The New York Jets made a change at quarterback for Week 12, and it paid immediate dividends with an offensive explosion against the Chicago Bears. But the decision to bench Zach Wilson for Mike White was painful, head coach Robert Saleh said.
Saleh told NFL on Fox sideline reporter Pam Oliver that Saleh was “hurt” by the decision to bench Wilson “because he feels like in some way he failed him,” she said during Fox’s broadcast of the November 27 Jets game.
Jets Rally Around Mike White
It seemed the Jets (7-4) had the right temperature on the locker room as teammates rallied around White, a second-year quarterback who made three starts in 2021. White was 22-of-28 passing with 315 yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions en route to a 31-10 win. Behind Wilson, the Jets had lost two of their previous three games, including one game in which he threw three interceptions and another in which he was 9-of-22 with only 77 yards and no touchdowns.
Saleh had seen enough and announced on November 23 that he had decided to bench Wilson in favor of White.
Wilson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft. It was Saleh’s first draft pick as coach of the Jets and the first quarterback pick by general manager Joe Douglas.
As one insider told me privately, “It took some massive balls” to make an abrupt midseason quarterback change in the thick of a playoff race.
Robert Saleh Rubs Fans Wrong Way With Jets QB Plan
During his November 23 press conference, Saleh said that despite benching Wilson, the Jets planned to return him to the lineup at some point this season.
When asked during his November 28 press conference whether White’s thrilling performance against the Bears would alter that plan.
“No. Like I said we’ll go week-to-week,” Saleh told reporters. “There are things we’d love to see Zach accomplish over the course of what we’ll call a reset. This is Mike White’s opportunity, that doesn’t change. Mike has an opportunity to go stack another great day up this week. When we feel like Zach is ready to roll, he’s going to roll.”
That answer at that specific press conference went viral and a lot of fans weren’t happy about it. It seemed fans wanted Saleh to declare White as the starting quarterback moving forward.
However, he didn’t do that and he shouldn’t have either.
Saleh had some embarrassing flubs with the media earlier this year where his foot ended up in his mouth. He has learned from his mistakes of the past and has gotten pretty savvy.
Saleh provided the correct answer to this by keeping Wilson engaged and motivated. You keep White on the edge of his seat to continue to scrap not knowing when the opportunity will end.
Plus you never know what’s going to happen during the season so unnecessarily putting yourself in a box doesn’t make any sense.
What if he said White was his new starter and then he stinks up the joint versus the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills over the next two weeks? Then what do you do?
Or he gives the keys back to Wilson and says he is my quarterback. Then immediately he stinks.
There are so many possibilities and Saleh is handling it the right way by leaving it open-ended. Obviously if White keeps balling we won’t see Wilson again this season. If White struggles it seems inevitable that Wilson will find his way back into the lineup.