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Mike White seizes the NY Jets moment in familiar fearless fashion

Mike White, Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
Mike White, Garrett Wilson, New York Jets, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Mike White has come to save the New York Jets day

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—What’s the most discernable difference between No. 2 and No. 5, other than the former’s incredible physical advantage over the latter?

Well, simply put, No. 5 brings an element of fearless moxie to the table that No. 2 simply cannot match.

The position of football quarterback is one many talent evaluators continuously get wrong. The mystery behind why that is the obvious case rages on, yet it should not be such a mystery after the quarterback case of the 2022 New York Jets is examined.

Zach Wilson, 23, entered the season as the undoubted face of the franchise. Selected No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL draft, nobody would argue that the kid brings an incredible physical advantage to the table.

His feet are lightning fast, his arm is electric, and his release is absurdly quick—perfectly suited for today’s 3-step-ladened National Football League. Nobody would dare dispute those attributes against the current hero of the day, Mike White.

Yet, interestingly, the guy with the lesser talent is more suited to lead the charge.

White, 27, went for 315 yards and three touchdowns (to no interceptions) in a 31-10 Jets’ trouncing of the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Lifting the squad to 7-4, White found himself gloriously stuck in a familiar atmosphere with admiration plastered all over the backdrop.

“Mike White, Mike White, Mike White,” the MetLife Stadium crowd continuously chanted on and off all rainy afternoon.

Although nobody would ever confuse No. 5 with an arrogant individual, the kid’s human element was on display in the postgame presser.

“It’s always cool,” White told the media after being asked about the chants. “I’m not going to sit here and give you some quarterback cliche. There are times I’m not (hearing the fan chants), but towards the end of the game (I am).”

Just make sure your football IQ lines up with the Jets’ new starting quarterback’s football mind.

“I think it would be a lot cooler if they didn’t do it while we’re trying to snap the ball,” White joked. “But no, I’m not going to complain too much about that.”

White’s communication is very human and relatable, which contrasts greatly with that of Wilson, whose machine-like persona could not help but be spotted even from Mars. And then there’s the issue of quarterback mind and mentality, both of which were on excellent display against the Bears.

Not only did White lead the Jets on a nine-play, 75-yard opening scoring drive that resulted in an 8-yard Garrett Wilson touchdown reception, but he also—in tandem with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur—did something that this unit failed to do often this season.

He stretched the field in a way that forced the defense to actually adjust.

Down 10-7 in the second quarter, in a game that featured a less-than-dominant Jets defense, White fired one over the middle with no fear. Wilson turned it into a 54-yard chunk touchdown.

At that point in the game, Chicago had settled down defensively. Although Matt Eberflus’s defense is quite similar to that of Robert Saleh’s—a relaxed shell feel that keeps everything in front—the Bears’ unit came out with an aggressive attitude.

The Bears crowded the box, played a bunch of 1-high concepts, and defensive backs also broke on balls earlier than the usual timing, which was more so the case after White led the charge on the opening drive.

What the Jets needed was a quarterback to sling it downfield—when it was essential to do so. (This idea is similar to the way the Jets needed White to destroy the Cincinnati Bengals underneath two Halloweens ago—take what the defensive gives you.) What the Jets offense needed was a quarterback to right the ship.

What Jets fandom needed was a leader who showcased a no-fear attitude.

Every professional athlete understands the following: If you play to not get injured, you’re more likely to find yourself injured. At quarterback, if you play to not turn the ball over, you’re more likely to turn the ball over.

You simply have to know that free-throw is going in, that putt is dropping in the hole, or that pass is going to fit into the tight window over the middle.

Zach Wilson never truly knew, as his confidence was left behind in Utah. For whatever reason, he simply played with fear firmly entrenched in his mind.

Just look at his play against the Patriots in New England prior to and after the Devin McCourty dropped interception. Initially confident in the game, the light-switch flung downward—to the off and defeated side—after he sailed one over Tyler Conklin’s head and nearly turned the ball over.

That simply cannot be the case. A quarterback mustn’t be that fragile—no matter the level of pressure coming from a defensive-first coaching staff.

Mike White played as if he had nothing to lose, whereas Zach Wilson played with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“It’s awesome,” White said of the results after the game. “To go out there and play football with your friends, guys you’ve been with for a couple of years now (it’s awesome).”

Perhaps Elijah Moore noticed that most, the disgruntled Jets weapon who tallied his first touchdown of the season on this Mike White day.

Yet another third down, and yet another clutch Mike White play, this time understanding his surroundings and what was materializing downfield in real-time. He remembered the tighter splits, the longer-developing concept, and drifted just enough while anticipating the out-breaking corner route from Moore while sneaking underneath the vertically-traveling Corey Davis.

So, yeah, those who claim Zach Wilson is the more talented quarterback will be right 99% of the time. That is until you begin to drill down into the nuance of actually playing the position.

What about mindset?

What about mentality?

What about toughness?

What about awareness?

What about personality?

What about featuring a fearless set of skills that a team follows into a back alley featuring dangerous people looking to do world-record harm?

This is why evaluating quarterbacks is one of the toughest things in the world. It’s nearly impossible to predict how individuals will respond in a given situation, surrounded by specific people, while up against the weight of the world that stacks the odds in the result of failure.

Tom Brady, a skinny shrimp out of Michigan, a sixth-round pick in 2000, is just one such example of getting it wrong. There have been countless others.

Mike White aims to add his name to that list.

The kid who grew up near Fort Lauderdale, FL, and transferred from South Florida to Western Kentucky, couldn’t get a sniff from an NFL franchise as he toiled on the edge of the Jets’ active roster and practice squad. And now, he suddenly has Halloween 2021 against the Cincinnati Bengals and the trouncing of the Chicago Bears in 2022 in his back-pocket.

Better yet, he now has the faith of his teammates and the organization as a whole on his side. And it’s thanks to being equipped with the correct quarterback mindset—one that plays fearlessly, energetically, unapologetically, and without anything to lose—a mentality that greatly contrasts with the previous quarterback.

Worse yet, for Zach Wilson that is, the New York Jets, his teammates, love Mike “Effing” White, just as No. 5 loves his teammates.

“When it wasn’t my time to play, I was super supportive of them and having fun with them, too, but just to be out there, be a part of it, and help the team, and help the team win is always fun,” White said after the game.

Although this Chicago Bears defense stinks and the kid has much to still prove, Mike “Effing” White has fearlessly arrived for the New York Jets, yet again, and just in the nick of time for a talented team looking to do damage this season.

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1 year ago

I think a lot of the difference between White and Wilson has to do with personal attributes like communication, understanding, trust, and respect. White threw the ball with almost unwarranted confidence, coming close to being intercepted a couple of times. I have to think that confidence comes not only from his arm strength, but from his belief in and understanding of LaFleur’s game plan and his trust in the receiver to outduel the defender. By contrast, Wilson seems like a guy on an island. He doesn’t seem to understand or trust in the game plan or his receivers, so he totally lacks confidence.

Matt Galemmo
1 year ago

I thought this game was more impressive than the Cincinnati game, which I thought was a terrible defensive game plan by them, an amazing day of YAC by Jets’ receivers, and a strong game by the QB. Today, I felt White was very strong, but also a smidge lucky. He took some risks and I expect he had two turnover-worthy throws, though I don’t know how to look that up.

The risks were a nice surprise after watching Wilson, but I gasped like a septuagenarian English lady on that very first throw to Garrett Wilson…that did not look open!

I don’t know how that’s going to work against buffalo next week, but that’s a problem for next week.

1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Galemmo

I agree I thought he played very well, and gave them what they needed. There were some plays/throws that may not have worked out well against teams with the kind of defenses Zach was facing. The weather may have had some impact too. I do think White looks more comfortable and confident than he did last season which gives me hope he can be good enough for this team to continue winning.

They have Minny before Buffalo but with both games on the road White quickly steps up in class, so let’s see what he can do. One thing is certain, if they don’t get that running game going much sooner he’ll be in as much trouble as Zach. There are WAY too many 3rd and 8+ snaps, that he was able to overcome today but will be much tougher on the road against two of the top teams in the league.

What’s exciting is, a win next week and the division is in play. They would have the rematch with Buff with 1st place on the line.

Jonathan Richter
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Galemmo

Fortunately, we don’t play Buffalo next week. MFW gets another pitiful defense in Minny.

1 year ago

White is good. Period. There are a lot of trolls saying the Bears suck so don’t get excited Jet fans. He was excellent last year. He’s the best qb on the roster. I don’t give that Buff debacle much weight at all, he was playing hero ball dictated by a very big deficit and I definitely think he’s learned from that game. He’s smart, very decisive, accurate, and he reads the field very well both pre and post-snap. I’m so excited to see Saleh go with White. I’ve never been impressed by Zach and unfortunately don’t have much confidence he’ll ever become a league-ave qb. Also, another legit boss decision by Saleh to sit Robinson and go with Knight. I loved Knight in the preseason. Good pass-catching rb, tough runner. Shouldn’t have been undrafted. Love this team. All in for ’22. We got a very good D. Good, young playmakers. Shutdown corners. These windows are surprisingly short. Should never waste it waiting on Zach.

1 year ago

I wonder if anyone but Sabo will mention what seems to be a clear preference for Mike White by the rest of the team. Is it coming out that they don’t like Zach personally?

Btw, I doubt that Brady’s teammates loved him, so it’s not necessarily important.

1 year ago
Reply to  Bird9

It’s been talked about in some national media circles that there were rumblings from teammates and “people inside the organization” about Zach. I take that with a grain of salt, they did vote Zach a team captain. Bottom line is these guys are pros and as much as they want to win they equally want to get paid. I’m sure there was a little something but I don’t think anything that can’t be “undone.” They will “love the guy” who is the better player. That said, Zach is 23, and NFL locker rooms are not all 19-22 year old guys like in college so I do suspect some feel he lacks some maturity.

In all fairness to Zach that last question about if he let the defense down was a typical scum question just to set him up by a shi**y Jets’ beat writer. Zach had been up there for several mins taking tough questions and he was clearly just trying to give a short answer and get out of there. I’m not saying he was right, I’m just adding the context. Zach was wrong but I don’t think for a second he wasn’t pissed at the way he played. Of course, that last answer is what every media outlet ran with…especially the Jets’ Beat and ESPNquirer who love to take shots at the Jets.

Zach is also the same guy that got props for flying around the country to throw with guys and hosting them on a pricy vacation trip. I will say this, and I’ll take some heat on the chat boards…Zach’s actions off the field the last few weeks haven’t been good, and maybe some guys didn’t like it, but the defense’s reaction allowed it to become an issue “outside the building.” Then they came out today and missed tackles and lacked focus early in the game. I know the D is playing well but I suggest the defensive leaders stay focused in the mirror and not read the headlines about it being a “championship defense.” There is plenty of improvement needed for this team to beat good teams particularly if they want to get to the tournament.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jets71
1 year ago
Reply to  Jets71

Spot on comment. Especially about the D. They’re good, but not elite. The media narrative is oftentimes very lazy.

Jonathan Richter
1 year ago
Reply to  Jets71

My take on Zach’s comment about not letting the D down is that he perceived the intent of the question was to drive a wedge between him and the guys in the locker room. He shot that down.

Jim G
1 year ago

I don’t agree. I believe if Zach said “Yes, I have to play better. I will study the game film and find ways to improve” there would have been no issue. Instead he gave a response which suggested he took no responsibility for an offense’s performance which the coach had already labeled “dog$#@t.” That response created a problem for the defense.

Nevada Buck
Nevada Buck
1 year ago

I agree wholeheartedly with Robby, especially regarding Zach’s mental issues. Is there a way to bring Zach’s brain around? What are the Jets doing to address it? The answer to those questions are critical to Zach’s future.

1 year ago
Reply to  Nevada Buck

I think taking everything off his shoulders right now will help. He’s clearly further away than just 20 games or so and appears to need significant time working on his game at the NFL level. I’m not done with him yet. He also needs coaching on his focus and mental attitude. They can start by telling him to get rid of the headband and stop the gum chewing at press conferences (spit it out). Like it or not it makes him look like a punk. Image is important.

He’s got to grow up. He’s 23, I for one am not going to cast the first stone based on some of the things I did when I was 23, but he’s got to make changes. Ideally, White plays well enough to get this team to the playoffs. If Zach can beat him out the team will have something, if White turns out to be a good enough pro for now, they can find another guy to develop.

1 year ago

Very well stated. I couldn’t agree more about the mental contrast.

White probably had more pressure on him today than Zach has had since he’s been here. His future was on the line, yet he didn’t flinch.

And can we stop saying he can’t throw downfield now?