SEATTLE — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Chance of a lifetime: Mike White gets first dibs on the 2023 quarterback job, which appears open in the wake of Zach Wilson‘s second benching. Not only will he face playoff-like intensity Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox), but White has the added pressure of playing for his future. He will be an unrestricted free agent, which means a potentially nice payday.
If White plays well, wins the last two games and leads the Jets to the playoffs, he could command a contract in the neighborhood of two years, $30 million, including $20 million guaranteed, according to an agent who represents prominent quarterbacks. The agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, projected a floor of $10 million to $12 million per year.
White has “enough good games on tape” to attract teams looking for a “bridge” quarterback, the agent said, also mentioning White’s age (27) and familiarity with the popular West Coast/Shanahan offense as selling points.
Will the Jets try to re-sign him as their starter?
Even if White ends with a flurry, it doesn’t guarantee the QB1 job. The organization would evaluate all options, weighing White versus other available quarterbacks. That list could include the Las Vegas Raiders‘ Derek Carr, who probably will be cut or traded within three days of the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers‘ Jimmy Garoppolo, due to become a free agent, would be a consideration because of his background with members of the Jets’ staff.
White is a fan and locker room favorite, but he has only six career starts (2-4). The Jets’ regime — facing a possible make-or-break year in 2023 — might prefer a more proven player with so much at stake. White has two games (or more) to state his case, although he insisted he won’t fall into the trap of thinking ahead. He learned that lesson last year. He’s trying to focus on Seattle.
“It’s not so much the longevity of it, it’s just the opportunity itself,” he said of the starting job. “Any time you’re named the starter, you wear that badge with honor.”
2. Restless in Seattle? If the Jets end the season on a six-game losing streak — rare, even for them — the spotlight will shift to owner Woody Johnson, whose patience could be tested. He hasn’t made any major moves since 2015, when he hired Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan as the coach and general manager, respectively. He was out of the football loop from 2017 to 2021, serving as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, so there’s some curiosity around the organization as to how he will react if the season ends with a thud.
“Woody, he’s been good. He wants to win like all of us do,” Saleh said. “We’re all trying to search for answers.”
When Johnson takes a step back, he presumably will recognize the organization is in a better place than last year, quarterback situation notwithstanding. Saleh described the current slide as a teaching tool, saying players and coaches are learning about “playoff-atmosphere football.” He admitted this is a “silver lining” viewpoint, adding, “Not all of it has been good. It’s always tough, but through adversity is where you find out the most about yourself and where you have the most growth. So that’s the way we’re kind of attacking it.”
The Jets, losers of four in a row, haven’t dropped five straight after the 10th game since 1996 — their infamous 1-15 season. The only two other times it happened was in 1986 and 1994.
3. Did you know? Rookie Breece Hall, who hasn’t played in two months because of a major knee injury, remains the team’s leading rusher with 463 yards.
4. Revenge game: Cornerback D.J. Reed has no shortage of motivation for this game. When he signed in March, leaving the Seahawks in free agency, he said Seattle’s offer was “insulting.” He toned it down this week, saying he harbors no ill will toward his former team. He did allow that he’s “really looking forward” to facing them.
Reed also was stung by not being selected to the Pro Bowl, but that’s “more motivation for me. Next year, I’ll make it obvious.”
5. Laurels and Hardee: Special-teamer Justin Hardee was overcome with emotion upon learning he had been selected to his first Pro Bowl. He supplanted the great Matthew Slater, a 10-time Pro Bowler with the New England Patriots. Hardee said Slater reached out to congratulate him, a classy gesture.
“He told me I had his vote,” Hardee said.
6. Young critical of Wilson: It was surprising to hear Steve Young deliver such a blunt assessment of Wilson this week on ESPN New York radio (“The Michael Kay Show”). Young, who knows Wilson through their BYU connection and has provided counsel on occasion, wasn’t a fan of the decision to bench Wilson in November. Now, after witnessing last week’s poor performance, Young has changed his opinion on what’s best for Wilson, who was benched for a second time.
“I was wrong. He can’t play right now,” said the Pro Football Hall of Famer, an ESPN analyst. “He’s not learning, not getting better, so he has to leave the field.”
Young said Wilson must learn to master “commodity work,” meaning basic quarterback throws — and he doesn’t believe that can happen in games. He also said, “The team recognizes the talent, but also recognizes something is not right.”
Deciding Wilson’s future will be the No. 1 personnel decision in the offseason.
7. Half empty? Michael Nania of the Jets X-Factor website uncovered an interesting trend about the Jets’ offense: It leads the league in plays out of the empty formation, with 123 such plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Here’s the kicker: The Jets are one of only five teams that hasn’t scored a touchdown out of empty formations. The most glaring example of coming up empty out of empty was the fourth-down, goal-line play against the Minnesota Vikings (Braxton Berrios drop).
For a team that wants a strong running game and has suffered pass protection issues with relatively inexperienced quarterbacks, it seems like it might make sense to keep a running back in the backfield more often.
8. Saleh vs. mentor: Saleh considers Seahawks coach Pete Carroll one of the most influential people in his coaching career. Out of work, with a wife and infant baby, Saleh didn’t know where he’d end up. He got an offer from Carroll and wound up spending three seasons (2011 to 2013) as a defensive quality-control coach for the Seahawks.
“My wife, she’s panicking because she’s wondering where our next meal is coming from because I didn’t have a contract,” Saleh said. “The good Lord came off the top ropes and sent me a blessing.”
9. Exes everywhere: Former Jets quarterbacks are scattered across the league as players, coaches and announcers. The Jets seem to cross paths with one every week. On Sunday, they face Geno Smith, who has blossomed into a legitimate starter six years after leaving the Jets as a free agent. In previous weeks, they encountered Ryan Fitzpatrick (Prime Video analyst for Jets-Jacksonville Jaguars); Mark Brunell (Detroit Lions assistant); Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings coach); and Trevor Siemian (Chicago Bears backup, who started).
Where have you gone, Bryce Petty?
10. The last word: “We have to maximize each day — keep grinding — and Sunday, that’s when we have fun. That’s when we go out there and dominate. That’s what we plan to do.” — Reed on the team’s mindset ahead of playing Seattle