Sports

Bills End Mike White’s Jets Fairy Tale

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Time is a flat circle, but we want to help you break it. To that end, we’ve enlisted two experts — one familiar with the ins and outs of New York’s professional football teams, the other a nationally focused football analyst — to answer an essential question as a weekly service to readers: Are the Jets good yet?

Devin Gordon, the author of “So Many Ways to Lose: The Amazin’ True Story of the New York Mets, the Best Worst Team in Sports,” observed the Jets from a locally focused perspective.

Diante Lee, an N.F.L. analyst at Pro Football Focus, offered a national view.

Jets

Mike White threw four interceptions and was pulled from the game in the fourth quarter for 36-year-old Joe Flacco as the Jets lost to the Bills, 45-17, Sunday.

Insider’s Perspective:

Mike White — what can we say? It was brief, it was hot, but now it’s over. We’ll always have Cincinnati.

For a few weeks, White, the plucky former practice squad quarterback turned emergency starter, gave Jets fans a nice diversion from reality. But on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills’ top-ranked defense brought them — and him — crashing back to it. White threw four ugly interceptions and managed only 10 points before being benched for Joe Flacco (who threw the Jets’ only passing touchdown). The imaginary quarterback controversy is over.

Let’s be grateful, though, and think of this stinker as White’s parting gift to the fan base — a deft way of firing everyone up for Zach Wilson’s return from an ankle injury. The Jets were never going to make the playoffs. A winning record would have been a miracle. The Jets are now 2-7, which is exactly what you’d guess the Jets’ record would be through nine games. This season is about one thing and one thing only: progress.

Ten weeks into the season, though, the Jets still have no idea what they have in Wilson, which makes it awfully tough to measure the progress of those around him. The rookie tailback Michael Carter has topped 80 total yards in four straight games, and his snap percentage keeps increasing, but is he a budding star, or the beneficiary of more efficient quarterback play?

The rookie receiver Elijah Moore had just nine catches in five games with Wilson under center; with Wilson out, he caught 16 balls for 195 yards and three touchdowns. Is he a star? Even the Jets’ defense — the N.F.L.’s worst by several metrics — has to be viewed in the context of the offense’s 28th ranking in time of possession. It is hard to stop Josh Allen, or anyone, when you’re exhausted by the third quarter.

Over the next three weeks, Wilson will get to face three of the N.F.L.’s worst defenses — four, if you count Jets practices. Time for some answers.

Verdict: The 2021 regular season ended this week. The future starts next week.

Outsider’s View:

In the stages of grief, it feels as though the Jets have skipped straight from bargaining to acceptance. Joe Flacco made an appearance on Sunday, for goodness’ sake. This thing is over, it wasn’t fun while it lasted. They didn’t make any friends along the way. And the greatest silver lining is that there are only nine weeks remaining in the schedule.

The Jets were able to produce two amazing moments in the first half of the year: They squeezed by with wins against the “actually good” Tennessee Titans and the “fake good” Cincinnati Bengals in front of the home crowd. Zach Wilson provided a bit of hope in that Titans game, and the backup quarterback Mike White had his starting debut immortalized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (His 37 completions were a record for a first start.)

But allowing 90 points in 120 minutes of N.F.L. action made those peaks feel as though they happened a season ago.

Listen, as a California kid — a San Diegan, specifically — I’ve seen firsthand what it means to support teams that can’t get right. I grew up buying Padres tickets to watch the best visiting pitchers try for shutouts and traveling to Los Angeles for Clippers games to see opposing N.B.A. players put up 30. Almost every great team in the A.F.C. had a turn at breaking the Chargers’ hearts before the franchise bolted for Los Angeles.

As the resident of a city without hope in its football team, my advice is to search the schedule for interesting opponents and hope they entertain you.

Verdict: Pray the Jets beat the Dolphins twice so you’ll at least have a punching bag.

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