throw an interception against the Patriots on Sunday, but he also didn’t throw a touchdown on his way to completing just 18 of 36 pass attempts for a measly 157 yards. Sacked three times, including once for a safety, Wilson looked like a chicken with his head cut off playing against New England and appeared completely incapable of playing his position with any sort of poise or precision. The Patriots weren’t all that much better on offense against the Jets, but New England’s coaching staff was content to stay conservative and keep punting back to New York with Wilson at the reins.

Anticipating having Aaron Rodgers as his starting quarterback for this season, Jets coach Robert Saleh didn’t have options other than to turn to 24-year-old Wilson after the legendary QB was lost for the year with an Achilles injury in Week 1. The Jets were somehow able to win that game, but it wasn’t because of their quarterback as Wilson has completed just 52.4% of his passes this season through three games with four interceptions, eight sacks and two touchdowns.

Now 1-2 and facing long odds when they host the defending Super Bowl champions Sunday night at MetLife Stadium in Week 4, the Jets are on the verge of letting a season that began with Super Bowl aspirations swirl down the drain by early October. Making a change at quarterback by promoting Boyle or bringing in a veteran might not save the season, but it at least would ensure that it isn’t Wilson who flushes it away. At this point, not making a switch isn’t just stupid, it’s irresponsible. However, it sounds as if Saleh and his staff are not moving on from Wilson.

“He’s our unquestioned quarterback,” Saleh said on Monday. “As long as he continues to show his preparation, the way he’s been practicing, and even in these games, he’s not the reason why we lost [Sunday], it’s always a team effort. As long as he continues to show improvement, I know from a box score standpoint it’s not showing, he’s going to be our quarterback.

Until that changes, the Jets will be underdogs in every game they play this season and may lose ’em all.

Buy: The Giants have buyer’s remorse with Daniel Jones

Blitzed by the Giants on 33 of his 39 pass attempts (a blitz rate of 84.6%) during Thursday Night Football, San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy was unfazed by the pressure and shredded New York’s defense for 247 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions as the 49ers rolled to a 30-12 win. The last pick of last year’s draft, Purdy went from third-string to first-string last season and had San Francisco within a game of making the Super Bowl. This year, he has the 49ers at 3-0 with a sparkling point differential of +48.

“When they’re blitzing, we can capitalize on offense with some big plays, and we had some stuff dialed up for what we were going to do when they did blitz,” Purdy told Newsday after the game. “I don’t want to get caught up in stats and stuff. There’s some throws out there that I missed.”

Actually, not too many. The same can’t be said for his counterpart on the Giants, Daniel Jones, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 137 yards with no touchdowns and one interception on Thursday night. Signed to a four-year, $160 million contract extension to remain the Giants’ starting QB after the team failed to exercise his fifth-year option two offseasons ago, Jones has not gotten off to a good start since New York committed to him as the team’s franchise quarterback as the former No. 6 overall pick has four interceptions and just two passing touchdowns through three games. Now 1-2 on the season, the Giants and Jones have a terrible point differential of -55 thus far.

The team’s struggles can’t all be blamed on Jones as he does not have the strongest supporting cast of skill players, and the Giants were forced to take on the 49ers without injured running back Saquon Barkley, but the executives who signed off on inking the 26-year-old quarterback to a lucrative extension have to be concerned about their ROI. While Jones may not be why the Giants are losing, he also certainly isn’t doing much to help them win.

“Yes, it’s not what we’re trying to do, so we have to find a way to figure that out,” Jones said following Thursday’s loss. “Execute better early in the game, finish in the end zone, take advantage of opportunities, but it comes down to making plays and executing better in those situations.”

Jones and the Giants will have some extra time to right the ship before they return to action against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in Week 4. If they don’t and New York falls to 1-3 on the year, the team’s decision to make Jones a $160-million man is going to look like an even worse investment than it already does.

Sell: The Packers regret moving on from Aaron Rodgers

Making his first career start at quarterback at Lambeau Field in front of Green Bay’s rabid fanbase, Jordan Love was held off the scoreboard during three quarters of play and the Packers entered the final period of Sunday’s game against New Orleans trailing the Saints 17-0. When the final whistle sounded, the Packers were ahead on the scoreboard by a point and Love had just recorded his first comeback as well as led his first game-winning drive.

Now 2-2 overall as a starter in his brief career, Love was 22-of-44 for 259 yards with one touchdown pass, a TD run and a two-point conversion against New Orleans, all of which came in the fourth quarter with the Saints trying desperately to hold on after losing starting quarterback Derek Carr to injury. Love’s day was blemished by an interception, his first of the season, but Love made up for it and helped Green Bay earn a win despite the Packers being forced to play without key pieces including running back Aaron Jones, left tackle David Bakhtiari, cornerback Jaire Alexander and starting wideout Christian Watson, among others.

The win puts the Packers at 2-1 on the season and ties them for first place in the NFC North with the Lions, the team that Green Bay will face in Week 4. That game will also take place at Lambeau Field and if Love wins the second home start of his career, he’ll have Packer fans forgetting all about the four-time MVP that he replaced.

His coach Matt  LaFleur, who coached Aaron Rodgers for four years and saw him lose in the NFC Championship Game in back-to-back years, seems to have already moved on from his former quarterback and was effusive in his postgame praise of Love.

“The poise that he shows is really remarkable. The leadership that he shows is unbelievable. I go down there before we take a drive, and he’s talking to all the guys, encouraging everybody,” said LaFleur. “Everybody in that locker room is going to fight for Jordan Love.”

And nobody is going to regret shipping Love’s predecessor to the Jets if he keeps winning football games.

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