Mike White excited to start for Jets, but won't play 'hero ball'

New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) looks to make a pass
New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) looks to make a pass / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Jets head coach Robert Saleh called Mike White with the news on Tuesday that he would be the team’s starting quarterback and Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick a season ago, was benched.

White said Wednesday his initial reaction was that of excitement.

“That’s what every player in this locker room wants is just a chance to compete and prove themselves,” White said. “But more importantly, it's just a chance to be a good teammate and help the team and worry about the team first.”

For White, his mindset entering the Week 12 matchup doesn’t change because “when you’re the backup you have to prepare like you're the starter.”

“Because the moment you don’t,” he said, “is the moment you get thrusted in there and things can’t go your way if you’re not prepared. So, truthfully, keeping the same process, focusing on the Bears, and helping this offense move the ball, score points, and win games.”

This is the second time in two years this switch has been made, after Wilson missed time a season ago due to injury. In four games last season, White went 88-of-132 attempts (66.7 percent) for 953 yards passing (7.22 per attempt) with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.

But it was his final start of 2021 – a four-interception performance against the Buffalo Bills – that may have provided him with the biggest learning opportunity.

“If you don’t learn from it, that’s where it can hinder you,” he said. “I promise I have learned from it, and took the good and the bad and worked on the bad and built on the good. And moved forward.”

White added that the experience of getting game-time will help him perform and also means his teammates have some amount of trust in his abilities.

“Stepping into the huddle, the guys in the huddle know that I have that experience and can respect that,” he said. 

Wide receiver Corey Davis highlighted the new starter's poise and accuracy when asked about White.

“He’s confident, poised. He’s pretty accurate with the ball,” Davis said. “You know he’s a vet he’s been [at] it for a while so he knows how to run an operation and run it pretty smooth and get guys where they need to be.

“So I'm excited. I’m excited to see what he’s gonna do with it, I’m excited to have him out there.”

While the quarterback is the focus of his teammates in the huddle, the responsibility to be an effective leader of men on offense is not one White sees as a me-first act.

"Any time you step into the huddle as a quarterback and you have grown men looking at you, it means something to me," he said. "Whether we're 0-16 or if we're fighting for a playoff spot, me personally, it means something to me. And making it about the guys in this locker room, and that’s really all I’m focused on.

“I’m focused on the Bears and focused on performing well enough for these guys in this locker room and help give us all a fighting chance to win ball games.”

For White, that means avoiding the temptation to believe he can “solve the world’s problems” and jump-start the fledging Jets offense all on his own because “that’s when you can get into a world of trouble.”

“Football’s the ultimate team sport,” he said. “So if you start to play hero ball, I think, that’s when things can go wrong … I’m just gonna go out there and execute the game plan as coached and as talked about throughout the week.

“And do it to the best of my ability and fight like hell for my guys out there.”