Jets quarterback Mike White throws a pass ahead of Vikings linebacker...

Jets quarterback Mike White throws a pass ahead of Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter during the first half of an NFL game on Sunday in Minneapolis. Credit: AP/Andy Clayton-King

It isn’t often that we can pinpoint the exact moment when a shift occurs for a football team, when everyone looks at each other and just understands things are different. Such evolutions typically occur gradually rather than with a specific play or two. There usually is a slow build to these things.

Mike White already had been embraced by his teammates heading into Sunday’s game against the Vikings. That much was clear as they boarded their flight to Minneapolis donning T-shirts with his name and face on them. But it was two snaps with about four minutes left in that eventual loss that altered the way those other Jets will forever look at the quarterback.

One moment White was curled up on the turf, sucking wind, wondering if his ribs had withstood a thunderous hit from Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter. The next he was delivering a 31-yard dart to Corey Davis to convert a fourth-and-10 and keep the team’s hopes for victory buoyant for a little while longer.

The Jets already knew he was poised. They knew he was smart. They knew he had a fighter’s spirit and a never-quit mentality.

At that exact moment, though, they realized he is one of them. A football player.

And they loved it.

“That kind of play shows you what he’s made of,” offensive lineman Duane Brown said. “He never wavers. The team recognizes that and everyone kind of responds to it.”

Added lineman Laken Tomlinson: “He’s a tough kid .  .  . It’s really great to have someone like that in the huddle.”

White wasn’t able to lead the team to a comeback win, but his efforts to get them close to it were enough to leave those on the field and in the huddles with him convinced he is their guy. That he is a quarterback with whom they can succeed. That it certainly seems he should be the one who guides them the rest of this season.

Now all they have to do is convince Jets coach Robert Saleh of that.

Saleh said Monday that he is maintaining a “status quo” with his quarterback situation and still fully intends to get Zach Wilson back on the field at some point this season. With only five games left on the schedule, all of them meaningful to the team’s postseason aspirations, that’ll be a tight squeeze.

In the immediacy, though, White will get his third start of the season Sunday against the Bills, the team against whom he threw four interceptions and lost to a year ago, ending his first brief tenure as QB1.

That game was the figurative blast to the midsection he took Sunday. Back then he wasn’t given a chance to get back on his feet.

Now he is.

“I remember him .  .  . just wishing he could have some of those — a lot of those — plays back and recalling how he approached the game,” Saleh said, referring to White’s reaction after that Buffalo loss. “I remember him having a tremendous amount of growth from that game and the way he played and recognizing some of the things he did that helped him find ways to get better.”

Because he is older and has been in the league a while, it often is difficult to remember that White is a raw player. He has started only five games in the NFL and left one of those early with an injury. Compared to others in the Jets’ quarterback depth chart, he is by far the least experienced.Even Wilson has started four times as many games as White. Saleh said White is “still a pup.”

On Sunday, that pup showed he has some dog to him. With 3:48 left in the game, to be exact.

“He just came back [from that hit by Hunter] and did his thing,” Tomlinson said. “He went and slung the thing the next play. It’s incredible, really.”

Those T-shirts the Jets wore Saturday easily could be stuffed into the backs of closets or crammed into drawers to be forgotten as fun gimmicks. They won’t be. Not now.

White shouldn’t be, either.


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