Two weeks ago, following the Jets’ 10-3 loss against the Patriots, Jets coach Robert Saleh declined to commit to Zach Wilson as the starting quarterback.
Days later, Saleh benched Wilson for backup quarterback Mike White.
On Wednesday, Saleh had an opportunity to declare White the starter moving forward, but he declined to do so as he continued to say the intent is to get Wilson back on the field this season.
“This is Mike’s opportunity to make noise,” Saleh said. “You never ask how your opportunity comes, you just take advantage of your opportunity and you do the best that you can.
“We have all the faith in Mike. I said it before and I know the line if you have more than one quarterback, you have none. Well, we feel like we have three of them. We have three pretty damn good ones.
“Right now, while Zach is focusing on reconnecting and all of the different things we know he is capable of, right now it’s Mike’s opportunity. I would really love to focus on Mike and his opportunity and give him every chance to succeed.”
In his first start of the season, White completed 22-of-28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-10 victory against the Bears in Week 12. On Sunday, in a hostile environment at U.S. Bank Stadium, White came back down to Earth a bit.
White completed 31-of-57 passes for 369 yards and had two interceptions in the Vikings’ 27-22 win against the Jets. Although White couldn’t follow up his first start with another outstanding performance, his play helped bring the Jets back after the team was down 20-3 early in the first half.
Gang Green had a difficult time finding the end zone as they converted 1-of-6 opportunities and 3-of-16 third-down conversions. White’s play has been an improvement from Wilson, who was subpar and inconsistent in his seven starts before being benched.
Despite going 5-2 behind center, Wilson threw for 1,279 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. When asked if he could be opened to the possibility of White being the long-term solution and a better football player than Wilson, Saleh again failed to answer the question.
“One week at a time, one week at a time,” Saleh said.
The Jets have rallied around White as the starting quarterback. Not only have players spoken positively about White, but many of them boarded their flight to Minneapolis wearing t-shirts with White’s picture and had the phrase “Mike F’N White.”
“He’s playing great,” Jets left tackle Duane Brown said. “The Chicago game, he was firing on all cylinders.
“That Minnesota defense is tough. We put ourselves in a lot of third-down situations. Really good pass rush, a really good veteran secondary and he made some big-time throws.
“I thought he kept his poise and the talk in the huddle was always positive. We never lost faith or lost sight of the end goal. Really happy with the way he’s performing.”
With five games left in the season, it’s hard to envision any scenario with the Jets returning to Wilson as the team’s starting quarterback this season. Gang Green is currently 7-5 and holds the final Wild Card playoff spot in the AFC.
The Jets have a tough challenge this week as they will host the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills on the road. A month ago at MetLife Stadium, the Jets pulled off a stunning 20-17 win, thanks partly to their defense and rushing for 174 yards on the ground.
With the Jets losing two out of their last three and only one game ahead of the Patriots and the Chargers in the standings, this weekend’s game is critical for their postseason hopes. Especially with road trips to Seattle and Miami left at the end of the season.
“This is a huge game,” Brown said. “Every week, we have a championship mindset.
“Playing meaningful football in December on the road — they’re first in the division, obviously, we got the better end of it the last time we played them. We are expecting to it to be a really tough game and a great atmosphere.
“So the mishaps that we had on Sunday, we gotta correct that in order to go in there and be successful.”