White and Wilson addressed quarterbacking concerns on Thursday
Ah, the New York Jets: where literal Hall-of-Fame performances only cause further controversy under center.
But such issues might not even exist according to the two men at the center of it.
New York quarterbacks Mike White and Zach Wilson spoke on the same day for the first time on Thursday, nearly 24 hours after it was announced that White would reassume passing duties for the Jets’ Sunday’ tilt against the Buffalo Bills (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Wilson will not dress for the third consecutive contest, as he’s still working through the effects of a sprained PCL sustained in a loss to New England on Oct. 24.
Perhaps nothing more needs to be said about the emergence of White, who has come on in relief of an injured Wilson. A 405-yard, three-touchdown showing in an upset win over Cincinnati on Oct. 31 sent the NFL landscape into a frenzy before White’s name dominated the nationally televised broadcast of last Thursday’s visit to Indianapolis.
The hype died down only when White was forced to leave the game early due to a forearm injury, but he managed to throw yet another touchdown on his way out.
MIKE WHITE TO ELIJAH MOORE FOR THE TD
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) November 5, 2021
This being New York … namely, the New York Jets … the future of the position has dominated NFL conversation circles. Last Thursday’s injury means White is still a mere one-game wonder for the time being, but that hasn’t stopped casual and dedicated observers alike from envisioning a future where Wilson is usurped by the aerial sensation.
That, however, is the furthest thing from the minds of each thrower. The supposed tension brought upon by every White completion is apparently non-existent.
“I don’t think it’s been awkward for a second,” White said, per notes from the team. “I think he’s been so supportive, and he’s been awesome. It hasn’t changed our relationship one bit, and it won’t. I think, like I said earlier, I know he’s operating on a week-to-week basis with his knee and trying to get ready and get healthy to play. And I’m obviously executing what job is being given to me.”
Wilson, in fact, hinted that their relationship has only grown during this process. He went on to label the White phenomenon as “really cool.”
“I’d say the relationship me and Mike White have, I’d probably say I’m the closest with him than anyone on the team,” he said. “We have a really good relationship, so I feel like I can take advantage of that opportunity, be able to learn from the reps that he’s going through and things that he’s seeing and doing. My time will come, I just have to work on just keep getting healthy and taking my practice reps very seriously and how I can just get back to the groove of playing.”
The second overall pick of last spring’s draft confirmed that he still isn’t “100 percent there” when it comes to his injury and is more than comfortable handing over the reigns over to White for Sunday’s divisional showdown.
Regaining his presumed starting position has become a bit of an afterthought, as Wilson is leaning on a veteran axiom to get through this stretch: controlling the controllable.
“I handle it the only way I can. Controlling what I can control, doing what I can every day in practice,” Wilson said. “I just got to go to practice every single day, learn from (White’s) reps, talk with those guys and just control what I can control.”
Wilson puts into perspective how early he is in his process as the Jets’ franchise quarterback.
“I’ve only played five games. I just got here. I’m supposed to be a senior in college right now, you know. You got to understand it’s going to be hard and I’m not making any excuses but that’s where growth comes,” Wilson continued.
“I look back at my college career and the year before I got there, we were 4-9. We went 7-6 twice and then we had an 11-win season. That’s how football goes. You have to go through adversity to get where you want to go. I definitely didn’t come here thinking this is going to be the greatest thing ever and we’re going to go undefeated. I knew it was going to be tough and that’s part of the process. That’s what makes football so fun. So, my time’s going to come.”
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The injury will delay what the Jets (2-6) hope will be the first of many meetings between Wilson and the Bills (5-3).
White faces a tall task if he’s looking to carry on the legend. Buffalo is no doubt fuming after a surprisingly listless 9-6 loss at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend and they’ve been particularly unkind to quarterbacks. Opposing throwers have yet to break the Bills’ defense for 300 yards and none of them have reached a passer rating over 84.
Nonetheless, White is entering the rivalry and de facto battle of New York with a little bit of swagger.
Set to make his third career start, White hadn’t thrown a single regular-season pass entering the 2021 season. He was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of 2018’s selections but was let go after posting a 68.4 passer rating over two preseasons. White then wallowed on the Jets’ practice and inactive list for two seasons before finally getting the call in place of Wilson.
One thing that hasn’t changed a bit, White made clear, was his self-confidence, which appears to be at an all-time high as a visit from a defending AFC finalist looms.
“I have 100 percent confidence in myself. If you ask me, I should have been a first-overall pick but that’s neither here nor there, that’s four years ago,” White said.
“I definitely believe that, and I think if you ask any quarterback in the NFL and they don’t give you that answer then that’s kind of an issue. You need to have 100 percent confidence in yourself. No matter if you’re the quarterback, the left guard, you’re the starting corner, everybody’s got to be able to have an unbelievable amount of confidence in themselves and that’s the only way you can play this game in my mind.
“I’m convinced you can’t go out there and (be) kind of not so sure about yourself, because that’s when you’ll mentally lock up and you’ll do things that are not in your realm. So, I think anybody on an NFL football field needs to have 100 percent confidence in themselves.”
Confidence, swagger, camaraderie, and a sense of being grounded? Only in New York.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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