Tuesday, December 20, 2022

GM Notebook: What’s Jets QB Mike White’s Big Task?

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Randy Mueller, the 2000 NFL Manager of the Year, brings over 30 years of football experience, including stints as general manager of the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. With Heavy, Mueller breaks down the NFL from a front-office perspective. You can follow Randy on Twitter @RandyMueller_

Ever since he was drafted from Western Kentucky (transferred from South Florida) by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft, Mike White’s talents have been very intriguing. It started when he was playing in the Senior Bowl, the standout college all-star game for NFL evaluators, after his senior year. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, the talent and looks have always been there. This is his fifth year and second team of his NFL career.

White was picked by New York Jets decision makers in Week 12 to replace struggling Zach Wilson. Here’s what I saw after diving into a tome of this game.

White’s 8 career touchdowns and 8 interceptions aren’t exactly impressive, but his 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions against the Bears were very impressive. But let’s go beyond the numbers.

The Jets offense ran 60 games (plus 3 game-ending kneedowns) meaning you have no margin for error and very little time or space to make adjustments. White gave the Jets exactly what they needed in terms of decision making, patience and accuracy. He played with confidence, making basic reads and processing information at a high level in every game. All things Wilson struggled with, even when he came up with acceptable numbers.

He seemed comfortable in the pocket, identifying targets in good time and taking the ball out of his hands in good time. He flashed his arm strength to make the short to medium throws (wasn’t asked to throw deep) and was also effective on boots and short rolls outside the pocket.

I’ve been critical of the Jets’ offensive plans, design and execution, which have historically reflected more than just poor QB play. And I realize that’s a sample size from one game versus a Bears team that started their own backup QB. But if the Jets’ offensive brain confidence can produce more of the same when it comes to game plans, it’s going to be an interesting month ahead for Jets fans.

With white, we’ve seen flashes of it in the past just to see a regression over a larger sample size. But if he can piece together several weeks of that level of play (don’t just look at numbers), not only will the Jets make the playoffs, they’ll have some interesting behind-closed-door conversations at the end of the season.

White is slated to be a free agent in 2023, and I suspect from what I’ve seen on tape there will be a market for his talent elsewhere.

I understand offense sold. But in the case of the Cincinnati Bengals, beating the Tennessee Titans back-to-back years in Nashville has to be a team effort, and the results they’ve had from their defense have told me this defense doesn’t get nearly the respect it deserves .

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo was a literal unknown to most outside of Cincy until the 2022 Super Bowl run. When you’ve got Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase and you’ve got the fifth-highest offense in the league (over 12 weeks), it’s easy to get overshadowed. It’s a mid-level defense if you look at the numbers, but if you look at the execution and scheme design combined with in-game adjustments, it’s one of the best in the league.

On defense, Cincinnati varies their looks with multiple fronts and numbers in the penalty area, and they are physical at the point of attack. They’re really good tacklers, limiting yards after catch and after contact, but more importantly, they play smart by minimizing risk by not blasting tasks and are very solid.

Anarumo might not be as complicated or innovative as some, but a good defense can play off the chances and pressure with just enough blitz packs to keep your people playing fast and very effectively.

Right now their backend is playing as well as anyone in soccer. They read and react, diagnose and report at Super Bowl level. I think execution and football IQ travel to every playoff venue. So when you’re making a decision about whether the Bengals will be good enough again this year, think about it.

I had my doubts, and I realize the Titans offense will never be confused with the 1999 Rams, but I think this Bengals defense — given the schematic design, the philosophy and the game plan execution by the players considered – plays to win the game as well as any other in football.

Oh, and it helps when your offense runs off the clock for the last 6.5 minutes in the fourth quarter and you don’t even have to take the field.

As much as Green Bay Packers fans would like to use QB Aaron Rodgers’ rib injury to increase the workload for backup, former first-round pick Jordan Love, I just don’t see that happening. Well, I’ll give you credit, Rodgers is different, but professional football players don’t “turn it off” so a front office can take a closer look at the guy they hope will eventually replace you.

I just don’t see a scenario where Rodgers isn’t part of the Packers in 2023. Sure, the Packers are capitalizing on every snap they can get for love between now and whenever, but I just don’t see Rodgers stopping and allowing anyone else to take the helm. Also, I think Rodgers is their best option to win a Super Bowl next season.

Forget the fact the Packers made a first-round pick on Love and need to see what he is. First-round picks get flushed more often than fans will admit. Damn, I think they already got the value of the first round from him. He got the best of Rodgers, who sent it in a year or two before he arrived.

We all need to know that we can be replaced and I think Rodgers got the message and improved his game. Just because this year was bad (and he got injured) and maybe he doesn’t have the leadership style we all like, he’s still one of football’s really good passers. Build a better and deeper team around him and see what 2023 brings.

Oh, and it helps when your offense runs off the clock for the last 6.5 minutes in the fourth quarter and you don’t even have to take the field.

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