Robert Saleh says this is Mike White’s “opportunity to make noise.” His play is speaking pretty loudly that he should be the Jets’ starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.
Saleh isn’t ready to convey that, though. He said “the intent” is still to bring back Zach Wilson at some point this season.
With five games remaining, the Jets (7-5) are in the middle of a playoff race for the first time since 2015. It’s hard to see Saleh turning the offense back over to Wilson, especially given the way White has performed in his two starts since replacing last year’s No. 2 overall pick.
White has led the offense to 466 and 486 yards, throwing for more than 300 yards in each game. Kansas City is the only other team with at least 466 yards in back-to-back games this season.
“This is Mike’s opportunity to make noise,” Saleh said during a Zoom call on Monday. “We’ve got all the faith in Mike.
“While Zach is focusing on reconnecting and doing all the different things that we know he’s capable of, right now it’s Mike’s opportunity. I’d really love to focus on Mike and his opportunity and give him every chance to succeed.”
Reading between the lines, White would have to give Saleh a reason to make a change for the coach to go back to Wilson.
When Saleh was asked that, he laughed and said, “Is that a backdoor hypothetical?” He proceeded to say three times that White “has played really well.”
Right now it’s status quo. White will start Sunday in Buffalo, Joe Flacco will be his backup and Wilson will be inactive for the third straight game.
Saleh was asked if he’s at least open to the possibility that White could be the long-term option. He sidestepped the question. “One week at a time,” he said. “One week at a time, guys.”
Saleh said Wilson has “been doing everything right,” putting in extra work to fix his fundamentals. “The intent is to still get him back on the football field,” he said.
That probably won’t go over well with Jets players who have been singing White’s praises, and for good reason.
The offense has looked better these past two games than it has all season. White has completed 53 passes and thrown for 684 yards, and the Jets have scored 53 points. In Wilson’s last four starts, he completed two fewer passes and threw for 23 more yards as the Jets scored 56 points.
White has spread the ball around and has played with poise and confidence. He also has shouldered the blame, something Wilson didn’t do.
After the Jets went 1-for-6 in red-zone chances and 1-for-3 in goal-to-go opportunities in Sunday’s 27-22 loss to the Vikings, White said he’s got to do a better job. He also said he’s got to make a better pass to Braxton Berrios, who dropped what could have been the winning touchdown pass on fourth down with 1:43 left in the game.
All of this matters in the locker room. After the Jets’ 10-3 loss at New England in Week 11, Wilson wouldn’t say that he and the offense let the defense down. He eventually apologized to his teammates in a private meeting.
White is a locker-room favorite. A number of players flew to Minneapolis wearing a T-shirt with his likeness on it. The Jets’ respect for and confidence in White has only grown with the way he’s played and conducted himself.
“He made some big-time throws in crucial situations [Sunday],” left tackle Duane Brown said. “He kept his poise. The talk in the huddle was always positive and he was always really talking confidence to the offense.
“We never lost faith. There was never a moment in time that we thought we were going to lose that game. He took some big hits as well and got up and brushed himself and made some big-time throws right after that. Really proud and happy in the way he performed.”
Left guard Laken Tomlinson added, “The kid’s a tough kid, man. To be able to go out there and play that type of game in that type of environment, it shows that the kid plays with a lot of poise and blocks out all the noise and focuses on his job. It’s really great to have someone like that in the huddle.”
Which is why it’s hard to see Saleh taking White out.