ARLINGTON, Texas - He wasn't a disaster, until the fourth quarter at least, when the game was long gone. Zach Wilson did not show up as the proverbial deer in headlights. And that's the low bar for him - he wasn't a disaster, until the fourth quarter at least.
It is a good bet that Aaron Rodgers would not have had any Hall of Fame day against these Cowboys, 30-10 winners Sunday.
But we were reminded once again that the Zach Wilson Jets have no margin for error. And even on a day when Wilson (3 INTs) does not make an error until the game is already lost in the fourth quarter, they won't have much of a chance against too many teams on their schedule if they do not play The Perfect Game.
In other words, with Rodgers gone, here was the sobering evidence that The Future Is No Longer Now for the 2023 Jets.
Zach to the Past for the Jets.
The Cowboys wisely dared Wilson to beat them; fat chance of that.
Wilson had 116 passing yards early in the fourth quarter, and 68 of them had come on a touchdown throw to Garrett Wilson that featured 55 yards of YAC (Yards After Catch).
This was the Cowboys' home opener, and if Russell Crowe in the Colosseum thought it was him against the world, imagine how Zach Wilson felt with 100,000 screaming fans in his ear.
Wilson did show up with more confidence and better pocket presence and command than he did his first two seasons, which isn't saying much. But he is not nearly gladiator enough to prevail over this kind of doomsday defense.
This was never really a fair fight, and no one should have expected it to be.
Rodgers, at age 40, returning for any first playoff berth in 13 years is a pipe dream, so perhaps Wilson ought to listen to the sound of dolphins mating if that would help him as much as it apparently helps his fallen mentor.
Wilson needed a running game, favorable field position from punt returner Xavier Gipson and special teams, and a defense that kept Dak Prescott in check and kept it close enough for a miracle in the fourth quarter.
He must have felt sandbagged by them on Wilson Island.
And they by him.
No running game - he was their leading rusher - no special teams help aside from an early fake punt, no defense that imposed its will the way it promised it would and was stunningly undisciplined.
At one point, Prescott was 13-for-13 for 113 yards; Wilson was 1-for-2 for 9 yards.
This is akin to Wilson bringing a water pistol for a Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Down 27-10 in the fourth quarter, he rolled right looking for Garrett Wilson and found Jayron Kearse instead.
With Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence bearing down on him, given that extra second by Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore in the secondary, the prospects for some electric Wilson-to-Garrett Wilson light show were dim.
But at least dim and not none.
It was midway through the second quarter, and all seemed already lost for Zach Wilson.
And then he finally remembered that there is a budding superstar receiver named Garrett Wilson on his team.
Wilson found Wilson at the 45, and the receiver was off to the races for a 68-yard TD, and it was Cowboys 10, Jets 7.
Here the Jets' defense had its chance to show why it believes it can be the No. 1 defense.
Prescott and the Cowboys made a mockery of the thought.
Sauce Gardner dropped a pick-six near the Dallas sideline, John Franklin-Myers was flagged for roughing the passer on a failed third down, Brandon Echols was guilty of pass interference on third down, and Prescott's 1-yard TD pass and Tony Pollard 2-point conversion following Jets penalties on the TD made it Cowboys 18, Jets 7.
A pair of Zach Wilson keepers marched the Jets into field-goal range before the half, but his arm was hit on the third down play with Garrett Wilson wide open in the end zone.
When the Cowboys stretched their lead to 24-10 in the third quarter, no one had any right to expect Wilson to climb Mount Micah.
A direct snap to Ashtyn Davis fourth-and-1 at the NYJ 24 on the second series had gotten 4 yards, but a Wilson third-and-1 keeper was stuffed.
Coach Robert Saleh's eagle cannot soar with a pack of crows attacking Zach Wilson at every turn.
Flight 23 has been diverted.