Randy Mueller, the 2000 NFL Executive of the Year, brings over 30 years of experience in the football business, including stints as the general manager of Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. With Heavy, Mueller breaks down the NFL from a front office perspective. You can follow Randy on Twitter @RandyMueller_
What’s the Big To-Do About Jets QB Mike White?
Since being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round in the 2018 NFL draft out of Western Kentucky (transferred from South Florida), Mike White’s talents have been very intriguing. It started when he played in the Senior Bowl, the preeminent college all-star game for NFL evaluators, following his senior year. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, the talent and optics have always been there. This is his fifth year and second team during his NFL career.
White was tabbed by the New York Jets decision-makers in Week 12 to replace the struggling Zach Wilson. Here is what I saw after a dive into some tape of that game.
White’s 8 career touchdowns and 8 interceptions are not really impressive, but his 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions versus the Bears were very impressive. Let’s go beyond the numbers though.
The Jets offense ran 60 plays (plus 3 kneel-downs at the end of the game) which means you have no margin for error and very little time or space to make adjustments. White gave the Jets precisely what they needed in decision-making, patience and accuracy. He played with confidence, made basic reads, and processed information within each play at a high level. All things that Wilson had struggled with doing, even when putting up acceptable numbers.
He seemed comfortable in the pocket, identified targets in a timely manner and got the ball out of his hands in a timely fashion. He flashed arm strength to make the short to intermediate throws (wasn’t asked to throw deep) and was also effective on boots and short rolls outside the pocket.
I have been critical of the Jets’ offensive schemes, design and execution which has been reflective of more than just poor QB play in the past. And, I realize this is a one-game sample size versus a Bears team who started their own backup QB. But if the Jets’ offensive brain trust can produce more of the same, when it comes to game plans, it will make for an interesting next month for Jets fans.
In White, we have seen flashes of this in the past only to see regression over a larger sample size. But if he can put together several weeks of this level of play (don’t just look at numbers), the Jets will not only make the playoffs, they will have some interesting conversations behind closed doors at season’s end.
White is slated to be a free agent in 2023, and my guess is from what I saw on tape, there will be a market for his talents elsewhere.
The Cincinnati Bengals Are Up to the Task Defensively
I get it, offense sells. But in the case of the Cincinnati Bengals, beating the Tennessee Titans in Nashville in back-to-back years has to be a team effort and the results they got from their defense showed me: This defense isn’t getting nearly the respect it deserves.
Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo was literally unknown to most outside Cincy until the 2022 Super Bowl run. When you have Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase and have the fifth-highest-scoring offense in the league (through 12 weeks), it’s easy to get overshadowed. If you look at the numbers it’s a middle-of-the-road defense but if you look at scheme execution and design combined with making in-game adjustments, it’s one of the best in the league.
On defense, Cincinnati varies its looks with multiple fronts and numbers in the box, and they are physical at the point of attack. They are really good tacklers who limit yards after the catch and after contact, but more importantly, they play smart, in that they minimize risk by not busting assignments and being very sound.
Anarumo may not be as complicated or innovative as some, but good defense can play the odds and pressure with just enough blitz packages to allow your people to play fast and be very effective.
Right now, their back end is playing as well as any in football. They are reading and reacting, diagnosing and covering at a Super Bowl level. I think execution and football IQ travels to any playoff venue, so when considering a decision on whether the Bengals are good enough again this year, think it through.
I had my doubts, and I realize the Titans offense won’t ever be confused with the 1999 Rams, but I’m finding that this Bengals defense — when you consider scheme design, philosophy and player execution of the game plan — plays to win the game as good as any in football.
Oh, and it helps when your offense runs the last 6 and a half minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter and you don’t even have to take the field again.
The Packers Have a Dilemma
As much as Green Bay Packers fans would like to use the rib injury of QB Aaron Rodgers to increase the body of work for backup, former first-round pick Jordan Love, I just don’t see it happening. Now I grant you, Rodgers is different, but professional football players do not “shut it down” so that a front office can get a more in-depth look at the guy, they hope, will eventually replace YOU.
I just don’t see any scenario where Rodgers is not part of the Packers in 2023. Sure, the Packers benefit from every snap they can get for Love between now and whenever, but I just don’t see Rodgers pulling over and allowing someone else to take the wheel. Plus, I think Rodgers is their best option to win a Super Bowl next season.
Forget the fact that the Packers used a first-round pick on Love and need to see what he is. First-round picks get flushed more often than fans will admit. Heck, I think they have already gotten first-round value from him. He got the best out of Rodgers who had mailed it in for a year or two, prior to his arrival.
We all need to know we can be replaced and I think Rodgers got the message and upped his game. Just because this year has been bad (and he’s been hurt) and he may not have the leadership style that we all like, he is still a really good passer of the football. Build a better and deeper team around him and see what 2023 brings.