With so much focus on the Jets’ franchise-changing decision to bench Zach Wilson beginning with Sunday’s game against the Bears, the man who will replace him nearly flew under the radar Wednesday morning when Saleh announced the decision.
“We’re going to roll with Mike White,” Saleh said.
That’s right, less than 13 months after he set the NFL world on fire for a week by throwing more than 400 yards in his first career start against the Bengals – a legendary feat that landed his jersey in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — White is back with a chance to write an even more unlikely story: taking the Jets to their first playoff appearance in 11 years.
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Benching Wilson was the right decision by Saleh, even if it was an excruciating decision for the franchise just 19 months after committing to Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick – playing him would put Wilson and his teammates in a terrible situation on Sunday against the Bears, where fans would literally bust and hiss when he made a mistake and could have pushed his already-frustrated locker room to breaking point.
But Saleh was also right in picking White as the next man over Joe Flacco, who had a three-game start opportunity earlier in the season and didn’t really light up as the Jets started 1-2.
Flacco struggled at times earlier this season when the Jets offensive line was fully intact. Now the o-line is a patchwork whose pass blocking issues certainly haven’t done Wilson any good as he’s tried (and failed) to right the ship over the past few weeks. Wilson was sacked four times on Sunday, Flacco would have been sacked ten times against the Patriots.
White gives the Jets a little more mobility in the pocket and he also gives them a chance to take a longer look at what was just a glimpse last year.
“We know he’s fully capable,” Saleh said. “He started in this league. He has won games for us and we just want to give him a chance.”
To be more precise, White has only won one game for the Jets and hasn’t been able to play much after completing 37 of 45 passes for 405 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions against the Bengals.
White was injured early in his second start of the season and missed almost the entire game against the Colts and was benched after struggling against the Bills in his third start. Last year that felt a bit like a magic carpet ride, and the idea that he would actually be the starter if he kept the good vibes going felt unrealistic.
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But with Wilson clearly facing a questionable future, this time White takes the stage with the real possibility of securing a long-term job.
“For Mike, it’s obviously a great opportunity for him,” Saleh said. “And I know he will attack it.”
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Andy Vasquez can be reached at [email protected].