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

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Embattled New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, hailed only a year ago as a franchise savior, is going to the bench in a dramatic shake-up.

After two days of evaluation, coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday that Mike White will replace Wilson as the starter Sunday against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium — the biggest decision in Saleh’s 27-game coaching career.

Saleh said the Jets are not giving up on Wilson but are making the move to give him a “reset” so he can refocus. He said Wilson’s issues are “fixable” and the organization has every intention for him to return as the starter at some point.

Veteran Joe Flacco will be White’s backup Sunday. Wilson will not be active.

It’s a significant pivot for an organization that had geared almost everything around Wilson since drafting him second overall in 2021. It raises questions about the future of the Jets’ quarterback position, a proposition they never thought they would have to confront so soon.

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

Wilson passed for a career-low 77 yards in last week’s loss to the New England Patriots and created a firestorm by refusing to take any blame for the offense’s dismal showing.

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

Wilson missed the start of the 2022 season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery following a preseason injury. The Jets went 5-2 after Wilson’s return in Week 4, with both losses coming against the Patriots.

But the Jets are winning with defense, not the passing attack. Wilson has only four touchdown passes and has exceeded 210 yards in only 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 remainder of the season. That came after a three-interception nightmare.

Everything changed Sunday, when Wilson was inept as he directed one of the worst offensive performances in team history. They managed only 103 total yards, which Saleh called “unacceptable.”

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

With Wilson nursing 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 former Dallas Cowboys draft pick got 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. They 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 “allow him the opportunity to prepare as if he is the next man up.”

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