Saleh: Zach Wilson's career as a Jet is not over (0:44)

Robert spoke about why he benched the man. There is a time and a place.

2:00 PM AST

Just like he was for the whole season, Joe Namath was on fire that day. In the final game of his illustrious career, the New York Jets legend passed for 343 yards and four touchdown and didn't throw a single pass. His counterpart surrendered after his fourth touchdown toss.

"We're on the sideline and I look across the field and John Hadl was over there waving a white towel, and I was laughing at it," he said.

After the game, the public relations staff told him that he had set a record with 4,007 passing yards. He would have seen the alert on his phone when he came back to the locker room.

The 4,000-yard season was the only one in the era of the 14-game schedule. The record was broken by Dan Fouts in 1979.

In the wide-open passing era, what was once a rare gem is now quite ordinary. All but two teams have produced at least one 4,000-yard passer, with the exception of two.

Both the Jets and Bears are in the same city.

They play each other on Sunday at the stadium. The quarterback upheaval is the top story. It was supposed to be Wilson against Fields, but he was benched. Robert Saleh said he intends to play Wilson again this season and that he's still their future. Two teams are trying to reverse decades of quarterback futility.

Boomer Esiason, who threw a career-high 3,959 yards as a member of the Cincinnati Bengal in 1986, said that the Bears are a place where quarterbacks die. You could probably say the same things about the Jets.

The modern era with rules favoring wide-open passing attacks has led to historic ineffectiveness in the passing game.

Jay Cutler, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson & Joe Namath ESPN

Why their passing games haven't broken out

The last time the Bears had a single-season record for passing yards and touchdown was in 1995. The franchise tied for the oldest in NFL history has never had a 4,000-yard passer.

"You think about all the first-round draft pick quarterbacks they've had since then," said the former Bears quarterback. It's not such a lofty mark that it should have been broken many, many times, especially with the way they've legislated defense out of the game. It doesn't seem right to me.

Jim McMahon, the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl in the history of the Bears, was traded in 1989 after years of injuries. The Bears have used 36 different starting quarterbacks since then, which is third most in the league. The longest active streak in the league was by the Chicago Bears, who didn't have a starting quarterback for 12 consecutive seasons.

Bears quarterback Erik Kramer came the closest to eclipsing 4,000 passing yards, racking up 3,838 in 1995. AP Photo/Andy Manis

For a long time, Chicago's identity has been associated with the "black-and-blue division" nickname earned by theNFC North for its physical style of play. The Bears have ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense 23 times.

"That's what it was known for -- running, playing tough defense -- and now with the proliferation of these RPO offenses, that identity is kind of getting taken away," Miller said.

The Bears' single-season passing list has Miller ranked 23rd. A shoulder injury that required six surgeries derailed his career after the Bears thought of Miller as their long-term answer.

Miller said that he couldn't stay healthy for them because they had decided on him as the quarterback. The run of quarterbacks began. One of the guys after the other was through that building. They tried to get guys like Rex Grossman. They never seemed to put it together, but always tried to rely on their defense and running the ball.

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The Bears have been looking for a quarterback for a long time. It's not a recipe for success when you have coaching hires in and out.

Since 1967, the Bears have invested a total of 10 first-round picks in quarterbacks. In addition to drafting six QBs in the first round -- most recently Fields (2021) and Mitchell Trubisky 2017) -- the Bears traded four first-round picks to land veterans.

The second through fifth largest single-season outputs were among the five passing performances that ranked in the top-11. During that time, he had six different offensive assistants.

In the eight seasons that he was with the Bears, he passed the 4,000 mark. When he came to Chicago, he wanted to be a part of a high-flying offense like the one he was in in Denver. In fact, over 13% of his pass attempts were thrown 20 or more yards downfield, the fourth- highest rate by any NFL quarterback with at least 1,000 passes.

Every quarterback who passes 4,000 yards has a critical role played by the receiver. The claim that Chicago is where "receivers go to die" is a common one made by former Bears.

The Bears have lacked talent over the years due to not having great quarterbacks. Our overall talent level was limited.

Since 1976, the Jets have employed 20 full time starting quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick (3,905), Ken O'Brien (3,888) and Vinny Testaverde (3,732) combined for 3,905 yards, but no one made first-team All-Pro, and no one led his team to a Super Bowl.

"Testaverde, Boomer Esiason, they have had some good quarterbacks," Ryan said. You would think that one of them would throw for 4,000 yards.

Everyone has had at least one 4,000-yard season since 2015. The Jets have been without a winning streak for 55 years.

They've only had five top 10 offenses since 1968. It takes about once per decade. They went through a stretch of 22 consecutive seasons of defensive-minded head coaches.

PlayerYearsW-LMost pass yds/season
Richard Todd1977-8342-51-13,478
Matt Robinson19846-51,939
Ken O'Brien1984-9150-55-13,888
Browning Nagle19924-102,280
Boomer Esiason1993-9515-273,421
Neil O'Donnell1996-19978-122,796
Glenn Foley1997-19981-7749
Vinny Testaverde1998-200235-263,732
Chad Pennington2002-200732-293,352
Kellen Clemens20074-51,529
Brett Favre20089-73,472
Mark Sanchez2009-201233-293,474
Greg McElroy20120-1214
Geno Smith2013-201412-183,046
Ryan Fitzpatrick2015-201613-143,905
Bryce Petty20161-4809
Josh McCown20175-82,926
Sam Darnold2018-202013-253,024
Zach Wilson2021-20228-122,334
Mike White20220-0N/A

A lack of offensive stability is one of the reasons for that. Mike LaFleur is the eighth different one in the last twelve years. It's hard to develop quarterbacks because of the constant turnover and new systems to learn.

It is mostly about talent. The Jets haven't had "That Guy" even though they have spent a lot on the position through the draft.

None of them were able to sustain success due to a variety of factors Sam didn't work out. After bouncing around the league, Geno Smith has found a new home with the Seattle Seahawks. Christian Hackenberg didn't play a down.

The Jets spent a lot of money on Neil O'Donnell in 1996. They tried the splashy-trade route and it was a failure.

The game of football is a team effort. He was trying to explain the slump since he was a quarterback. It's a team game and you have to have the right people around the quarterback.

The Jets haven't had a great receiver in awhile. Brandon Marshall played in the Pro Bowl in 2015.

Some of it has to do with the personality of the coaches, and how they've tried to maintain balance on offense. The experience level of the quarterbacks was noted by him.

O'Brien said you try to protect them until they get going.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez, the last quarterback to lead the Jets to the playoffs, had a career-best 3,474 yards in 2011. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The Jets have tried that approach with little success. They haven't been back since he made the playoffs in his first two years. They hired "bridge" quarterbacks, most notably Fitzpatrick, who enjoyed a career year in 2015, and took the Jets to the brink of the playoffs. They did not come up short.

The beginning and end of the Jets and their quarterback history can be found with Joe. His season would be 4,866 yards. He said he didn't take a snap out of shotgun because he had fewer games. When asked how he would perform today, he joked that he wouldn't have been able to play because of his knees.

I look at how they get the ball out of their hand. He said he would have liked to have played that way. The game has changed a lot.

After a pair of five-interception games, the coaches called out the passing game and leaned on his running game and defense. The quarterbacks used to call their own plays. It was a Super Bowl victory.

What's next?

Fields has been ranked fourth in Total QBR since Week 7. It's not realistic to think Fields will pass for 4,000 yards in a season.

Fields is 35th out of 36 qualified quarterbacks in terms of passing yards per game. His highest passing output this season was in a loss to Minnesota, where he passed for 204 yards.

This offense has been carried by the Bears' identity as the most dominant rushing team. While it's not sustainable that Fields can run the ball as much as he has (a league-most 122 attempts) as evidenced by the shoulder injury he sustained in Atlanta, it's important for Chicago in developing an approach that can better feature Fields' skill set as a passer.

Justin Fields leads all quarterbacks with 834 yards rushing, but he's on pace for just 2,538 passing yards. Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

Miller said that the most important thing was for Getsy to stay in their lane. They're aware of who they are. They have a name. We run the football well, now let's build this play-action package, and at some point, they will be able to build a three-wide dropback package for him. I think he is capable of doing it all. The man has a nice arm.

The upgrade of Chicago's crop of receiver will be a point of focus during the off-season. No player has more than Cole Kmet with five touchdown catches. The quarterback needs his teammates to catch the ball. Limitations with their personnel plays a part in what's preventing this passing attack from taking off, but expressing self-awareness about those limitations is Getsy's priority for the rest of the season.

"We run the rock and we do a good job with the play-pass game and so it's not like we're just spreading them out." We don't just spread out 2 by 2 and throw one-on-one routes at eachother. That isn't who we are.

Wilson will not get to 4,000 yards this season. It's possible he won't make it to 2,000. His struggles in two of the last three games have put him in a tough spot. He plays for a defensive-minded coach who likes to feature the running game, so it's possible he won't have the chance to put up prolific passing numbers.

The talent is there, according to Ryan and Esiason, who said Wilson has a resemblance to Fran Tarkenton. He has a little bit of both of those guys in him. Wilson is said to move around nicely. He expressed some concern about his accuracy but was optimistic that he would improve with experience.

Wilson's handling of scrutiny has come to the forefront recently. He was thin-skinned and didn't show any accountability after last week's 10-3 loss to New England, dismissing a question about whether he let down the defense with a 77- yard passing performance.

The other thing that concerns me is the fact that he was drafted second overall. Being an alpha male and being a leader is part of playing this position. He doesn't know what a leader is or how to play quarterback in New York.

Esiason said that there is a level of immaturity that you have to break through. They have seven games to make a decision.

Wilson was raised in Utah and played college ball at a small school. It isn't for everyone. He has never dealt with adversity of this magnitude before. O'Brien can understand. He was drafted by the Jets in the quarterback class of 1983. Team success will be important for Wilson's development according to him.

O'Brien said that you grow a lot faster when you win. It's not the same as before." There's a problem when you lose. The only way to get out of it is to win. Wilson's completion percentage is the same as his first year number, but he has cut down on his turnovers. The Jets are scoring 1.68 points per drive with Wilson at quarterback. He could be holding them back because they have a playoff caliber defense.

"I see a kid who can throw, I see a kid who is an athlete, but I see a kid who is nervous to me," Esiason said. On and off the field, I still think there's something there. I'm not going to give up now.

There is another reference to white-towels. From '67 to 22.