Jets’ Offensive Explosion Under Mike White Raises Baffling Question

Mike White

Getty New York Jets quarterback Mike White celebrates a two point conversion on October 31, 2021.

For those that chose to spend Halloween trick-or-treating, you missed one heck of a football game.

Mike White and the New York Jets offense rolled to a 34-31 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium and the backup quarterback threw for 405 passing yards in his first career start.

So, is White the second coming of Tom Brady after all? — Like some fans joked this week. Anything is possible, but a more obvious explanation for the offensive explosion was on full display on Sunday afternoon and it all stems from OC Mike LaFleur.

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THAT’S the Playbook We’ve Been Waiting For

When LaFleur was hired, we all hoped we’d get an offense that resembled his brother’s in Green Bay or Kyle Shanahan’s in Atlanta but instead we got something worse than Adam Gase. Now, the obvious take you can have from Week 8 is that White ran the system better than Zach Wilson.

Sometimes the obvious statement isn’t always accurate though. In this case, I think there’s much more to it than that.

LaFleur called a totally different offense with White under center. He also spent the entire game in the booth, rather than down on the sidelines where he’d spent the first six outings. Both of these adjustments should become permanent changes.

SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano tweeted that “Zach Wilson wanted him” on the sidelines but from my recollection, it was head coach Robert Saleh that made the suggestion according to LaFleur himself, during a press conference this preseason. It doesn’t matter who made the decision, all that matters is that we reverse it — pronto!

The more important point here is the actual play design we witnessed in Week 8. If you told me that New England Patriots OC Josh McDaniels body-swapped with LaFleur in a sort of Freaky Friday Halloween phenomenon, I’d actually be less confused than I was witnessing White carve up the Bengals behind a flawlessly crafted scheme.

That was not the same system we saw with Wilson under center which raises the somewhat baffling question — why can’t we combine the first-rounder’s talent with the more helpful playbook?

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Let’s Hope LaFleur Learned From This

I saw some people say that they hoped Wilson learned something from watching the game today but I’m not sure the rookie was ever the problem. Last week I tweeted that I felt LaFleur was “too enamored by Wilson’s skill set” and I’m even more confident of that now.

The Jets offense of the first six games featured complex double moves, wheel routes and “home run” deep shots that forced the BYU product to consider reads that were way too advanced for any first-year signal-caller. NFL analyst Chris Simms described this well, stating: “nobody’s being asked to affect the game or carry the offense out of all the rookie quarterbacks more than Zach Wilson, nobody. The degree of difficulty of throws he’s being asked to make on a play-by-play basis is way greater than anybody else in football.”

Why is it that LaFleur was making things so difficult on Wilson when this vanilla, “Mac Jones” type of option existed? Or did it just take a beatdown from McDaniels himself in Week 7 to open the mind of the Jets OC?

I don’t mean to disparage White or Jones in saying that this offense is easy, but it does play to the strengths of this roster. The offensive line isn’t a strong suit for example, which makes quick-release passing more crucial. The Jets’ playmakers are also dynamic out in space, which is why you should just work on getting the ball in their hands like LaFleur and White did today.

A two-yard pass can go for 10-20 if you play your cards right and it still looks like a first down conversion in the boxscore. Then when the defense steps up to defend against those routes, that’s when you gouge them with a deep ball.

White was precise and decisive today in a controlled atmosphere and Wilson should take note of that, but LaFleur must also help his franchise quarterback out in the future with these advantageous play calls. The Pats offense has done this for decades and finally, the Jets coaching staff appears to have gotten the memo.

For that, I’ll give LaFleur credit. He is willing to adapt, and he better continue this trend when Wilson returns from his knee injury.

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