On Mike White’s superb ’22 Jets debut: After Zach Wilson does everything wrong, White does everything right

After everything went wrong at the quarterback spot, Jets head coach Robert Saleh had his George Costanza moment. The team had to “do the opposite” of the most important position in the game. So Saleh named Mike White his starter for Week 12, and the do-it-back decision worked, just like it did with George at Seinfeld’s Monk’s Cafe that fateful day in the 1990s.

Zach Wilson couldn’t do anything right last week. Against the Bears, Mike White could do no wrong.

There’s something about White in that debut start — remember, he went over 400 against the Bengals last season. In his first start of 2022, he went 22 of 28 for 315 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions as New York cruised to a 31-10 victory in the rain over Chicago.

And White’s 11.3 yards per attempt average puts him in the thin air of Jets history. It was the sixth contest in team history since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that the club’s starting quarterback reached 11 rushing yards in a single game and the first such performance since Ken O’Brien in November 1986.

Now, White didn’t tear up the 1986 version of the Bears’ defense — that iteration came in 30th in Week 12 in Football Outsiders’ Defense DVOA. But with how even the league is today — talent margins between teams are as thin as ever — an 11.3 YPA effort vs. any kind the defense is pretty damn impressive, especially from someone who was previously installed as a backup.

White’s presence catalyzed Elijah Moore for the first time all season. The second-year wideout, who had a promising rookie campaign consisting of 43 receptions, 538 yards and five scores on less than 44 percent shooting, scored his first touchdown of 2022 on a pass to White and his 64-yard against the Bears was his highest total of the season to date.

See how White decided to rip this throw to Moore against tight coverage underneath with a safety over the top. The former second-round pick did the rest.

Moore’s big game was a breath of fresh air for the Jets, but the club’s first-round pick since April had his most productive day against the Bears. Garrett Wilson had five catches for 95 yards with two touchdowns in the win.

Here is one of them. You’ll be in awe of Wilson’s brilliance after the catch, but don’t overlook the frozen rope White got up and over the defender before Wilson’s athleticism took over.

I looked at the film and those two lasers were White’s two most impressive throws of the contest. Overall, he ran the game amazingly, finding open receivers quickly, sliding into the pocket a bit to buy time when needed, and running the ball in rhythm and, in most cases, right to his targets.

And all these things were not happening with Wilson in the shotgun. Well-run play from their starting quarterback has been all the Jets have wanted lately, and White has done that dramatically better than the former No. 2 overall pick he traded for.

It was the modern version of Costanza, who deviated from his normal tuna on toast before approaching a woman at the bar and being honest about his work and life situations that played out during an NFL game at MetLife Stadium .

Fans of Gang Green, Fireman Ed, Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy character, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jerry Seinfeld — all of them — should be delighted today. I’m not here to rain on the parade. Rejoice.

But the parallels to White’s cameo last year reach beyond the former Western Kentucky star, who has yet another huge performance. His starting debut against Cincinnati came against a secondary that ended up finishing 24th in pass defense DVOA. Two weeks later, he faced a Bills defense that finished first in that stat and completed under 55 percent of his throws with no touchdowns and four interceptions. Mike White’s obsession has come to an abrupt end.

This year, two weeks after his first start of the season, he will travel to Orchard Park to face a Buffalo pass defense that is currently ranked seventh.

Before that, the Jets head to Minnesota in Week 13. That will be a tougher test for White and Co. No doubt. But the 9-2 Vikings are unique. Unique in that they’re only +5 in point differential and currently allow the most passing yards per game — and per pass — in football.

We’ll get a better indicator of White’s durability on the road in Minnesota and certainly next week against the Bills.

But for now, the Jets and White have every reason to enjoy the quarterback’s glorious 2022 prime.

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