Mike White, NY Jets, Zach Wilson, Starter, QB1
Mike White, New York Jets, Getty Images

Both sides of the debate may have problems with Saleh’s comments

We officially have a quarterback controversy in East Rutherford.

This one seems to be born not of statistics or film, but an unusual debate of ceiling vs. floor.

When Robert Saleh announced that he was benching Zach Wilson for Mike White, he insisted that this was not the nail in the coffin and that Wilson would see the field again this season.

Following White’s electric performance against the Bears, Saleh put off any questions about reconsidering that stance, maintaining that the quarterback decision was a week-by-week proposition.

The questions got a little more pointed in Saleh’s Monday afternoon press conference following the Jets’ 27-22 loss to the Vikings. The coach doubled down on his stance, announcing that White will start in Week 14 with no change in the status quo while continuing to insist that the plan is for Wilson to start again in 2022.

Ian O’Connor of the New York Post went right back at Saleh, saying, “My follow-up question would be, why? Because it looks like Mike White’s capable as a quarterback”—to which Saleh interjected, “Mike is capable”—”Why is that the intent still, to get Zach back on the field?”

Saleh said, “For Mike, and we’re going to stay status quo on all of it, this is Mike’s opportunity to make some noise. You never ask how your opportunity comes, you just take advantage of your opportunity and do the best you can. We’ve got all the faith in Mike. … I know the line ‘If you’ve got more than one quarterback, you have none,’ but we feel that we have three of them. … But right now, while Zach is focusing on reconnecting and doing all the different things we know he’s capable of, right now it’s Mike’s opportunity. I’d really like to just focus on Mike’s opportunity and give him the chance to succeed.”

However, the New York media would not let Saleh off the hook there. First, it was the Post‘s Brian Costello:

Saleh responded to Costello’s question with a smirk and said, “Is that a backdoor hypothetical? … He’s played really well.” In other words, he dodged the question.

Another reporter followed up and asked, “Are you at least open to the possibility that Mike White is your long-term quarterback and just happens to be a better football player than Zach Wilson? Is it at least a possibility that that could happen?”

Saleh dodged the question once more.

This press conference is sure to anger both sides of the White-Wilson Wars. The Whiters will be furious to hear that Saleh would even consider playing Zach Wilson over their hero, while the Wilsoners will scorn the questions and continue to denounce Saleh’s plan to start Mike White at all.

However, those who are Jets fans, rather than player fans, will root to see success from whoever is quarterbacking the team that week. For now, at least, that is Mike White.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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9 months ago

I listened to this press conf. It was classic cat-n-mouse play between the media and Saleh. Saleh really impressed me by handling the constantly re-phrased questioning about Zach. NY media is no doubt about it tough and smart and intense, and b/c of that we fans get the best sports coverage in the country. Saleh can handle the NY media. He does it without getting angry, without causing enemies, he doesn’t get pushed around, he’s forceful when needed, but he’s pretty earnest with guys. He’s been masterful, frankly. That’s not easy to do in this market.

9 months ago

I agree w/ your assessment that Saleh’s comments are intended to keep Zach motivated to work hard and improve. There would be little to gain by saying, “Mike is our guy from here on out”. Mike is gonna play hard regardless, understanding that this is his opportunity. Only Zach could be negatively impacted by the pronouncement.

I didn’t hear Saleh say that Zach would “start again this year”? I thought he said he’d “be on the field again this year”; could be a meaningless game or garbage time?
Either way, Mike is, in fact, our guy.

Last edited 9 months ago by mlesko73
9 months ago

This is a non-story. Saleh made his position clear and too many reporters tried to make a controversy where existed. I get that beat reporters need something to write about, but they sounded more than a little obtuse.

Mike White is the starting quarterback. There is nothing to be gained for Saleh to discuss what may or may not happen, especially when he’s made it clear that he is not going to discuss it or engage in hypotheticals.

Last edited 9 months ago by Misterhawk