If you believe in Tom Brady Cinderella stories, then you want to believe that a a star was born on the day Jets fans were chanting for their quarterback, even on their way out of the stadium and into the parking lots. Because their quarterback had just thrown for 405 yards and three touchdowns. And caught a two-point conversion from Jamison Crowder. And led a 34-31 upset over the Bengals.
“Mike White,” they chanted. “Mike White. Mike White.”
Not Zach Wilson.
Not the second overall pick of the NFL draft and erstwhile savior.
The career backup.
Who will start Thursday night in Indianapolis.
Who will need another 400-yard performance for Robert Saleh to consider not rushing Wilson back from his knee injury on Nov. 14. Who put on such an eye-opening clinic that you couldn’t help but think that the Jets threw the wrong quarterback to the wolves when the season started.
The Jets have too much invested in Wilson and still too much belief to hand the keys to the kingdom over to Mike White. When Saleh was asked whether Mike White could be the long-term answer, he said: “We’ll go day-to-day, but anything’s possible.”
Before you Google Wally Pipp, perhaps Saleh decided that this was the wrong moment to play killjoy and declare: “Zach is our quarterback.”
But he should have.
Because Zach Wilson is their quarterback.
And if Saleh has opened a nightmarish Pandora’s box to a New York quarterback controversy, he’ll reap what he sows.
But what a dream day, what a dream moment for Mike White, and for the parents who watched his NFL dream blossom.
And when “Mike White, Mike White, Mike White,” really erupted for the second time, in the fourth quarter, the mother and father who never missed one of his college games at the University of South Florida and Western Kentucky couldn’t believe their ears any more than their son could believe his.
“I completely … like teary-eyed, just in awe, like very surreal,” Annemarie White told The Post. “I could not even believe that this is happening. How often do you get the chance to hear your son’s name being chanted throughout a whole stadium? That to me was just absolutely amazing, and I knew he was hearing it, and I think as a mom, I was more happy for him thinking about what he’s going through right now, and how hard he has worked for this moment, and it’s here. That’s what made me so emotional too is just knowing what this meant to him.”
“Mike White … Mike White … Mike White.”
“That was my biggest emotional thing,” Mike White Sr. told The Post. “To hear a bunch of fans in the stadium chanting your son’s name — teary-eyed on that one. Both my wife and I, very emotional at that time. She had tears in her eyes as well.”
They had been sitting in Section 117, in the end zone, with their daughter, Taylor, and her boyfriend, George, and then came the postgame family reunion.
“I literally just gave him the biggest, tightest hug,” Annemarie said, “and I just told him that I was so super proud of him that he worked so hard for this, and deserves every last minute of it, of the enjoyment of what he got to experience today.”
There was one hold-your-breath moment, when their son was sprawled on the ground midway through the third quarter.
“I wouldn’t say it was nerve-wracking more than it was, ‘OK get up, you’ve been hit before, just get up, you’re OK,’” Mike White Sr. said. “‘Come on, let’s finish this thing off.’ As it took longer, we were like, ‘What’s going on? Is it a concussion? What is it?’”
Then Mike White rose and trotted off to the medical tent with a sore neck and a concussion checkup, and he was back quickly to replace Josh Johnson.
“It’s happened before so I tried to stay very calm,” Annemarie said. “And just doing a lot of praying like, ‘OK please let everything be OK, let him be OK.’ Then when he got up and he ran to the sideline, I knew it was like , ‘OK, he’s all right.”
Mike White started the game with 11 straight completions. He took what the Bengals gave him. He was a commander-in-chief who lifted the players in his huddle. He was accurate. He rifled passes. He never flinched. His two deflected interceptions were fastballs from his pitching days. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur was upstairs in the booth because Mike White told him he didn’t need him on the sidelines as much as Wilson did.
“That’s Mike F–king White. He’s a savage. He’s a dog. He’s an animal.” Ty Johnson said.
He was king for a day. If nothing else, he served notice to Wilson that he needs to wake up. Nick Foles won Philadelphia’s only Super Bowl and Carson Wentz remained the Eagles quarterback. Mike White throwing for the most yards by a Jets quarterback in 20 years doesn’t mean that his future is now, beyond Thursday night.
“You’re in awe. You’re like, you can’t believe that this happened,” Mike White Sr. said. “It’s like the biggest stage, and he just did that.”
In his first NFL start.
“Yeah, I mean they do have a lot invested in Zach Wilson,” Mike White Sr. said, “but as a backup quarterback when you get your opportunity, it’s like I’ve told him, ‘You’ve gotta take every opportunity and make the best of it.’”
The parents will be in Indianapolis, of course.
“It’s not really a controversy,” Mike White Sr. said. “I don’t think it’s more of a ‘Yes, he shouldn’t play,’ nothing like that. Really it’s about today and living in the now. Thursday’s another game and let’s go see what that one brings, and then after that, I’m sure about winning games. It’s gonna be interesting. I mean, we’ll see what happens.”
Another 400-yard performance and Saleh doesn’t have to rush Wilson back.
“If Michael’s role comes after Indianapolis and Zach is back in the game, then Michael’s job is to make sure Zach is prepared to be successful,” Mike White Sr. said, “I’m sure Michael’s gonna do that job the best he can.”
It will be difficult for him to do that job better than he did his job on Sunday.
“His favorite quarterback 100 percent,” Mike White Sr. said, “is Tom Brady.”
“Mike White … Mike White … Mike White.”