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Jets bench quarterback Zach Wilson; Mike White named starter vs. Bears

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Zach Wilson of the New York Jets throws a pass against the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Zach Wilson (2) of the New York Jets throws a pass against the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images/TNS)

NEW YORK — On Monday, Jets coach Robert Saleh hinted at a quarterback change.

Two days later, he made it official during his morning press conference.

Mike White will start against the Bears with veteran Joe Flacco as his backup. Not only will Wilson not be under center against Chicago, but he won’t even be active.

“Zach’s career here is not over,” Saleh said. “I know that’s going to be the narrative, that’s what everyone shouts out and that’s not even close to the case.

“The intent, the full intent, is to make sure Zach gets back on the football field at some point this year. When that is, I will make that decision and take it day-to-day.

“The biggest thing with Zach is the young man needs a reset. The decision-making has been fine, his practice habits, but there are some basic fundamentals things that got out of wack and this is just an opportunity where he can sit back, focus on those things and find a way to reconnect things we fell in love with during the draft process and I feel like it’s something that’s he’s going to be able to do.”

Jets players were informed Wednesday morning that Wilson would not start Sunday’s game against the Bears. As many would expect, Wilson was unhappy with the move as he won’t even be in uniform against the Bears and possibly longer.

Wilson is coming off an abysmal performance in the 10-3 loss to the Patriots Sunday where he completed 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards and zero touchdowns. The second-year quarterback also created headlines after he refused to take any of the blame when asked about the offensive performance.

On Monday afternoon, after a two-hour delay, Jets coach Robert Saleh told reporters everything was on the table and he was not committing to Wilson until he was done evaluating everything. Despite his refusal to take any blame for the team gaining only two yards and 103 total yards and zero touchdowns against the Patriots, Saleh said Wilson’s comments didn’t factor into his decision to bench the second-year quarterback.

“There’s always going to be that discussion on if he’s going to lose the locker room, Zach doesn’t have the locker room,” Saleh said. “Players go out there to play for one another. But at the same time, I don’t think a player is going to play any less harder because he doesn’t like his teammate.

“He is playing hard for his family, he’s not going to turn it doing because he doesn’t have love for somebody. With that said, guys have empathy for one another with how difficult this job is and the heat of the moment at the end of the game and the way that we lost. With Zach, maybe there was a little irritation at the moment, but I don’t think there’s a grudge, I don’t think there are any effects when it comes to that.

“That had no barring on this decision.”

Wilson was thought to be the Jets quarterback of the future when he was selected second overall in the 2021 NFL draft. But he has struggled with injuries and adapting to the NFL game’s speed.

In 20 starts, Wilson has thrown for 3,613 yards, 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. This year, Wilson missed the first three games of the season due to a meniscus injury he suffered in the preseason. When he returned as the Jets starter, Wilson continued to show some of the same inconsistency he did as a rookie, as he passed for 1,279 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions despite a 5-2 record this season.

White, 27 has appeared in four games for the Jets as he has passed for 953 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. When Wilson injured his PCL last season, White filled in as the team’s starter as he most notably threw for 405 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 34-31 win against the Bengals.

Typically when a young quarterback gets benched, it is hard for them to recover from that, especially one struggling as much as Wilson has. But Saleh pointed to a few examples of quarterbacks who were able to reclaim a starting quarterback position, even if it wasn’t with the same team.

"Just going across the league, I asked about Geno [Smith] and the way he operates on a day-to-day basis,” Saleh said. “Just during my career and watching different guys, Alex Smith and Rich Gannon, I was watching a couple of weeks ago, the Kurt Warner story and when he took a reset.

“You just never know, but I do think Zach has the ability to sit back and work and that’s one of his greatest strengths and that’s an opportunity to attack all the details that are required to make a quarterback great.”

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