No. 5 -- Mike White -- is now the Jets' No. 1 quarterback after head coach Robert Saleh said on Wednesday that Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, needed time to "reset" and come back stronger.
"I'm excited," White said after practice. "What every player in the locker room wants is a chance to compete, a chance to be a good teammate and worry about the team first. As I've said countless times, you have to prepare like you're the starter because if you're not prepared things can go bad quickly."
He said that he heard the news about the change from Saleh late on Tuesday.
"Any time you step in the huddle as a quarterback and have grown men looking at you, it means something to me," White said. "It's about making it about these guys in the locker room. I'm focused on the Bears and giving us a fighting chance to win ball games.
"The moment you're not ready is the moment when it passes you by and you're out. You go through mental battles and have to pick yourself up and focus. You have to stay ready, and if you let the moment pass by, you're going to look back and be disappointed."
As was his view last season, Saleh said that he's got the utmost confidence in White.
"Mike White, for all the same reasons I've talked about, he's won games with us, he does a great job in practice, he's done great jobs in games for us, he's extremely competent as a quarterback and he's got the ability to make all the throws on the football field and run the offense in a manner that we need to," Saleh said. "I said it three weeks ago or whatever it was that he's going to be next to get an opportunity and that opportunity is now."
Several weeks ago, Saleh elevated White to the backup role in front of Joe Flacco (who started the first three games this season), saying that White, 27, "knows he's the next man up."
The decision to change quarterbacks (Wilson will be inactive for Sunday's game against Chicago at MetLife Stadium) came after last Sunday's performance on offense that Saleh called unacceptable for the Jets (6-4) or any NFL team: a season-low 103 total yards against the Patriots' No. 4 ranked defense with Wilson going 9 of 22 for 77 yards and failing to energize the team in a 10-3 loss.
White threw for 953 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions last season and will have to contend with a Chicago (3-7) defense that's allowed 34 touchdowns, the third-most in the league. In all, White, who was drafted in the fifth round by Dallas in 2018 out of Western Kentucky, started three games for the Jets last season and made four appearances (against the Patriots, the Bengals, the Colts and the Bills), completing 66.7% of his passes with 5 TDs and 8 INTs.
"All our quarterbacks are capable," OC Mike LaFleur said. "Mike in his brief action a year ago did obviously some pretty good stuff. It wasn't always perfect obviously, but the Cincinnati game went about as well as it could obviously for basically any quarterback."
In that game, White's first career start (while Wilson was injured), he led the Jets to a 34-31 victory against the Bengals as he completed 37-of-45 attempts for 405 yards with 3 TDs and 2 INTs. White earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors and became the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in his first NFL start (Cam Newton, 2011).
LaFleur added: "He went and played a great game. I want him to take that same approach. Whatever approach any of these guys have, take that same approach, I don't care if it's the middle of December and we're fighting for the playoffs or it's the first game of the year, or it's Week 7 of 2021, they have to take that same approach."
Wide receiver Corey Davis, who is expected back on Sunday after missing three games with a knee injury, said he's confident in White's ability to perform and to lead.
"He's confident, poised, he's pretty accurate with the ball," Davis said of White. "He's been here for a while, so he knows how to run an operation and run it smoothly. I'm excited to have him out there and see what he can do."
Braxton Berrios, another wide receiver, said of White: "He's a baller. We got to see a flash of it last year. We have all the confidence in the world that he will come to play and play his game, which he can play at a high level."
See the top photos from Wednesday's practice leading up to the Bears game.
For all the questions and concerns about benching a young QB like Wilson, who is still developing, Saleh said he believes that White can produce for the Jets.
"It's the same things we talked about when we elevated him to the second spot," Saleh said. "We know he's fully capable, he's started in this league, he's won games for us, and we want to give him an opportunity. For Mike, obviously it's a great opportunity for him and I know he'll attack it.
"We're afforded the opportunity at quarterback because of the faith we have in Mike and Joe, and it allows Zach to take a step back, reset, get your mind right, and we'll get you back in the lineup and we'll get ready to roll."
White summed up his view to conclude his time on the podium.
"Football is the ultimate team sport and whenever the offense struggles, whenever you feel you need to solve the world's problem, that's when you can get into a world of trouble." White said. "If you start to play hero ball, that's where things can go wrong. I'm just going to go out there and execute the game plan and fight like hell for my guys."