Mike White’s return for Jets must-win is also 2023 audition
In case Mike White’s legend status wasn’t lofty enough, he’s back in time to potentially save the Jets.
Just over two weeks after breaking multiple ribs in a gutty effort against the Bills, White was cleared on Monday to play Sunday’s game against the Seahawks that the Jets need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
It was only five days ago that the Jets’ season appeared all but over due to a fourth straight loss, the last two with Zach Wilson starting for the injured White and not providing much hope for his own future.
But after a few key results over the weekend went in the their favor — they owe thank-you cards to Rhamondre Stevenson, for his final-minute fumble just before the Patriots could take the lead against the Bengals, and Tua Tagovailoa for throwing three interceptions in a loss to the Packers (following a potential head injury) — the Jets are suddenly back in business with White leading the way.
Before getting ahead of ourselves, a caveat: Even if the Jets win out against the Seahawks and Dolphins, they still need some help. It would come in the form of the Patriots losing one game to either the Dolphins or the Bills. That seems reasonable enough, especially given the Patriots’ offensive malaise this season, but when has Bill Belichick ever helped the Jets? Plus, there’s an off chance that the Bills could be in position to rest players against the Patriots in Week 18, though a Chiefs win over the Raiders this week would keep the race intact for the AFC’s top seed.
Monday’s other quarterback news in the AFC East could also throw a wrench in the next two weeks. Tagovailoa is back in concussion protocol, casting doubt on his status for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Whether he could get back in time for Week 18 against the Jets remains to be seen, but it looms large. The Dolphins are 8-5 this season in games started by Tagovailoa and 0-2 without him (one game started by Teddy Bridgewater and the other by Skylar Thompson).
But they do have a shot, and they’ll take it with the quarterback who has made the Jets’ offense the best version of itself this season. That’s a heck of a lot more than they could say after Thursday night, which had a funereal vibe to it.
There’s plenty on the line for White, too. As unthinkable as it might have seemed entering the season, the final two games could give White one more chance to make his case to be the Jets’ starting quarterback next season. It seems more and more likely Wilson will not be the answer, but can White be? Or will the Jets have to pursue the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr or someone else?
“One day at a time,” coach Robert Saleh said Monday when asked about White potentially being the long-term answer at quarterback.
Those questions can wait, at least for another week.
For now, the playoffs might as well be underway for the Jets. Their opponent this week, the Seahawks, need a win to help their own postseason push in the NFC. Then the season finale comes against the Dolphins, a game in which both teams could be fighting for a playoff bid.
If White is already a cult hero with a 2-4 career record, what will he be if he can come back quickly from broken ribs to lead the Jets to their first playoff appearance since the 2010 season? After beating the Bears in his first start this season, he put together solid games against the Vikings and Bills without the end result. It’s easy to believe things would have gone differently the past two weeks against the Lions and Jaguars if White had been under center instead of Wilson. Still, it’s not too late for White to play hero.
After thinking the season might have ended last Thursday, who wouldn’t sign up for that?
Today’s back page
🏀 Nets continue to validate surge by beating Cavaliers for ninth straight win
🏀 Knicks’ Jalen Brunson still dealing with injury ahead of return to Dallas
🏈 VACCARO: The Giants’ task couldn’t be simpler
What Steve Cohen’s critics really mean
The wait continued Monday to determine whether the Mets and Carlos Correa’s camp could salvage a deal after his physical put a snag in their 12-year, $315 million agreement.
But regardless of whether Correa ultimately becomes a Met, questions will linger about Steve Cohen and whether he is good for the game of baseball after his free-agent spending spree.
Soon after the news broke of Correa’s agreement with the Mets — which would raise the club’s offseason total to $807.16 million handed out to 10 free agents with its 2023 payroll surging to about $384 million for luxury-tax purposes — the critics came following.
“The system is broken,” a rival NL executive told The Post’s Jon Heyman, speaking about a system that was shaped with a new collective bargaining agreement signed this past March.
“I think it’s going to have consequences for him [Cohen] down the road,” an official with a major league team told The Athletic.
It probably shouldn’t be surprising opposing executives see Cohen’s spending as a problem with the game. But in reality, it’s only a problem for his fellow owners because it exposes their unwillingness to spend as much as they need to put a legitimate title-contending team on the field.
Sure, the low-payroll Rays and Guardians have been good stories for their ability to contend with the big spenders and build their farm systems to produce young, cheap talent on a yearly basis.
But there is more than one way to build a winning team. The Rays’ and Guardians’ strategy takes time. Cohen, a Mets fan who happens to be worth $17 billion, stated when he bought the team that he wanted to win a World Series in three to five years. Next season will be Year 3.
Maybe Cohen’s hefty expenditures will pay off with a title next October/November. Perhaps it will all come burning down by August because of injuries. There’s fun in finding out.
But criticizing Cohen for spending big in the name of winning — when it shouldn’t necessarily come as that big of a surprise — just reeks of owners who know questions soon will come their way as to why they are not doing the same.
Bill Belichick has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt in New England. Winning six Super Bowls since 2001 will do that.
But we may soon find out how long that grace period lasts and whether it actually has an expiration date.
Belichick’s decision to install the defensive-minded Matt Patricia as his pseudo-offensive coordinator this season has somehow gone even worse than expected. Second-year quarterback Mac Jones has regressed with Patricia calling plays and often lets his frustration out on the sideline. Their offensive line — a unit that is coached by Patricia and features Belichick’s latest questionable first-round pick, Cole Strange — has not given Jones much help.
The offensive ineptitude has put the Patriots’ playoff chances in serious jeopardy, despite having one of the top defenses in the league. Their past two losses, to the Raiders (an unnecessary lateral gone wrong at the end of regulation) and Bengals (Stevenson’s fumble), have been especially brutal.
In many cases, Patricia might have already been stripped of play-calling duties in the middle of the season, if not fired. Common sense would say he has to be reassigned elsewhere on the staff this offseason. But if Belichick’s stubbornness tries to make it work again next season, then what happens?
“I think they’re both good coaches,” Belichick told The Boston Globe before the season of Patricia and former Giants head coach Joe Judge, now the Patriots’ offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach. “Ultimately, it’s my responsibility, like it always is. So if it doesn’t go well, blame me.”
The fan base already has. But what will it look like if owner Robert Kraft does, too?
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