Jets need to try to limit the spotlight on Zach Wilson to give latest ‘franchise’ QB a better chance of success

Through the years of futility and misfortune, the Jets have marketed many a quarterback they’ve plucked early in the draft as the next big thing.

With Zach Wilson the organization should travel a different road:

Don’t try selling the young quarterback as either the “savior” or the “face” of the franchise. Johnson & Johnson should do what it takes to prevent the media from shining a spotlight, even one fit for a celebrity-in-training, on Wilson.

This all flies in the face of an organization that wants to use Wilson, or at least all the premature reports of his potential, to sell tickets to skeptical consumers who have already seen this movie.

Its most recent star, Sam Darnold, was unceremoniously shipped out of town to glitz-less Carolina. His exit leaves Wilson as the umptee-umpth Jets-Bright-Hope to follow in the footsteps of 77-year-old Joe (Willie) Namath.

It’s not only Jets suits who should want to keep Wilson on the down-low. The people around him, including his family and agent, should resist the temptation of trying to immediately cash in. Lining up any endorsements based on nothing but aspirations, will only raise expectations and feed the worst fears of the already cynical fan base.

In an ESPN Radio interview with ex-Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, former Jets QB Mark Sanchez, who Wilson already called for advice, talked about when he, early on with Gang Green, posed for the cover of GQ.

“If you do something like GQ they will say: ‘He doesn’t care about football,” Sanchez said. “If you do it with Better Homes & Garden, they think you are too buttoned up. Whenever you do something (beyond football) you are going to be criticized by one side or the other.”

Wilson should avoid similar outside “issues” — no matter how small — at all costs. The Jets should do their part too by avoiding making Wilson the centerpiece of any marketing campaigns leading into the 2021 season. Until further notice, or until Wilson actually proves himself on the field, Robert Saleh should be the face of the franchise. He has the personality and experience to deal with the local media, who should not be inclined to carry his, or his rookie quarterback’s, water.

The Jets should keep Wilson’s media commitments to a minimum. That means no local weekly radio appearance. As a regular guest on ESPN-98.7′s “The Michael Kay Show,” Darnold was interrogated as the losses, or injuries, mounted. The suits running the radio outlets want the spots to generate headlines and publicity for the station. In his first season with the Jets, Wilson doesn’t need the aggravation and controversy these paid segments produce.

Wilson should stay off social media. What seems like a harmless tweet could quickly expand into a full-blown controversy in the USA’s largest media market. In his situation, social media has no upside.

The Jets PR spinmeisters should limit Wilson’s appearances to only those required under the NFL’s media policy. According to that policy, “star players, or other players with unusually heavy media demands” must be made available at least once during the week in addition to their required postgame availability.

Keeping Wilson under wraps, so to speak, will leave no doubt where his priority lies, will eliminate needless off-field pressure, and will create a kind of mystique surrounding his image. The Jets might actually find out when it comes to hyping Zach Wilson, less is more.

WANNA BET?

A recent tweet from a respected football analytics website said it spoke to over 100 “front office people” to prepare its mock draft.

Could all 100 sources be truthful? Some of them could have been shading the info or disseminating misinformation. Or just plain lying.

Those “front office” folks know they should not be speaking to the media, but it’s a way of life. Relationships are built. So is trust.

Yet when it now comes to doling out “inside” draft info there’s another issue to consider — legalized gambling. How much money did the “betting public” lose by wagering on where a draftee would land? Or when he would be picked? How much did these losers base their info on mock draft selections gleaned from information coming from “front office people?”

It gets suspiciously stickier considering the NFL has three sports betting partners: Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings and FanDuel. It’s better for those companies and the NFL that you wagered on “Player A” to be selected in the first round but he slid to the second. And maybe you even based your bet on info provided from those 100 “front office people.”

Don’t look for the suspicious equation to change. The shelf-life of a GM, or other NFL team executive, isn’t long. So, when they’re out searching for another gig, they will be looking for reputation-enhancing assistance from the media type they “helped” before every draft.

THE BOO BATTLE

The hills were alive with the Sound of Boring as Gasbags started debating whether Mets fans were “wrong” to boo Francisco Lindor during the 2-1 loss to Boston Tuesday.

Then, “The Michael Kay Show” crew picked up the passion turning it into a 2-on-1 scenario: Kay and Pete Rosenberg vs. Don La Greca.

A haughty Kay, the TV voice of the Yankees, said he was “sickened” by Mets fans who booed Lindor. Pete Rosenberg agreed, chiding the boo-birds saying their actions were “ill advised.” DLG defended the fans, reminding the Free World that fanatics deserve to blow off steam because they are “always last on everyone’s list.”

“Why is he (DLG) being so obstinate?” Kay asked at one point. He thought he scored a win, dropping the mic after playing 2018 audio of Lindor taking issue with Indians fans for booing pitcher Cody Allen.

Yet DLG did not concede, verbally battling back.

Rosenberg finally put a bizarre twist on the proceedings, likening Mets fans booing to “If you have a verbally abusive spouse…..”

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Really? Boo!

TOUGH CALL

No doubt John (Pa Pinstripe) Sterling wants to hit the road again.

Why else would he, after the Yankees wild 8th inning Monday night against Baltimore, tell listeners “how tough” it is to call an away game off a monitor, carrying the home team feed, from the Yankee Stadium radio booth. He was serious.

Did something change from last season? Is he working off a different monitor? It’s unlikely Sterling and Suzyn (Ma Pinstripe) Waldman will be on the road anytime soon. Maybe Sterling should complain directly to the powers that be at Audacy, which owns Yankee radio rights.

Do they even care?

AROUND THE DIAL

Craig Carton should think about calling eating contests. His play-by-play of his (WFAN) partner Evan Roberts’ 30 second chew of Lil’ Nitro, the world’s hottest gummy bear, was rich in detail. Carton was reveling in Roberts’ misery. … Judging by the way Norman Julius Esiason has hyped Sean Avery for a gig on Turner’s new NHL package, the FAN Gasbag must be the former Rangers’ de facto agent. … The best thing we can say about Mike Greenberg hosting ESPN’s NFL Draft is he stayed out of the way. His GreenNess allowed Mel Kiper Jr., Anthony McFarland and Louis Riddick to deliver opinions and debate. … Phil Simms told SXM’s Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo he doesn’t call up NFL types to get info on the Draft because they all lie. In Simms we trust. … SNY’s Steve Gelbs came off as a Jets Fan Boy during his debut  hosting Gang Green’s pre-draft show. He might want to develop an edge before the season starts and he’s sitting next to Bart Scott.

* * *

DUDE OF THE WEEK: TREVOR BAUER

It took a heavy dose of humility for the Dodgers pitcher to applaud Fernando Tatis Jr. for mocking him after the Padres shortstop hit a home run. “I like it,” Bauer said. “…If you give up a homer a guy should celebrate it. It’s hard to hit in the big leagues.” It’s comforting to see Bauer flash some maturity.

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DWEEB OF THE WEEK: JP MORGAN

For misjudging the room. That’s what the financial giant did when it agreed to bankroll the ill-conceived European Super League. Surprising that the money men could not see this venture was doomed from the start. “We will learn from this,” a bank representative told Reuters. Let’s hope so.

DOUBLE TALK

What Maggie Gray said: “What you’re doing is criticizing the construction of this (Yankees) team.”

What Maggie Gray meant to say: “What you’re doing is criticizing Brian Cashman.”

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