The knee-jerk reaction in the wake of Mike White’s smashing Jets debut was historians recalling how Tom Brady replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe one night in Foxborough and kept the job for two decades.
There were others who harkened back to Kirk Cousins taking over for Robert Griffin III in Washington after RG3’s sensational rookie season was upended by reconstructive surgery on his right knee.
Forget the comparisons. The circumstances are totally different.
Use this as your template: Nick Foles relieved an injured Carson Wentz toward the end of the 2017 season and won the city’s first and only Super Bowl, and was back on the bench when Wentz was back healthy early in 2018. Wentz was the No. 2-overall pick in the 2016 draft. From 2016-20, Doug Pederson was the coach and Howie Roseman was the general manager.
Root for Mike White while you can.
Bledsoe was not drafted by Bill Belichick. He had already played seven seasons when Mo Lewis knocked him out of the game and out of a job in Week 2 of the 2001 season. He had been Bill Parcells’ first Patriots draft choice in 1993, when he was the No. 1-overall pick.
Brady was the 199th pick of the 2000 draft. Belichick, who began his dynastic run that season, drafted him.
RG3 was the No. 2-overall draft choice by Washington, right after Andrew Luck (Colts) in the 2012 draft. Griffin was Offensive Rookie of the Year before coach Mike Shanahan exposed him to risk in the NFC wild-card game against the Seahawks.
RG3 was never the same, no longer the electric dual threat who appeared destined for greatness. Shanahan was fired following the 2013 season, and when Cousins became the quarterback in 2015, Jay Gruden was the head coach.
GM Joe Douglas and coach Robert Saleh were in lockstep when they decided to trade Sam Darnold to the Panthers and draft Zach Wilson with the No. 2-overall pick this past spring. From that day on, through all the ups and downs that Wilson has endured, Douglas and Saleh have made it sound as if they will be attending the kid’s Canton induction.
Those off-platform throws … that obsessive film junkie … that resilience … that temperament.
They liked Mike White enough to keep him as the backup at the expense of a veteran (Joe Flacco, for example). Douglas — and former coach Adam Gase — never gave him the chance to play, with all eyes and hopes on Darnold. White was a human yo-yo, bouncing from the active roster to the practice squad in 2020.
Then he showed up against the Bengals as a quarterback who wasn’t afraid to be boring. White took what the defense gave him. Wilson had been trying to take what he wanted, and too often could not. White was the talk of the town. Good for him. It gave the Jets’ decisionmakers pause about rushing Wilson (knee) back and consider riding the hot hand.
When you draft a quarterback second overall, you do not pull the plug on him after six games. Douglas and Saleh would be laughingstocks if they even considered it. It’s on Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, and now Wilson’s QB guru John Beck, to develop Wilson into the quarterback they project him to be — a quarterback who can run the offense the way that White ran it in his first NFL start and at the same time unleash the greater upside that he has with his rare arm talent.
“I don’t think there’s a blade of grass that, a defense has to defend every single blade of grass when they’re going against Zach and his arm,” Douglas said Tuesday.
White was a revelation against the Bengals. A 405-yard revelation.
“It’s amazing what might show up that you never thought was even possible,” Saleh said.
The Jets are married to Wilson. They were having a fling with White when he trotted onto the Lucas Oil Stadium field on Thursday night.
It’s OK to cheer for Mike White. In fact, it’s virtually impossible not to, for as long as the fairytale lasts.
Just keep in mind that Bledsoe wasn’t Belichick’s quarterback. RG3 wasn’t Gruden’s quarterback. Wilson is Douglas’ quarterback. Wilson is Saleh’s quarterback. Therein lies the unmistakable difference.
Root for Mike White while you can.
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