It’s Mike White’s ball again.
Just in time to save the Jets season.
Perhaps White is the perfect elixir for the plummeting Jets, losing their last four games and five of the last six.
Perhaps White can serve as the torch to ignite the Jets’ flickering playoff dreams with two regular-season games remaining and get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The 27-year-old journeyman quarterback, who has become a powerful force in the Jets locker room for his unbroken history and tenacity, was cleared by team doctors on Monday to play through his fractured ribs, the injury suffered three weeks ago when Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano nearly broke it in half.
White will not only start Sunday in Seattle, but he’ll be the Jets’ “barring injury” starter for as long as they play this season, according to head coach Robert Saleh.
Teammates embrace White’s journey. He was already one of the most popular guys in the locker room, but the tenacity he showed in that Buffalo game – returning to the field twice after hard knocks and ending the game with broken ribs – was galvanizing. .
His teammates spoke of White with rare reverence after that game – a game after which he was taken to hospital before joining them for the team’s flight home.
It’s a fact that White’s production was simply better than Zach Wilson’s, albeit in a shorter work. White, too, is the antithesis of Wilson, who was drafted second overall last year and never had to compete for his starting job.
Without some level of perseverance, White could be on his plan B career now off the football pitch. But he stuck it out, found a way out of the obscurity of being an afterthought third string in Dallas and a practice arm with the Jets to become a starter.
“He was with Dallas when I was D coordinator in San Francisco and we played them twice,” Saleh said Monday. “I don’t remember him at Dallas at all. He comes here, he gets cut three or four times. The road to being a good NFL player is not easy.
White navigated the bumps and survived. He overcame the disappointment of not playing a down for the first two years of his NFL career.
“When you have somebody who hasn’t been handed everything, when you have somebody who’s been through the grind, who’s been cut, who’s been on another team, who’s been cut by that team and that you have someone who came in the hard way, that’s the majority of this league,” Saleh said. “That’s what people gravitate towards – people who had to struggle.
“This country has been about struggling and trying to find your way. The majority of people scratch and claw in life, but that’s also the league. Players scratch and work their way up to the positions they are currently in.
White is the definition.
You can feel how much White’s teammates appreciate his run. You can see an extra bounce in their step as he plays. It’s different from when Wilson is in the game. It’s palpable.
And that’s something the Jets desperately need, starting Sunday in Seattle, or their season is over.
But it’s critical that White’s teammates understand that he won’t be riding Lumen Field on a horse wearing a white suit as some sort of mythical savior.
The Jets are mired in a terrible offensive crisis, having scored four touchdowns in the past four games. And he’s played in two of those games — the 27-22 loss at Minnesota and the 20-12 loss at Buffalo.
White is 1-2 as a starter this season and 1-2 last season. He threw eight TDs to 10 INTs in his career. Tom Brady, it’s not. Still, the Jets offense moved the ball better with White than Wilson. The Jets averaged 400 yards per game in his three starts in Weeks 12-14, fourth in the league.
“I think he’s done a great job of moving the attack around, keeping practices going, getting first downs – much more effective,” Saleh said. “The attack worked with good efficiency. So, it’s a big opportunity for him and it’s a big opportunity for everyone.
The Jets had a great opportunity this weekend – a real Christmas present – when the Patriots and Dolphins lost, leaving them to win their last two games (in Seattle and Miami) and the Patriots losing one of their last two (against Miami and Buffalo) to reach the playoffs.
The Jets got a new life, and so did White. Let’s see where he takes it.
If he leads the Jets to those two wins and the playoffs, someone could erect a statue of White outside MetLife Stadium.