EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – On Saturday night, in a final piece of advice to his new starting quarterback, New York Jets coach Robert Saleh said Mike White being himself and not worrying about doing something out of the ordinary when he debuts in the season.
“We didn’t need to become The Greatest Show on Turf,” Saleh told reporters on Sunday.
As it turned out, White delivered a performance worthy of the turn-of-the-century St. Louis Rams, passing for three touchdowns and 315 yards for the Jets. Victory 31-10 above Chicago Bears in steady rain at MetLife Stadium.
Replacement of demoted Zach Wilson, who watched from the sideline as an idle third/quarterback, White completed his first five attempts and never lost his rhythm. He split the raindrops, completing 22 of 28 passes and connecting with 10 different receivers in one of the best passing performances in franchise history.
It was a much-needed spark for the Jets (7-4), who endured a tension-filled week that included a dismal offensive performance in a last-second loss to the New England Patriots and the eventual benching of Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021. As the soggy day ended, the crowd chanted “Mike White! Mike White!”
“It’s always cool,” White said upon hearing his name in the stadium. “I’m not going to sit here and give you some quarterback cliché that I’m not focused on, which there are times I’m not.”
With a smile, he added: “I think it would be a lot cooler if they didn’t do it when we were trying to break the ball up, but I’m not going to complain too much.”
White is the first quarterback in NFL history to have multiple games with at least a 75% completion rate, 300 passing yards and three touchdowns in his first four career starts. He did it last season in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals in his first career start.
Only one other quarterback in Jets history has reached those thresholds in more than one game — Ken O’Brien, who did it four times during his Jets career (1983-1992).
White already has two 300-yard passing days; Wilson has just one in 20 starts. Clearly, the offense works best with White, who delivers the ball quickly and accurately.
“He made it look easy,” Saleh said, calling White a “master of the obvious.”
When he made the quarterback change on Wednesday, Saleh said he intended to bring Wilson back to the field this season. That will be hard to do as long as the Jets remain in the thick of the playoff race.
“Electric”, linebacker CJ Mosley said of White’s performance.
“Helluva game, man”, tackle Duan Brown said. “He commanded the offense very well. Made timely decisions, made big plays at critical moments. Great balance. Great day for him.”
The whites managed passes to 10 of the 11 talented players who were active for the game, which was good for the morale of the team. wide receiver Elijah Moorea nonfactor with Wilson at quarterback, had his most productive game with two catches for 64 yards and his first touchdown.
Moore, so unhappy at the start of the year that he demanded a trade, was exuberant after the game.
“I’m just grateful to be able to stand up here today and be the person I know I am and contribute to a winning game,” Moore said.
Having fun, Moore said he talked to a football before the game, saying: “I missed (the ball). I was talking to the ball and I was like, ‘You already know what I’m feel for you. I kissed her, and I told her that it will be soon, it will happen soon. She told me she loved me and wanted to come back.
Companion Receiver Garrett Wilson caught five passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns, including 54 yards. He was candid after last week’s loss as he harshly criticized the offence.
“There are some things I probably shouldn’t have said, and I wish I could have come back, but I’m emotional and we didn’t play up to our expectations,” he said. “When that happens, I hold myself accountable. I just wanted to see a change and that’s what came out of me.”
Last week’s poor offensive performance, coupled with Wilson’s refusal to accept responsibility after throwing for a career-low 77 yards, caused some grumbling among defensive players. This increased the pressure on White, but he responded quickly and decisively.
The Jets went nine plays, 75 yards to start the game, ending with their first season-opening touchdown. It was a stress reliever.
“I think it was good not only for the offense, but also for the team,” White said. “It was a good way to react to the week we had, and it gave everyone confidence.”
Garrett Wilson added: “It felt like we had something on our chest and we relieved our defense.”
Soon the stadium was chanting White’s name. tight end Tyler Conklin joked that White is “the king of New York”. He added, “It’s a dream come true, being in the NFL and hearing them chant your name.”