Less than two weeks ago, Mike White’s mere presence on an NFL roster seemed a miracle. He muddled through a 6-7 senior season with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, had a poor performance at the 2018 Combine, and wound up a fifth-round draft pick from the Dallas Cowboys, where he was then cut from the practice squad. He then signed on as a backup by the ever-suffering Jets franchise (and was then cut, and then re-signed, and then cut again, and then re-signed again, and so on and so forth), so it’s fair to say Mike White did not seem destined to be an NFL star. Or even see playing time, really.
This week, his jersey is on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after his first start for Gang Green, replacing an injured Zach Wilson, setting the record for the most completions by a quarterback in his first start, and becoming the only quarterback besides Cam Newton to throw for over 400 yards in an NFL debut. He led the Jets to a huge upset against Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, throwing for three touchdowns (with two interceptions), and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week. He even earned one lucky bettor $125K with his performance.
In his second-ever start, he left in the first quarter with an injury to his throwing arm after tossing a touchdown pass.
This is all just such perfectly classic Jetsian Jetsing. As they spent millions and traded draft picks in attempts to revive their offense with high-profile rookies like Wilson and Sam Darnold, White has been sitting on the bench (and the practice squad) with that All-Pro arm just ready to use. That All-Pro arm which, during yesterday’s loss against the Indianapolis Colts, lost feeling and the ability to grip the ball after that touchdown pass. The game was tied when White came out, but the Jets dropped it, 45-30, with third-string QB Josh Johnson under center.
Now for the exciting part — is a QB controversy coming our way? White is expected to be back and ready to play next weekend against the Bills — but so is starter Zach Wilson, who has won the same amount of games as White (one) during his first season with New York. He’s been out with a knee sprain, but his potential return could be the bitter end of White’s Cinderella story. A newfound confidence in White might give Wilson more time to fully recover, but even when he does, Jets fans seem to have placed their loyalty and faith in none other than Mike White. He’s also become a fan favorite with NFL Twitter, who have taken a liking to his story — because, come on, who doesn’t love an underdog?
And the recent signing of veteran and former Jet Joe Flacco, who joined the roster after Wilson’s injury but hasn’t yet seen playing time, adds another complication to the quarterback question. There’s an interesting stat that factors into the equation here, too — Wilson has thrown four touchdown passes in six games, and White has thrown five in less than three games. Head coach Robert Saleh has refused to tip his hand in either direction as of now, saying “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
While it’s never just that easy, the facts are right in front of us. Josh Allen and the Bills will be a tough opponent next Sunday. Against all odds, Mike White might be the answer. We’ll just have to see if his clock already struck midnight.