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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Jets QB Mike White will try to find more magic against tough Bills 'D'

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh, second

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh, second from left, greets quarterback Mike White, left, after a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

A friendly piece of advice for Jets fans anxious to see the next chapter of the Mike White story when he faces the Bills on Sunday at MetLife Stadium: Enjoy it while there’s still time.

It certainly is understandable that a fan base continually frustrated by the franchise’s flailing over the last few years . . . er, decades . . . would embrace this warm-and-fuzzy tale of the underdog backup quarterback who came out of nowhere to shock the Bengals two weeks ago.

What White did on that afternoon was extraordinary, as he picked apart Cincinnati’s defense while filling in for injured starter and presumed savior Zach Wilson.

It also cast Wilson’s own struggles in a different light, underscoring the fact that it was the rookie himself — and not first-year offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system — who owned his unbecoming stats from the previous five-plus games. Wilson has a 1-5 record on his resume, with four touchdown passes and nine interceptions, and is the latest example of how most rookie quarterbacks struggle to adapt to the NFL.

White made the Jets’ offense look downright prolific in throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns against the Bengals. And before hurting his right forearm in the following game against the Colts, he looked just as comfortable in orchestrating a first-quarter touchdown drive.

Rookie coach Robert Saleh made the right call about his rookie quarterback this week, choosing to let Wilson’s injured right posterior cruciate ligament get at least another week off from game action and sticking with the hot hand in White. There’s simply no need to risk further injury to Wilson, and with the Jets’ offense finally looking respectable under the 26-year-old White’s leadership, it makes complete sense that White would get at least one more week to be under center.

But make no mistake: This team and this season still is all about Wilson, not White.

Jets fans may hold on to the hope that White can be their answer to Tom Brady, that Wilson’s injury may have opened the door to a Hall of Fame career. They may hope that just as Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe after the Jets’ Mo Lewis knocked him out of action in Week 2 of the 2001 season, beginning a run of excellence never before seen, White can do the same.

Sorry. White is no Brady, and it’s pure folly to think otherwise. He’s the shiny new toy of another losing season for the Jets, and his time as the starter with this team will not be 20-plus years — as it has been for Brady — but a matter of weeks. And perhaps just this week, because White will be up against one of the best defenses the Jets will face this season.

It’s one thing to beat the Bengals, whose defense was humiliated by the Browns at home last week in a 41-16 clunker. It’s another to beat the Bills, who are having one of the best statistical seasons in franchise history. They’re giving up an NFL-low 262.6 yards per game, they’re allowing a league-low 14.8 points per game and they have one of the best secondaries.

If White can solve Leslie Frazier’s defense, more power to him. If he does, he almost certainly will earn another start if Saleh decides, as he should, to stick with the hot hand. But don’t expect White to play as well against Buffalo as he did against Cincinnati or in his brief time against the Colts. The opposing defense goes way up in class, and with the Bills coming off a shocking 9-6 loss in Jacksonville, he’ll face a team in prime bounce-back mode. If he has to match points against Josh Allen’s offense, good luck with that.

Wilson, meanwhile, will get another opportunity to sit and watch and be a better quarterback once he returns. That could be the case if he emulates White by trusting LaFleur’s system, getting rid of the ball sooner and not trying to play "hero ball" by trying to turn every pass into a touchdown.

And make no mistake: He will return, likely sooner rather than later. You don’t invest the No. 2 overall draft pick and $35 million without making him your primary focus of attention. White does not represent the future, no matter how enticing he has been in the present.

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