Four days after benching the No. 2 overall pick from last year’s draft, the now 7-4 New York Jets might have found the quarterback to keep them on track for a late-season playoff push.
Mike White, the third QB to start for New York this season, put on a clinic in the Jets’ 31-10 win over the Bears on Sunday. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards, three touchdowns and a 149.3 passer rating, making a declarative statement that he should continue as the signal-caller.
“He did a great job,” head coach Robert Saleh told reporters following the game. “He didn’t need to be anybody but Mike White. We didn’t need to turn into the Greatest Show on Turf. We just wanted him to play within himself and play efficient, and I thought he did that. … Especially in the elements, like I said, he made the easy look easy. I thought he did a really good job with that.”
White indeed played within himself. He looked comfortable inside the pocket and under pressure, and the offense around him played explosively — perhaps a few shades closer to “Greatest Show” levels than Saleh was willing to admit.
White engineered three scoring drives of 75 yards or more. New York had three touchdowns of 20-plus yards (54, 32 and 22). After the Jets took a 14-10 lead in the second quarter, they didn’t look back, scoring the game’s final 24 points.
The Jets were careful to send the message during the week that Zach Wilson‘s benching was not the end of his tenure in New York and that he could eventually return to the lineup, but the contrast between the ineffectiveness that got Wilson benched and the way the offense hummed under White was stark.
White took an average time of 2.63 seconds to throw on Sunday, per Next Gen Stats, getting the ball out to playmakers nearly a half-second faster than Wilson’s 3.12-second average this season. When pressure did come, White stepped up, going a perfect 4 for 4 for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson has two touchdown passes under pressure in seven games this season, and he has four starts in 2022 with no TD passes at all.
“It’s awesome,” White told reporters. “Just going out there and playing football with your friends and guys you’ve been there with for a couple years now. When it wasn’t my time to play, obviously I’m super supportive of them and I’m having fun with them, too, but just to be out there and be a part of it and help the team win is always fun.”
The bond White spoke about in postgame was evident on the field, as well. Wide receiver Garrett Wilson snapped an eight-game scoreless streak, hauling in five catches for 95 yards and two TDs. Elijah Moore, who has 28 yards total in four games with Wilson and was so frustrated with his usage that he requested a trade in October, put up a season-high 64 receiving yards and caught his first touchdown of the year.
It’s worth pointing out that White was hot and cold in four starts during the 2021 season. He threw for 953 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions, including four in his last game under center. But with the Jets sitting at 7-4 and riding high after a blowout victory, it would make sense for them to approach the immediate future with White guiding the way.
“Personally, the way I approach the quarterback position is being a calming presence in the huddle, especially when things aren’t going well,” White said. “Because that’s when things can start to spiral and snowball, but it’s just distributing the ball and letting them be who they are. They’re all in that locker room for a reason. This is the NFL. Everybody that wears pads on Sundays are very good. You just got to get them the ball and get their confidence going. And once someone’s confidence is up, I believe, at least, that you’ll see their game go to the next level.”
The Jets’ offensive weapons’ confidence will certainly be up after this outing — both in themselves and in White.