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Jets’ Win Raises a Question: Who Is Mike White?

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Time is a flat circle, but we want to help you break it. To that end, we’ve enlisted two experts — one familiar with the ins and outs of New York’s professional football teams, the other a nationally focused football analyst — to answer an essential question as a weekly service to readers: Are the Jets good yet?

Devin Gordon, the author of “So Many Ways to Lose: The Amazin’ True Story of the New York Mets, the Best Worst Team in Sports,” observed the Jets from a locally focused perspective.

Diante Lee, an N.F.L. analyst at Pro Football Focus, offered a national view.

The Jets (2-5) ended their first-quarter scoring drought and finished a 34-31 win over the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) in the victory formation.

Insider’s perspective:

Who is Mike White? Your level of interest in the answer to this question should go a long way toward determining your current level of interest in the Jets. White: fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 draft, 171st overall, out of Western Kentucky; cut by the Jets four times; had never taken a snap before this season; now a minor folk hero at MetLife Stadium.

White is currently the Jets’ starting quarterback, and based on his performance on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals — 11 consecutive completions to start the game, more than 400 yards passing, three touchdown tosses — he seems likely to keep the job until the team’s opening week starter, Zach Wilson, can return from a knee injury.

White finished a storybook afternoon by catching the victory-sealing 2-point conversion on a bit of gutsy late trickery and gave the Jets one of this season’s unlikeliest victories, over the A.F.C. North-leading Bengals. White was poised and efficient all afternoon, completing 37 of his 45 attempts, and he made the Jets’ rookie playmakers, running back Michael Carter and wide receiver Elijah Moore, look like legitimate scoring weapons.

It was such a special afternoon for the Jets, in fact, that it was easy to ignore the elephant in the room — the suddenly urgent question that today’s offensive explosion raises for the remainder of the season: Who, exactly, is Zach Wilson?

Verdict: The Jets are almost as interesting as the quarterback competition on the sideline.

Outsider’s view:

We’re all in for a conundrum: The Jets, strange as it may sound, are 2-5 now, and none of their games really matter.

Just for a moment, let’s indulge in a little hot take artist cosplay and look at the team’s fake quarterback controversy.

The Jets beat the Bengals, 34-31, at home to move a game ahead of the 1-6 Houston Texans, who have the worst record in the A.F.C. Mike White joined Cam Newton as the only quarterbacks to throw for more than 400 yards in their starting debuts, and White’s play in the fourth quarter on Sunday saved the Jets’ porous defense from blowing the game.

One can almost hear the talking heads of the sports radio universe warming up for hours of discussion about whether the Jets’ offense had “rallied around” White. Maybe White, a fourth-year backup, “commanded the huddle” in a way that the rookie Zach Wilson had not. After all, the passing game was white hot to start, with each of the Jets’ first 14 passes caught, including a couple by Bengals defenders.

For the first time this year, the Jets’ offense scored a touchdown in the first quarter, and their 34 points on Sunday were the most they have managed in a single game this season: 30 percent of their 2021 scoring.

Four of the Jets’ next five games are against opponents with records below .500. Their odds of repeating (or bettering) Sunday’s performance depend more on that fact than whether White or Wilson is throwing.

Verdict: For Halloween, the Jets dressed up as a competent offense.

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