After everything had gone wrong at the quarterback spot, Jets head coach Robert Saleh had his George Costanza moment. The team needed to "do the opposite" at the game's most vital position. So Saleh named Mike White his Week 12 starter, and the "do the opposite" decision worked, just like it did for George inside Monk's Cafe on Seinfeld that one fateful day in the 1990s.
Last week, Zach Wilson could do nothing right. Against the Bears, Mike White could do no wrong.
With White, there's something to that debut start -- remember, he went for over 400 against the Bengals last season. In his first starting opportunity of 2022, he went 22-of-28 for 315 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, as New York cruised to a 31-10 rain-soaked victory over Chicago.
And White's 11.3 yards-per-attempt average places him in rarefied air in Jets history. It was the sixth contest in team history since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger the club's starting quarterback reached 11 yards per attempt in a single game and the first such performance since Ken O'Brien in November 1986.
Now, White didn't shred the 1986 version of the Bears defense -- this iteration entered Week 12's outing 30th in Football Outsiders pass defense DVOA. But with how parity-filled the league is today -- talent margins between teams are as tiny as ever -- an 11.3 YPA effort against any defense is darn impressive, particularly from someone previously installed as the backup.
White's presence catalyzed Elijah Moore for the first time all season. The second-year wideout, who had a promising rookie campaign that consisted of 43 receptions, 538 yards, and five scores on less than 44% of the offensive snaps, scored his first touchdown of 2022 on a pass from White, and his 64 yards against the Bears was his highest total of the season to date.
Check out how White decided to rip this throw to Moore against tight underneath coverage with a safety over the top. The former second-round pick did the rest.
Moore's big play was a breath of fresh air for the Jets, but it was the club's first-round pick from April who had the most productive day against the Bears. Garrett Wilson had five grabs for 95 yards with two touchdowns in the win.
Here's one of them. You'll be in awe at Wilson's yards-after-the-catch brilliance, but don't overlook the frozen rope White fit up and over the linebacker before Wilson's athleticism took over.
I've scoured the film, and those two lasers were White's two most impressive throws of the contest. Altogether, he managed the game extraordinarily, quickly located open receivers, drifted in a pocket a bit to buy time when necessary, and got the ball out in rhythm, and, in most cases, accurately to his targets.
And all those things were not happening with Wilson in the shotgun. A well-managed game from their starting quarterback was all the Jets have been asking for of late, and White did that drastically better than the former No. 2 overall pick he replaced.
This was the modern-day version of Costanza deviating from his normal tuna on toast order before approaching a woman at the bar and being honest about his employment and living situations being played out during an NFL game inside MetLife Stadium.
Gang Green fans, Fireman Ed, Adam Sandler's character in Big Daddy, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jerry Seinfeld -- all of them --- should be delighted today. I'm not here to rain on the parade. Rejoice.
But the parallels to last year's cameo from White reach beyond the former Western Kentucky star having another huge performance. His starting debut against Cincinnati came against a secondary that ultimately finished 24th in pass defense DVOA. Two weeks later, he faced a Bills defense that finished first in that statistic and completed under 55% of his throws with no touchdowns and four interceptions. Mike White Mania came to an abrupt end.
This year, two weeks after his first start of the season, he'll travel to Orchard Park to face Buffalo's currently seventh-ranked pass defense.
Before that, the Jets head to Minnesota in Week 13. It'll be a more formidable test for White and Co. No doubt. But the 9-2 Vikings are unique. Unique in that they're only +5 in point differential and currently allow the most passing yards per game -- and per pass -- in football.
We'll get a better indicator of White's sustainability on the road in Minnesota and certainly the following week against the Bills.
But for now, the Jets and White have all the reason to bask in the quarterback's glorious 2022 premiere.