What is the advantage of Mike White?
“Who knows?” Jeff Ulbrich said.
Ulbrich, the Jets ’defensive coordinator, has nearly two decades of NFL experience as a coach and player behind him, yet he doesn’t have a good handle on what can become his team’s new starting quarterback. Head coach Robert Saleh also doesn’t know, a truth he explained when he said, hypothetically, “I could be the next Vince Lombardi.”
Saleh is right. Although he will ultimately win five championships, as Lombardi did with Green Bay, Saleh should calm down knowing that the average Jets fan doesn’t need him to win enough rings for him or her to have one for the thumb.
That fan just wants Saleh to be the next Weeb Ewbank. One magical Super Bowl Sunday will be enough, thank you.
Now Saleh just has to figure out who gives him the best chance to move the Jets closer to their first title since January 1969. The smart money still says that Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall draft pick this year , will evolve to better. player than White, the 171st overall pick (from Dallas) in the 2018 draft. But over the years, the smart money has sometimes ended up looking pretty silly in the NFL.
Throughout sports history, there have been stories of a long-shot athlete getting an unexpected break, seizing the opportunity and leaving a lasting mark on his teams and leagues. That doesn’t mean Mike White will join that group. In fact, there is probably a better chance he will never win a playoff game than he will win a Super Bowl.
But the Jets need to give White a full chance to state whether he’s a temporary sensation or the next Kurt Warner, the grocery clerk has become a Super Bowl MVP. They shouldn’t automatically bench White if he doesn’t beat Buffalo’s best defense on Sunday at MetLife.
Under impossible circumstances, White was impressive in relief at New England. He was the NFL’s best player the following week against Cincinnati in his first career start, inspiring the home crowd to chant his name. And then he looked ready to leave against the Colts before he hit his throwing arm, which froze the show.
White’s arm feels better now than Wilson’s injured knee, so that’s one reason why West Kentucky’s 26-year-old backup is committing the first string offense this week while BYU’s 22-year-old bonus baby simulates Josh Allen. against the first-string defense.
Another reason? Saleh wisely decided against rain on the fan’s parade (because that admiring base never manages to taste a real parade). White is a kind-hearted story, and the paying customers aren’t the only ones responding to him. On Thursday, the quarterback revealed that his teammates are still chanting his name when he enters the locker room. “It’s a little crazy,” he said of being the city’s unlikely toast.
Only it’s not that crazy. Asked if he believes he can become one of the NFL’s best starting receivers, White replied, “Yes. I certainly believe that.” He qualified it by saying that every quarterback must have extreme self-confidence to thrive, but make no mistake: White thinks he can defeat Wilson on the long road and emerge as the Jets ’starter. He just sees no meaning in saying that with Buffalo representing such a huge short-term obstacle, and with his good friend, Wilson, being as kind and supportive as a teammate and competitor can be.
White is an accomplished golfer, and everyone around him knows that faith is the most dangerous club in his bag. When a reporter wondered why he was “under the radar” perspective coming out of college, White couldn’t explain it. “If you ask me,” he said, “I should be the first general choice.” Again, this from the man competing against a second general election.
Ulbrich, the defensive coordinator, is a big fan of Wilson, and yet his eyes lit up Thursday when asked about White’s ability and potential.
“Mike has that moxiet, that confidence, that swing that is just untrainable,” he said. “He just has it. … It is translated to Sundays.
“He’s one of those guys who just gets smart at everything he does. I don’t think these last two games were a coincidence. … I think he’s a smart player who has some special qualities to him, and it will be exciting to see what he can become the more opportunities he gets. ”
So if White plays a good game against the Bills – win, lose or draw – he should win another start against Miami, no matter how Wilson’s knee feels. The Jets should continue to play White until he plays himself off the field.
And if that means White is their first string receiver for the rest of this year, or the rest of this decade, so be it.