Jets bench Zach Wilson, turn to Mike White as starting QB

Jets bench Zach Wilson, turn to Mike White as starting QB

Jets bench Zach Wilson, turn to Mike White as starting QB

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Embattled New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, hailed just a year ago as a franchise savior, is headed to the bench in a dramatic shakeup.

Coach Robert Saleh made the bombshell announcement at a late-morning team meeting, later confirming to reporters that Mike White will start Sunday against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. Joe Flacco becomes the No. 2 quarterback; Wilson will be inactive.

It’s a major pivot point for an organization that had centered almost everything around Wilson since going second overall in 2021. It raises questions about the future of their quarterback position, a proposition the Jets never thought they’d have to confront so soon.

Saleh said they hope to play Wilson again this season.

“Zach’s career here is not over,” Saleh said. “I know that’s going to be the narrative, and I know that’s what everybody wants to shout out, but that’s not even close to the point. The full intent is to make sure Zach gets back on the football field this season. When it is, I make that decision. I take it day by day.”

Of course, that opens up a potential quarterback controversy if White succeeds. Saleh, trying to put a positive spin on Wilson, said “the young man needs a reset.

“There are some basic fundamentals that have really come out of the blue for him,” Saleh said. “This is just an opportunity for him to sit back, focus on those things and find a way to reconnect with all the different things that we fell in love with during the draft process. That’s something I feel like he’ll be able to do.”

The Jets (6-4), hoping to end an 11-year playoff drought, have shifted into win-now mode. They believe their defense is championship-caliber and don’t want to squander this opportunity because of erratic quarterback play.

Wilson passed for a career-low 77 yards in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots and created a firestorm by refusing to take any blame for the offense’s dismal performance. Saleh was not happy with the comments, but insisted it did not factor into the decision to bench Wilson.

On Monday, Saleh met with Wilson and told him he was evaluating the quarterback position, and later told reporters the same. The non-clearance was significant because it marked the first time Wilson’s job security was questioned by the team.

Wilson approached the team, according to Saleh. He declined to divulge details, but it was presumably about his post-game comments.

The Jets are 5-2 since Wilson returned from knee surgery in August. Both losses were to the New England Patriots.

But the Jets win with defense, not with passing offense. Wilson has just four touchdown passes and has passed for 210 yards in just two of his seven starts.

Publicly, Saleh remained supportive, saying after the Oct. 20 loss to the Patriots that he would stick with Wilson for the rest of the season. It came after a three-interception nightmare.

That all changed Sunday, when Wilson was inept as he directed one of the worst offensive performances in team history. The Jets managed just 103 total yards, which Saleh called “unacceptable.”

White is hardly a sure thing; he has just three career starts.

With Wilson riding a knee injury last season, White achieved near-cult hero status in his first career start, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns in an upset of the Cincinnati Bengals. The 2018 Dallas Cowboys draft pick made two more starts: an incomplete game against the Indianapolis Colts (he left with an injury) and a four-interception clunker against the Buffalo Bills.

White began this season as the No. 3 quarterback, behind Wilson and Flacco. The team changed the depth chart in Week 8, promoting White to QB2 — a switch that left some around the team scratching their heads. Saleh said it was to “give him the opportunity to prepare as if he is the next man.”

And now he is.

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