INDIANAPOLIS — Mike White won his first NFL start, AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors and the hearts of Jets fans whether they were in MetLife Stadium chanting his name or watching at home. The previously unheralded White could take another step toward winning the Jets’ quarterback job with a strong performance Thursday night against the Colts.
This wasn’t even considered plausible before Sunday. It was Zach Wilson’s job. The Jets were going to ride with him through all the ups and downs of a rookie quarterback.
But Wilson injured his right knee at New England in Week 7, opening the door for White to be the caretaker of the position. But White's scintillating performance in which he threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns against Cincinnati made it no lock that Wilson will be back behind center once his knee is healthy.
General manager Joe Douglas and coach Robert Saleh left the door open for White to remain the quarterback. It will be based on his play. If White can move the offense again and lead touchdown drives — and his team to another win — there could be a previously unforeseen shake-up on the Jets' quarterback depth chart.
"With all players, just give them an opportunity, let’s see what happens," Saleh said. "It’s amazing what might show up that you never thought was even possible. So, with Mike, there was an opportunity, he took advantage of it once. Now hit the reset button on Monday and let’s go do it again.
"It’s pretty cool to be watching, because any time these moments happen — and they happen throughout a football team every single year, every single week — but when it happens at the quarterback position, which is very rare, it’s always cool to watch."
The timetable on Wilson’s sprained right PCL is 2-4 weeks. The Jets hope that Wilson will be able to practice next week. If Wilson is cleared to play next week, the Jets could have an interesting and difficult decision to make heading into their Nov. 14 game with Buffalo.
Right now, White is blowing up.
Shortly after he was named the Jets’ first AFC Offensive Player of the Week since Sam Darnold in 2019, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that White would be in Canton.
White’s jersey and Sunday’s game ball are on display. He set an NFL record for most completions (37) in his first NFL start and became just the second quarterback since 1950 to throw for 400-plus yards in his debut.
Saleh said White hasn’t shown any change in his attitude or approach after all the attention he received this week.
The 26-year-old White, who Saleh said "exudes confidence," has remained even keel through all of this and has the same approach as he did heading into his first NFL start.
"We’re going to go out there [Thursday] with the same exact mindset," White said. "I know it sounds corny, but it’s the truth."
It is conceivable that White could play a similar type of game against Indianapolis. What made White successful Sunday was he got rid of the ball quickly, went to his checkdowns, got the backs heavily involved, and didn’t try to force anything.
What White displayed was what Saleh meant when he said "it’s OK to play a boring game of football" after Wilson threw four interceptions against New England in Week 2.
The Jets were anything but boring under White. They had 511 yards of offense (they only surpassed 300 twice in the first six games). White’s three touchdown passes were one fewer than Wilson had in his six starts.
"The really cool thing about it was there was no herculean effort from Mike," Douglas said. "It was just taking what the defense gave him. Executing the offense effectively and efficiently and making the most of his opportunity, making great decisions, throwing accurate passes.
"This is what football is all about. You root for guys that do their thing in the shadows and make the most of their opportunities."
White has another really big and important one Thursday with a lot on the line for him, Wilson and the Jets.
"It’s an exciting time for him," Saleh said. "It’s not often you get an opportunity like Mike is getting. Continue to take advantage of it."