EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In an ideal world, Mike White wouldn’t have played a snap for the New York Jets this season. But there he was on Sunday, leading the Jets to a stunning upset of the Bengals in his first career start in relief of injured No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson.
And White was so good in Sunday’s game, throwing for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns, that Jets coach Robert Saleh was asked if the backup could have a long future with the Jets. And he didn’t rule out the possibility.
“We’ll go day-to-day, but anything is possible, right?” Saleh said after the Jets 34-31, come-from-behind win over the Bengals. “Anything is possible. So it goes back to that whole theory of: The difference between player A and player Z is an opportunity and reps. That’s what this league is. That’s professional sports. That’s why they come out of nowhere. Someone gets an opportunity. And what Mike does with his opportunity — he’s got the world in front of him, he’s just got to take advantage of it.”
The only thing we know for sure right now? White will be the starting quarterback on Thursday night when the Jets head to Indianapolis to play the Colts. Saleh said previously that the Jets would figure out after this game who would be the quarterback against the Colts. And Joe Flacco said on Friday, “I think I see myself playing here at some point in the next couple weeks.” But Saleh made it clear after Sunday’s win who will get the next start.
“Yeah, he’s starting Thursday,” Saleh said, with a smile, about White.
The Jets, obviously, will have to reevaluate things when Wilson is ready to play again, which could be as soon as Week 10 against the Bills, because Wilson didn’t go on injured reserve this week.
The Jets obviously have a lot riding on the future of Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick, having committed $35.2 million to him earlier this season. He struggled for most of his first six-plus games, but also showed moments of promise. His story has yet to be written.
But if White leads the Jets to another win on Thursday against the Colts, it could be a tough decision what to do next. It would be hard to justify benching White to the rest of the locker room after he led him to back-to-back upset wins. But it would also be hard to justify benching the No. 2 overall pick because of an injury.
When asked if the Jets might have less of a sense of urgency to get Wilson back in the lineup after White’s remarkable performance, Saleh wouldn’t say.
“Again, we’ll go day-to-day on that one,” Saleh said.
For his part, White says he’s not worried about trying to keep the starting job for as long as possible.
“No,” White said. “My mindset right now is: execute the job that is given to me. Whether that is if I’m playing on Thursday, if Zach is coming back, that’s out of my control. My job is to attack every day, whatever role I’m in, and own that role.”
But if the Jets believe that letting Wilson watch from the sideline is the best thing for his development at this point, they just might do it. It seems hard to believe, but after what happened Sunday we’ll echo the Jets’ coach: Anything is possible.