During his Monday press conference, Jets coach Robert Saleh could have declared Mike White the starting quarterback for the rest of the season and no one would have batted an eye.
However, Saleh continued to say the quarterback position would be evaluated weekly.
“There’s things that we’d love to see Zach [Wilson] accomplish over the course of, we’ll call it a reset, and this is Mike White’s opportunity, that doesn’t change,” Saleh said. “Mike’s got an opportunity to go stack another great day up this week and when we feel like Zach is ready to roll, he’s going to roll.”
Saleh and the Jets are wise to remain coy about the quarterback position for the rest of the season. There’s no reason to commit to White right now, even after his spectacular game against the Bears.
White had one of the best performances of any quarterback in a Jets uniform this season. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. He also finished with a 149.3 passer rating.
Although some fans might be ready to put him in the team’s Ring of Honor, White also had a similar performance last year.
In his first start last season in a win against the Bengals, White completed 37 of 45 passes for 405 yards, three TDs and two interceptions. In his next two games, White threw for 346 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions (both losses).
The Jets should continue to ride the White train until the wheels fall off. Maybe it is this weekend against the Vikings. Or maybe it is against the Bills the following week or the last game of the season against the Dolphins.
Either way, there is no incentive to name White the starter for the entire season right now. Following the Jets’ 10-3 loss to the Patriots in which Wilson completed just 9 of 22 passes for 78 yards and no touchdowns, Saleh was asked if Wilson was still his starting quarterback.
“That’s the furthest thing on my mind,” Saleh said. “I’ve told you guys before, Zach’s our quarterback and we’re going to, we’ve got to find ways to help him get better.”
A day later, Saleh wouldn’t commit to Wilson as Gang Green’s starting quarterback. Two days later, White was named the starting quarterback against the Bears.
We all know White is not the Jets quarterback of the future. They just need White to be the quarterback of the present and help the team reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Wilson wasn’t the guy made for that moment. If he were, he would have grabbed the job by the horns and never looked back. Instead, Wilson was mediocre in his seven starts this season (1,279 passing yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions) despite the Jets going 5-2 in his seven starts after returning from knee surgery.
As long as White continues to play well, there’s no reason to bench him. Saleh can keep saying the team intends to get Wilson back on the field when he’s ready. That might not be until next year because Gang Green has a starting defense ready to contend now.
At 7-4, the Jets have been led by their defense, ranked fifth in total defense (308.8) and fourth in points allowed (17.8). White needs to continue what he did against the Bears, which was to be a great decision-maker who can run the offense smoothly and avoid pressure inside the pocket.
The players love playing with White, the coaches and the fans love him. Maybe the clock will strike midnight on this Cinderella story with White like it did last season, perhaps it won’t. But Saleh and the Jets are smart to play the quarterback situation out week-to-week with White.
In his two seasons as Jets coach, Saleh has learned the NFL is a week-to-week business. You might as well adapt or die.