Mike White's bubble bursts, time for Jets to refocus on Zach Wilson

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For two weeks, quarterback Mike White took the New York Jets and their success-starved fan base on a joy ride, thrilling them with the allure of wild possibilities. The whole thing crashed Sunday with 11:47 remaining in the third quarter, when he tried to throw a 21-point touchdown pass -- a reckless deep ball that was intercepted by the Buffalo Bills.

White didn't just turn into a pumpkin in the 45-17 loss at MetLife Stadium; he turned into Zach Wilson, which is to say he stepped out of character and made bad decisions with the ball.

He threw four interceptions in a bubble-bursting performance, none worse than his first-down heave with the Jets trailing 24-3 in the third quarter. That's the one that haunted White after the game, and probably the moment when coach Robert Saleh realized the Mike White era was over.

It's time to put Wilson back in the lineup. It's time to get back to the business of developing the No. 2 overall pick, which was -- is -- the No. 1 priority for 2021. If the former BYU star can show everyone he learned a thing or two by watching from the sideline, the Jets (2-7) can salvage something positive out of this miserable season.

White could've earned another start with a respectable game, but now it seems like the only way he plays next Sunday against the Miami Dolphins is if Wilson's sprained right knee isn't deemed ready by the medical staff. Predictably, Saleh was noncommittal after the game, suggesting his decision will be based on Wilson's health.

"He's still dealing with stuff," Saleh said. "I know we worked him out pretty hard [Sunday] morning, so we’ll see how that went. He’s getting better every day, so we’ll see where he is at from an injury standpoint again before we make any decisions."

Wilson, three weeks removed from a second-degree PCL sprain, ran sprints and threw a lot of passes during the pregame warm-ups, working up a sweat. They called it a two- to four-week injury, so he should be close. He practiced last week, leading the scout team -- his week to chip off the rust.

Now his old spot awaits, as long as his knee passes muster.

"I’ll support him just like the first couple weeks of the season," said White, commenting on how he'd feel if he's sent back to his understudy role. "I want to see him do well. He’s a good kid and he works his butt off. He’s been working his butt off in his rehab and staying engaged and coming to meetings and staying engaged on the field when he wasn’t able to practice. Whatever my job is, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability, 100 percent."

It was a tough day for White because he got away from doing what made him successful in his previous two starts -- staying patient, reading his progressions and throwing to the open man. Nothing fancy, just efficient. But this was a step up in weight class, and he was overmatched by the Bills, who sent him to the bench late in the game. White, squashed by pass-rushers, got the wind knocked out him.

The Bills made him indecisive with their safety rotations and disguised coverages. They sat on the underneath routes, making it hard to dink and dunk the way he did so beautifully in that 405-yard passing performance against the Cincinnati Bengals. They took White (24-of-44, 251 yards) out of his comfort zone, and he got rattled, throwing three interceptions in the third quarter.

"Any quarterback in a system, it’s on you to be the decision-maker and be the cool, calm, collected guy, and I just think I got a little too aggressive on a couple of plays," said White, calling Interception No. 2 (the deep ball to wide receiver Elijah Moore) the one that irked him the most.

White acknowledged that his underneath routes were snuffed out by the Bills, but he added, "We’ve got to be able to make adjustments. You’ve got to, in game, be able to see what they’re doing and know that and be able to identify it and attack it." That sounded like he was pointing a finger at the coaches, but he showed accountability, admitting he pressed and made bad decisions when the Jets fell behind.

No, the crowd wasn't chanting his name, as it did in the previous home game. Now he waits to see if Saleh calls his name to start against Miami. The coach said the quarterback situation would resolve itself "organically." And you don't have to be an organic-chemistry major to know the right answer is Wilson, knee willing.