Forget Joe Namath, in Zach Wilson the Jets better hope they found their Eli Manning

We always talk about the Jets and their endless quest to find the new Namath, who won the Jets their only Super Bowl over a half-century ago. But what they are really looking for is the new Eli. That is what both they and the Giants aspire to right now, trying to find the guy who can do for them what Eli did for his Giants. In the time of Brady, Eli won twice. His brother Peyton did that, too, but he needed two teams, and was little more than a sideman with the Broncos by the time he won his second one.

The Giants got Eli Manning on another Draft Day, the one on which general manager Ernie Accorsi made one of the greatest trades in the history of New York sports. Then his team beat Brady’s in two Super Bowls, and he became the best quarterback in New York Giants history.

The Giants want Daniel Jones to be that kind of Giants legend someday. And that is exactly what the Jets now hope for from Zach Wilson, whom they now draft higher than any quarterback since Namath.

The Jets take Wilson, who looks like a singer in boy band, No. 2. And hope he is the one.

This isn’t about all the times when they were wrong. This isn’t about taking Ken O’Brien instead of Dan Marino, and moving on up to take Mark Sanchez with the fifth pick in the draft. This isn’t about taking Sam Darnold No. 3 what feels like about twenty minutes ago. Sanchez, who is in television now, is still just 34 years old, by the way, and you know what that means? It means he is three years younger than Aaron Rodgers.

Mark Sanchez is nearly a full ten years younger than Touchdown Tom Brady.

He wasn’t the one and Darnold, through very little fault of his own, wasn’t. Now the Jets try it again with Zach Wilson of BYU, who made the representatives of the current Jets front-office regime fall head over heels in love with him the way Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan once fell head over heels in love with Sanchez. The kid’s pro day now has to be considered the most meaningful in Jets history.

“I can’t wait to represent the city,” that was one of the things Wilson said after the Jets had made it official on Thursday night.

It means he wants to represent the part of the city and the part of football New York that reps the Jets. And if he is as good as the Jets think he is, he will be right where he belongs. If he comes here and is great, if he comes here and get them even one Lombardi Trophy and not the two that Eli won for the Giants, it will make him a Jets immortal. It will make him legendary. If he is the one to get the Jets back to the Super Bowl and win it, Jets fans will feel like Cubs fans did in baseball five years ago when the Cubs finally ending a lot longer wait for a championship on the north side of Chicago.

Jets fans who didn’t want Wilson want to be wrong, as they hope Joe Douglas, their general manager, is right. Douglas hopes he is right with far more intensity because if he is wrong about Wilson, if Wilson turns out to be the kind of bust Darnold was (even if it really wasn’t all his fault, because it sure wasn’t), then Joe Douglas will be out of a job, and may never again get a GM job in the NFL. The same thing will happen to Dave Gettleman if Daniel Jones doesn’t turn out to have the right stuff for the Giants.

Douglas doesn’t know. Gettleman doesn’t know. George Young is the man who drafted Phil Simms. He is also the man who drafted Dave Brown. There is no more inexact science in all of professional sports than the science — or lack thereof — that goes into the drafting of hotshot college quarterbacks. Ryan Leaf was once drafted No. 2, right after Peyton Manning. JaMarcus Russell went No. 1. Akili Smith once went No. 3. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went 1 and 2 once and now are playing for different teams than the ones who drafted them.

Last year the Dolphins passed on Justin Herbert, who is going to be one of the best quarterbacks on the planet for the Chargers, and took Tua Tagovailoa right before Herbert. Tua may turn out to be the real deal in Miami. They don’t know for sure about that the way no Giants fan being honest is sure about Daniel Jones, two years into this at MetLife Stadium for Jones.

Even people in outer space know that Brady, the heavyweight champion of quarterbacks for all time, went in the sixth round, which means the whole world passed on him until the Patriots finally took him.

Why did Justin Fields go from being the hot kid to being the fourth quarterback taken on Thursday night, after Trevor Lawrence and Wilson and Trey Lance? Who knows? The 49ers were going to take Mac Jones with the third pick, or so we were told, and then he ended falling to the Patriots. Lawrence was going to be the No. 1 pick from the time he started winning games for Clemson as a freshman. The pick by the Jaguars was a no-brainer. But now the Jags are like everybody else:

They need to be right and for Lawrence, for all of his obvious talent, not to be a different kind of “Jag,” which means what the great Bill Parcells used to call “Just Another Guy.”

Once again, it was all about quarterbacks on Thursday night, at the 2021 draft. But once the games start? It is never just about the quarterbacks. You know who was the biggest name on Thursday night in so many ways? Aaron Rodgers was. He has become a legend in Green Bay, a legendary capital of pro football. He has played the position as well as anybody has ever played it, and that includes Brady. And he was a story on Thursday night because he has done everything except hire a skywriter to tell us he might want to play somewhere else next season.

He turned out to be an immortal in Green Bay, after replacing Brett Favre. And you know how many Super Bowls each of them won?

One apiece.

There is only one way to root with Zach Wilson, and that is for the Jets to finally be a right about a quarterback, for him to come here and be a star, and become a Jets immortal. None of the other guys who came before him matter. He matters. Forget about Namath. Jets fans are just looking for their own Eli. For the guy taken 2 to be the one.


Every time I hear about Aaron Judge taking a day off, for some vague reason, I think the same thing:

What, the hot yoga didn’t take?

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George Young will be inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame this summer, and my pal Barry Stanton is right when he says that we miss out on what would have been one of the great speeches in the history of Canton.

I am going to say this again, but being in the “alternate site” is just a place nobody ever should ever want to be.     

Only Jacob deGrom could give up one run, the way he did the other night against the Red Sox, and watch his earned run average balloon to 0.51.

DeGrom hasn’t just been one of the best pitchers of his time over the past four seasons.

He has been one of the best pitchers of all time.

Even if he has won just 72 games in eight seasons because of the team for which he is playing at Citi Field.

The Dodgers, as loaded as they are, and even having added Trevor Bauer to a World Series team, are finding out what a lot of defending champs have found out in baseball, since the Yankees of 1999-2000 were the last team to win back-to-back Series:

You still have to go play the season.

Knicks fans have a right to wonder what their team would look like this season if they had taken Mikal Bridges instead of Kevin Knox in the 2018 draft.

And Donovan Mitchell instead of Frank Ntilikina the year before.

Or Bam Adebayo.

We continue to be so lucky to have Kay and Cone and O’Neill doing Yankee games.

And Gary and Keith and Ron on SNY.

And those fortunate enough to have MLB.TV know what a fine time you have when you get to listen to Dave O’Brien and Dennis Eckersley and Jerry Remy doing Red Sox games on NESN.

You know who got booed like crazy when he first got to New York?

Tino Martinez.

All he did for Torre’s Yankees was help them win four World Series in five years and nearly make it five out of six.

Fans have so few rights left in sports, and so they absolutely have a right to boo or cheer anybody they want to, whenever they want to.

But booing Francisco Lindor before we even get to May 1 is about as short-sighted as it gets.

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Or just plain dumb.

Kind of a bad week for Uncle Fester.

I mean, Rudy Giuliani.

It’s a good thing Zach Wilson’s mom doesn’t drink, because if she ever did try to order an adult beverage in a New York City bar, she’d get carded.

Mike Lupica’s new Sunny Randall novel, Robert B. Parker’s Payback, goes on sale Tuesday, May 4.

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