What grade did NY Jets QB Mike White earn against the Chicago Bears?
White wasted no time showing that he is capable of leading the New York Jets to success. He captained New York’s first game-opening touchdown drive of the season and never looked back as he enjoyed a stellar afternoon, leading the Jets to a 31-10 victory.
When looking back at White’s film, is it revealed that his performance was overrated? Or is it confirmed that he truly played as well as it seemed he did?
The QB Grades series exists to answer questions like those.
Before we get into White’s performance, check out the explanation and glossary below if you are unfamiliar with how my QB Grades series works.
My goal with this grading system is to capture the true quality of the quarterback’s performance. Box score statistics are usually misleading, as they do not account for a variety of factors that determine whether a quarterback performed well or poorly on a given play.
After re-watching each play on the All-22 film, I grade it on a 0-to-10 scale. Once I’m finished grading each play, I take the average of all plays to form a 0-to-100 overall score with 50 being approximately league-average (based on my studying of numerous other quarterback performances across the league).
Here are just a handful of the primary factors that are taken into account in the grading of each play, and a basic description of what I’m looking for:
- Decision-making (Did the QB choose the best available option or did he leave a better play on the field? Regardless of if a ball is intercepted or not, did the QB put the ball in danger of being intercepted?)
- Throw difficulty (Clean pocket or pressured? Wide open or tight window? Stationary or on the move? More difficult throws are more valuable.)
- Accuracy/placement (Even if the pass is completed, was the ball placed in the best possible spot or did the receiver have to make an extra effort to catch it? Was the ball placed in a spot that maximized YAC? Did the QB protect his receiver from a big hit?)
- Game situation – score, time, field position, down and distance (Good decisions based on the clock/situation are crucial. Playing the sticks is also important – it is not a good play to complete a tightly covered 5-yard out on third-and-10 while a 15-yard dig is open, but a 5-yard out on third-and-4 is good.)
Ultimately, it’s all about context. Not all 40-yard completions are created equal. Not all interceptions are created equal. You need to watch a play to understand whether the quarterback did a good or bad job (and exactly how good or how bad it was). The raw result of a play cannot give you that answer.
When we analyze every play on film multiple times and grade the quarterback’s individual effort independent of his surroundings or the on-paper outcome of the play, we get a much better estimation of how well he actually played.
Of course, keep in mind that these grades are subjective. They are but one man’s opinion and are not intended to be viewed as gospel. Feel free to let me know your takes on my grades for these performances.
For each performance, I include a few metrics that help explain how White arrived at his final grade.
These are some of the metrics I will break down for every game.
Overall grade: 0-to-100 grade based on the average score of all plays analyzed. An estimation of individual performance quality.
Positive plays: Number of plays graded above 5.0: above-average efforts.
Negative plays: Number of plays graded below 5.0: below-average efforts.
Neutral plays: Number of plays graded as a 5.0: plays that are not noticeably good or bad. These are typically lost plays or plays in which the QB can hardly be evaluated: screens, batted passes, miscommunications, and unavoidable sacks are commonly graded as a 5.0.
Positive/negative ratio: Ratio of positive plays to negative plays. Defines the quarterback’s consistency level.
Average positive score: The average score of all positive plays. An indicator of how high the quarterback’s peaks were — a higher score indicates his best plays were often highlight-reel-worthy while a lower score indicates that his best plays were typically unspectacular.
Average negative score: The average score of all negative plays. An indicator of how low the quarterback’s valleys were — a higher score indicates his mistakes were typically minor while a lower score indicates that his mistakes were typically brutal.
Wow Factor: Combination of average positive score and average negative score. An indicator of the combined ability to produce outstanding moments and avoid big mistakes.
7+ plays: Number of plays graded 7.0 or better: elite moments. Big-time plays, if you will.
≤3 plays: Number of plays graded 3.0 or worse: brutal moments. The ones that make Jets fans throw things at their TV.
Mike White’s grade vs. Chicago Bears
Let’s dig into everything that went into my 0-to-100 grade for Mike White’s season debut against Chicago.
Was White as good as he appeared to be?
Time to find out.
- Nania’s Overall Grade: 79.1– (Average: 50, Great: 60+, Elite: 70+, Poor: <40, Awful: <30)
- Plays graded: 28
- Neutral plays: 2
- Positive plays: 20 (71.4%) – (Average: 56%, Phenomenal: >65%, Poor: <45%)
- Negative plays: 6 (21.4%) – (Average: 28%, Phenomenal: <20%, Poor: >40%)
- Positive-negative ratio: 3.33 – (Average: 2.00, Phenomenal: 3.00+, Poor: <1.00)
- Average positive: 6.04 – (Average: 5.90, High: 6.00+, Low: <5.80)
- Average negative: 4.04 – (Average: 3.80, High: 4.00+, Low: <3.60)
- Wow factor: 10.08 – (Average: 9.70, High: 10.00+, Low: <9.40)
- 7+ plays: 2 (7.1%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: >12%, Poor: <4%)
- ≤3 plays: 1 (3.6%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: <4%, Poor: >12%)
- Box score stats: 22/28 for 315 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT (11.3 Y/A, 149.3 QB rating). 1 sack for 7 yards. 3 rushes for 2 yards.
Mike White greatly exceeded my expectations in this game. Going into Sunday, I was expecting him to put forth a competent, respectable, and stable performance that got the job done but wasn’t anything to write home about. He soared well beyond that.
After watching the film, it is clear that White deserves every bit of the hype that has come his way for this performance. The film confirms what is suggested by the box score and the highlights: White was excellent.
White was super consistent in this game (I graded him with a 3.3-to-1 ratio of positive plays to negative plays), but what put this over the top as an outstanding performance is what he did in the “Wow Factor” department, as I like to call it – i.e. plays that make you say “wow” regardless of whether it is for shocking impressiveness or shocking awfulness. White was strong in this area as he produced some high highs and avoided the low lows.
That’s the big three for a quarterback: consistency, producing big-time plays, and avoiding back-breaking plays. White checked all three boxes against Chicago. It’s a formula for major success.
The latter two areas are the biggest concerns for White. He has proven that he can be consistent when it comes to making the right decisions and managing the offense. But can he make big plays when the Jets need them? And after throwing interceptions at an extremely high rate last year, can he decrease his propensity for big mistakes?
For one game, at least, White answered “yes” to those questions. He mixed his game-managing consistency with some big-time throws when the Jets needed them and he eliminated the costly mistakes. We shall see if he can continue doing this going forward. I’m sure the Jets would happily sign up for merely the consistency aspect of White’s game, but if he can maintain the promise he showed in the other two areas, he might have some legitimate upside as a starting quarterback.
Ultimately, my final grade for White turned out to be a sparkling 79.1. It’s the highest grade I have given a Jets quarterback in a game since I started doing this in 2018.
Here is a look at my grade log for White over his five career appearances.
Mike White’s film vs. Chicago Bears
Let’s take a look at some of the key plays from White’s performance vs. Chicago.
For each play in the breakdown, I’ll list the grade I gave him for that play. Anything above 5.0 is positive and helps push his overall game grade above 50.0, and vice versa for anything below 5.0.
2nd & 4 – Qtr: 1, (14:06) (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to G.Wilson to NYJ 42 for 11 yards (K.Vildor; J.Sanborn).
From his very first throw of the game, it felt like White was in for a huge day. White fits the ball through a relatively small window as he connects with Garrett Wilson on this slant route, rocketing it into Wilson’s chest and keeping it away from the linebacker to the inside.
You also have to like the anticipation here. When White begins to wind up, there is a linebacker (#45) to the inside of Wilson, but White knows that the linebacker is a non-threat since he is in man coverage on the running back, so he is going to clear out of the throwing lane by the time the ball is out. Seeing the linebacker follow Michael Carter into the flat is what confirms the slant will be open.
Great play to start it off. Grade: 6.5
1st & 10 – Qtr: 1, (12:51) (Shotgun) M.White pass short left to T.Conklin to CHI 37 for 9 yards (D.Houston-Carson, J.Sanborn).
Smart pre-snap work by White on the hot read. When Carter motions out and the linebacker follows him, it confirms that the Bears are in man coverage, alerting White that someone is likely going to blitz. The blitzer turns out to be the defensive back over Tyler Conklin, leaving Conklin covered by a safety who is over 10 yards downfield. White immediately hits his hot read to beat the blitz. Conklin also does a good job of recognizing the potential blitz as he quickly makes himself available. Grade: 5.5
2nd & 1 – Qtr: 1, (12:10) (Shotgun) M.White pass short left to Z.Knight pushed ob at CHI 21 for 16 yards (J.Sanborn).
White makes a full-field read here before checking the ball down to Zonovan Knight. He starts on the right and declines Wilson’s vertical route due to the presence of defenders both underneath and over top. He comes back to the left and declines Mims’s seam route due to the safety sitting directly over top of it. So, White comes back to his checkdown, which is open. White gets the ball to Knight quickly enough to where he still has room to make a play after the catch. Grade: 5.5
1st & 10 – Qtr: 1, (11:31) (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to G.Wilson pushed ob at CHI 8 for 13 yards (D.Houston-Carson).
This seems like an easy screen pass at first, but it’s actually a smart play by White on the RPO (run-pass option). Wilson motions ore-snap and White sees that nobody follows him, which leaves the Jets with a 3-on-2 numbers advantage to the right side. Recognizing this, White knows that the obvious play is to throw the ball to Wilson. So, White wastes no time faking the handoff and just immediately gets Wilson the ball, setting him up for success in the open field. Great blocks by Conklin and C.J. Uzomah. Grade: 5.5
1st & Goal – Qtr: 1, (10:52) (Shotgun) M.White pass incomplete short right to G.Wilson.
Another RPO here with White looking to feed Wilson, but White throws it in the dirt. With the way the blocks were setting up, it looks like this had a good chance of being a touchdown. White wastes it by missing a layup. Grade: 3.0
3rd & Goal – Qtr: 1, (10:17) (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to G.Wilson for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Penalty on CHI-K.Vildor, Defensive Holding, declined.
Most of the credit here goes to Wilson for a great route, but White holds up his end of the bargain by locating the open receiver and giving him a good ball. Grade: 5.5
1st & 10 – Qtr: 2, (14:20) (Shotgun) M.White pass incomplete short right to G.Wilson (E.Jackson).
Bad decision by White here. I’m not sure if White didn’t see the safety breaking down or was just overconfident and thought he could beat him, but either way, this is a dangerous pass. I’m not scoring this play extremely low because the pass doesn’t actually come as close to being picked off as it may seem at first – it’s placed back-shoulder away from the defender – but it’s still a bad play. With the deep, intermediate, and short reads all covered, White probably should have thrown this ball away. Grade: 4.0
3rd & 6 – Qtr: 2, (13:36) (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to C.Uzomah to NYJ 36 for 7 yards (J.Sanborn; K.Vildor).
The Bears bring six rushers on third-and-6, and White is ready. He quickly locates Uzomah in the flat and gets him the football, placing it in a perfect spot where he can catch it and turn upfield to gain the necessary yardage for a first down. Another great job by White of immediately knowing where to go when he sees the blitz – with YAC-conducive ball placement to boot. Grade: 6.0
3rd & 9 – Qtr: 2, (11:34) (Shotgun) M.White pass deep middle to E.Moore to CHI 21 for 42 yards (E.Jackson).
A big-time throw from White. Facing third-and-long, he threads the needle on a downfield throw against tight coverage. Check out the end zone angle and pause it as the ball reaches Moore. That thing is inches away from the defender’s outstretched arm. It’s fantastic coverage that could only be beaten with perfect accuracy, and White gets it done. Additionally, White avoids placing the ball too far out in front, which would have led Moore directly into the safety. All-around elite throw.
Check out the line of scrimmage, too. White whips the ball around the raised arm of a defensive lineman.
This is the type of play that you don’t expect to get from White. He had a few of them on Sunday, and if he can make these throws routinely, it’s hard not to be excited about White’s potential. Grade: 9.0
2nd & 11 – Qtr: 2, (10:10) (Shotgun) M.White pass incomplete short middle to G.Wilson.
Seems like somewhat of a miscommunication here between White and Wilson. White expects Wilson to continue on the slant but Wilson sits down. It results in the ball being placed too far out in front, causing Wilson to get smacked.
I won’t knock White too much since we don’t know exactly what was called for Wilson here, but regardless of the call, I would’ve liked White to recognize the inside defender and avoid leading Wilson into him. To me, it would be preferable for White to either put this ball back-shoulder or to simply avoid throwing it if Wilson’s sit-down caught him off guard. This is a tad dangerous, both turnover-wise and health-wise. Grade: 4.5
3rd & 2 – Qtr: 2, (5:51) (Shotgun) M.White pass short left to T.Johnson pushed ob at NYJ 46 for 16 yards (E.Jackson) [Ju.Jones].
Great poise by White on third-and-short. Coming out of the play fake, he wants Uzomah over the middle, but Uzomah is covered extremely well by Chicago. Then, pressure arrives up the middle. White doesn’t panic. He keeps two hands on the ball, swings it away from the defender’s reach, and steps up in the pocket (also moving outward a bit).
As White is in the process of evading the first rusher, he can see that another defender is about to come through off the edge, so White looks for his checkdown. He locates Ty Johnson and delivers him the ball while absorbing a massive hit. The accuracy is perfect since White does not allow the incoming pressure to affect his footwork. Rather than compromising his mechanics to avoid the hit, White accepts that he is going to get hit so he can throw with proper mechanics. The ideal placement allows Johnson to smoothly turn upfield and get a big gain.
The Jets have a professional quarterback under center. Grade: 6.0
1st & 10 – Qtr: 2, (5:09) M.White pass deep right to G.Wilson for 54 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Another big-time Mike White bomb.
Yes, I know this one appears close to potentially getting intercepted, but to me, that’s what makes it such a great throw. White steps up in the pocket (toward incoming pressure) and challenges a seemingly impossible window with daredevil-esque confidence. The willingness to take a risk leads to magic in this scenario. White gets just enough touch on the ball to loft it over the linebacker and hit Wilson in stride.
I’m not sure this is as close to being a pick as many thought. I would argue the linebacker makes close to the best effort he could possibly make and he still fails to touch the ball. He does not bite all that hard on the play fake, gets plenty of depth in coverage, reads the quarterback’s eyes to get an early read on the throw, and leaps very high in the air. I do not know if he could have played that any better. So did White really luck out or did he just make an incredible throw to complete a pass with an insanely low chance of being completed? I would say it’s closer to the latter. This would be one of the greatest interceptions I’ve ever seen if it were converted.
Nonetheless, the main point here is the confidence that White shows. Things likely would have gone differently on this play if White showed the slightest inkling of hesitation, but he believed he could make this throw and that’s why he was able to do it.
After watching this play many times, I ultimately decided that it should go down as a big-time play in my book, but if you think otherwise due to the danger of it, I won’t argue. It’s a tough play to grade. Grade: 9.0
3rd & 6 – Qtr: 2, (1:53) (Shotgun) M.White pass short left to C.Davis to CHI 47 for 9 yards (J.Johnson).
Similar to the Wilson play that opened the game, White throws a dart into the receiver’s chest on a tightly-covered slant. Good throw to Corey Davis as White picks up another third-down conversion. Grade: 6.0
1st & 10 – Qtr: 3, (13:21) M.White pass short right to C.Uzomah to NYJ 39 for 2 yards (D.Houston-Carson).
One of the concerns of a game-managing quarterback is whether they will limit the offense’s ceiling by playing too safe. That rarely happened for White in this game, although this play served as the lone example of that potential issue.
On this play-action bootleg, White has Corey Davis wide open in the intermediate range, as the underneath defenders sink and the safeties are very deep. I would have preferred he threw the ball to Davis here. Instead, White goes underneath and checks the ball down to Uzomah for a measly two yards.
Since it’s first-and-10, this decision isn’t as costly as it would be on second or third down. Regardless, you’ve got to take these wide-open downfield throws when they’re there. Give White credit for getting something out of the play and keeping the Jets ahead of the chains on first down, but he leaves meat on the bone this time around. Rare field-reading mistake for Gotham’s White Knight. Grade: 4.0
3rd & 4 – Qtr: 3, (6:41) (Shotgun) M.White pass deep left to E.Moore for 22 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Moore has a lot of separation here, so the throw isn’t particularly amazing, but I love the pocket movement. White notices Chicago running a stunt against the left side of the Jets’ offensive line. The inside defender crashes into the B-gap while the defensive end loops inside. Seeing the Jets pin both defenders inside, White feels a sea of open space to his left and slides into it. This eliminates any chance of getting pressured and simultaneously places himself at a better angle to deliver the throw he is looking to make.
Keep in mind that White’s eyes remained downfield while he was processing all of that information. His pocket movement here is subconscious; a natural reaction using his peripheral vision.
That is the key to effectively handling pressure: doing so without deliberately looking at it or thinking about it. If the QB has to take his eyes off the routes to deal with pressure, then he’s not really dealing with the pressure at all. The pressure is causing him to miss potential throwing options. That’s a success for the defense.
White showed a tremendous feel for the pressure in this game. He kept his eyes downfield at all times and trusted himself to react naturally to the pressure. His navigation of the pocket was impressive.
Good read, good pocket movement, and a good ball from White here to give the Jets a long touchdown pass on third-and-medium just outside of the red zone. This play officially put the Jets in complete control of the game. Grade: 6.0
2nd & 6 – Qtr: 3, (3:53) M.White pass deep right to T.Conklin to CHI 46 for 29 yards (E.Hicks).
More great pocket movement. White executes the play fake, hits the depth of his drop, and climbs the pocket. Doing so allows White to evade the edge pressure while maintaining a good base to throw from as he steps up and into a deep throw to Conklin.
In terms of the read, the key defender is the cornerback to the Jets’ right. White comes out of the play fake and reads the cornerback. Seeing the corner stay with Davis as he runs vertically instead of passing him off to the safety, White knows Conklin will be open if he can beat the linebacker outside. White turns his eyes back to the middle and sees the linebacker has lost Conklin. The window is open and White takes advantage with a good throw. Grade: 6.5
1st & 10 – Qtr: 3, (3:19) M.White pass short left to Z.Knight to CHI 32 for 14 yards. FUMBLES, ball out of bounds at CHI 30.
Just Mike White doing his thing: taking what the defense gives him. White fakes the handoff and takes a deep drop as the Jets send two receivers vertical. Neither player is open, so White hits his checkdown, Zonovan Knight, who gains 14 yards.
I like the timing of this checkdown. As White is dropping back, he reads the downfield traffic and can clearly see that neither vertical route will be open. So he wastes no time getting to the checkdown after he hits the depth of his drop.
Getting the ball to Knight so quickly certainly bought him some extra yards; look at the flat defender, #44. As White starts throwing this ball, #44 is still gaining depth. Because #44 is so far away from Knight at the time of the catch, Knight is placed in a great position to make him miss and gain extra yards. If White took any longer to deliver this checkdown, #44 likely would have put himself in a much better position to stop Knight after the catch.
Perhaps White isn’t just getting lucky when it comes to his receivers making plays after the catch. I think there is something to be said about White’s ability to create favorable opportunities for his teammates to make plays. Grade: 5.5
2nd & 6 – Qtr: 4, (10:27) M.White pass short right to G.Wilson to NYJ 40 for 9 yards (J.Johnson).
Not the tightest-window throw or the toughest read, but this is such a smooth ball from White as he is rolling to his right. It’s perfectly placed, hitting Wilson on the numbers in-stride.
White may not be all that fast or quick, but he is still a good thrower on the move thanks to his calmness and fundamentals. Grade: 5.75
A standout game from Mike White
I believe this game was a glimpse of Mike White’s ceiling. In addition to doing the things you can count on him for – getting the ball out quickly, making good pre-snap reads, letting his playmakers make plays, and executing the easy stuff – he also played with a high level of confidence that allowed him to deliver some big-time throws in key moments. As the cherry on top, he avoided the killer mistakes that plagued him in 2021.
While the Bears game raised the ceiling on White’s potential for the remainder of the season, it is important to remember that all the Jets realistically want from White is the game-managing aspect of his profile. They did not promote him to the starting quarterback job with the expectation that he plays as he did against Chicago on a weekly basis. Let’s not hold him to this standard going forward. That’s unfair.
If White can simply maintain the decision-making consistency and the ball security he displayed against Chicago, the Jets would be thrilled with that. It would be gravy if he continues to make as many clutch tight-window throws as he made in this one.
Still, if you’re a Jets fan, it’s hard to look at White’s body of work to this point and not be intrigued about the possibility of what he could become. White has started four NFL games and two of them were incredibly impressive – they are arguably the two most productive outings by a Jets quarterback over the past three seasons (at the very least). One of his other two games looked like it was on its way to being similarly excellent if it were not ended prematurely due to injury.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Though White shined this week, we need to see more before we can even be certain he is an average starter, let alone a good or great one.
An unproven quarterback’s entire outlook can change in a matter of one week. Just look at Zach Wilson, who went from an encouraging game against Buffalo to a performance against New England that was so horrifying it landed him on the bench. If White goes out in Minnesota and has a game similar to the one he had against the Bills last year, the narrative around him will be completely different in one week’s time.
Let’s sit back and see what happens. All I can tell you with certainty right now is this: Mike White’s performance against the Bears was the most impressive showing I’ve seen from a Jets quarterback in a long time.
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