Sports

Zach Wilson remains Jets’ future even if Mike White plays

We’re about to embark on a sensitive stage of the Jets’ 2021 quarterbacking situation.

As the Jets players and coaches reconvene Monday at their Florham Park, N.J., facility after a three-day weekend following their 45-30 Thursday night loss to the Colts, a telling quarterback decision looms for head coach Robert Saleh.

The first thing that must be determined is whether rookie No. 1 draft pick Zach Wilson is healthy enough to play after missing the past two games with a posterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee.

The second thing that must be determined is whether Wilson’s backup, Mike White, is healthy enough to play after being knocked out of the Colts game with a right forearm injury suffered in the first quarter.

Listening to Saleh on Friday, the last time he spoke to reporters, it sounded as if both quarterbacks were trending toward being ready to practice and play.

That, of course, would be the best news for all involved. It, too, would require a decision on the part of Saleh about which quarterback will start against the Bills next Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

The best decision is for Saleh to allow White to continue starting as long as he’s performing the way he has for the past five quarters in which he’s played.

Yes, the Jets were blown out by the Colts Thursday night, but when White was forced out of the game with the forearm injury, he had just tied the game at 7-7 with a beautiful touchdown pass to rookie Elijah Moore.

White’s statistics in the past five quarters of play, which include the stunning upset of the Bengals and the first quarter in Indianapolis, are 44 of 56 (78.6 percent), for 500 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Jets
Zach Wilson and Mike White
AP, Getty Images

After White went 37 of 45 for 405 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in the home win over Cincinnati, he was 7 of 11 for 95 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter against the Colts.

So White, after being named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week for his Halloween performance against the Bengals, didn’t turn into a pumpkin with his abbreviated performance against the Colts.

If you’re Saleh, why mess with a good thing?

Ride this White thing out and see where it takes you.

Saleh was predictably noncommittal on Friday when asked questions about the quarterback situation, because, with the next game not for another 10 days, he didn’t need to be specific about anything.

“I’m not saying that there’s a competition, because it’s still a hypothetical,’’ Saleh said. “There’s still two guys that aren’t close to being nearly, fully 100 percent. So, we’ll see how practice goes as we get closer to it.’’

How will Saleh handle this week?

Will he be transparent about the decision from the start?

Or will he drag it out until Friday or even game day like many NFL coaches do with the delusional belief that not declaring which quarterback is going to play is some sort of cunning competitive advantage for them — as if opposing coaches aren’t preparing for both?

Will Wilson and White split first-team reps in practice?

Reading the tea leaves, it would appear that Saleh is leaning toward sticking with White but not revealing that decision until later in the week.

Remember how Saleh has handled this since White’s eye-opening performance against the Bengals, after which he declined to declare that Wilson would return as soon as he was healthy.

If both players are fit to play this week and Saleh chooses White to start, gird yourself for the breathless “quarterback controversy” hysteria engulfing social media and the sports radio airwaves even though the Jets are a long way away from any such thing.

Even if a healthy White starts over a healthy Wilson next Sunday, this doesn’t mean Wilson, the No. 2-overall pick in the draft, is some sort of bust or that he’s about to be phased out of the franchise’s plans. He remains the team’s future hope.

It simply would mean Saleh and his staff believe there’s no reason to rush Wilson back when White has performed so well, and that watching for a little while will be as valuable to his development as playing right now.

Any thought that Wilson not being given his starting job back right away would be a referendum on his future with the team is preposterous — especially when a good argument can be made that the 22-year-old shouldn’t have been the immediate starter in the first place, that he would have been better off watching and learning first.

A fascinating week, indeed, looms for the Jets and their quarterbacking situation.

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