Whatever the future holds, QB Mike White has forever earned a place in Jets lore for his superlative performance in his NFL debut as a starter in the Green & White's thrilling, 34-31, victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
After starting the game as a virtual unknown, a young backup in the NFL, Jets fans serenaded him with chants of "Mike White, Mike White, Mike White." And on Monday he practically owned the town -- news of his performance dominated the old school media, new media, TV and talk radio -- after he completed 37-of-45 passes for 405 yards and 3 touchdown passes ... even catching a pass on a 2-point conversion that gave the Jets their final margin of victory.
As uplifting the result and as surreal as the experience was for the Florida native, his star has yet to rise to the point of adulation everywhere he goes in the area. He told reporters on the day after the game that he and his wife Mallory went out to dinner afterward. He might have been recognized, someone might have bought them drinks, even picked up the tab. But no.
Asked if he's reached the point of not having to pay for his meals out, White laughed and said: "No, I paid for dinner. I definitely paid for dinner, sadly."
There was nothing sad about Sunday on the field, nothing sad in the stands and certainly nothing sad in the locker room. Even injured rookie QB Zach Wilson was positively over the moon, White said, during and after the game.
"Zach was awesome," White said. "He was the first one to greet me walking off the field. He gave me a big hug. He was more juiced up than me. He was texting my phone during the game knowing I wasn't able to answer and then sent me a big long congratulations text. His girlfriend even texted my wife. That's just who Zach is. He's super genuine, loves football and loves being around the team, and it just shows, on or off the field."
In the process of leading the Jets (2-5) to the win, White set an NFL record for the most completions in a player's first start. He matched Cam Newton (2011) as the only players since at least 1950 to throw for 400 or more yards in their first career start. He also entered the club's record book as the Jets' first 400-yard passer since Vinny Testaverde had 481 on Christmas Eve 2000, a span of 327 games. And he even left for a few plays with a neck injury after being hit by Cam Sample as his head crashed into left tackle Chuma Edoga. The hit resulted in a roughing-the-passer penalty and White was replaced by veteran Josh Johnson, who threw his first pass in an NFL game since 2018.
In an odd coincidence, White said that his collegiate debut at South Florida was also played on Halloween, on a Thursday night in 2013. And now he gets to prepare for his second start ... on nationally televised "Thursday Night Football" at Indianapolis.
"This will be a little different Thursday night in the NFL," he said.
After taking over when Wilson was injured against the Patriots, White said he had little time to consider the gravity of his situation. "When you get thrown in there, you don't have time to think," he said.
But then knowing that Wilson is likely to miss 2-to-4 weeks with a PCL injury to his right knee, White said that his preparation for the Bengals game did not deviate from the way he's conducted himself this season, and throughout his time with the Jets.
"I kept my schedule the same," he said. "I didn't stay crazy late hours or overcompensate. I did exactly the same schedule as I would have if Zach had been playing, the only difference is that I got more reps at practice. It felt normal, nothing out of ordinary. I didn't stay up watching film and put too much into my brain and get stressed out."
See the Top Images from the Field and Locker Room Following the Thrilling 34-31 Win at MetLife Stadium
After taking the Jets on a scoring drive to open the game -- capped by Michael Carter's 8-yard TD scamper -- the first time the team had scored a point in the first quarter all season, White said that the drive to close out the first half was, in his mind, pivotal. Cincinnati had taken a 17-7 lead with less than two minutes to play in the half. The Jets embarked on an 8-play, 67-yard highlight-reel drive. With 28 seconds left and a first down at the Bengals' 10-yard line, White found Keelan Cole in the end zone. Cole made an acrobatic catch as he fell out of bounds. An official signaled a score, but video review nullified the catch.
"Keelan made an unbelievable catch, and then it's overturned and we have to go back out there," White said. "But we were locked in. We had to flip the script and score again. It was a big turning point."
One play later, and after each team used a timeout, White found Braxton Berrios in the same left flat with an 8-yard TD pass that brought the Jets within 3 points, 17-14, at halftime.
"That throw to Berrios was my favorite," White said. "We were in the two-minute drill before the half knowing they would get the ball to start the second half. It was a big TD for us to get within 3 points and it kept us in the game."
Now, as he plows through the more than 300 text messages that jammed his phone, White and his teammates know there is little time to get prepared to face the Colts on Thursday.
"We're going to go out with the same exact mindset -- it sounds corny but it's the truth -- as we had after the Patriots game. We have to close the book, especially in this short week. There's a lot of work to be done in a little amount of time. It helps after a win, the guys are in a great mood and the energy is better.
"But there's still work to be done."