Back in Week 6, the Jets were 0-4 and coming off three straight losses by at least 16 points when they took on the visiting Cowboys and emerged with a 24-22 win. At the time, it didn’t seem quite so terrible, because New York quarterback Sam Darnold was coming back from an injury, and the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2018 played very well against Dallas.
Since then, however, the Jets have not only gone 0-3, but they have tumbled into an embarrassing abyss. They have made a strong case as the league’s worst team, and no one would be surprised at this point if they fired first-year coach Adam Gase, possibly as soon as Monday.
New York’s next game after beating Dallas was a 33-0 wipeout at the hands of the Patriots on Monday night, in which New England forced Darnold into one of the worst quarterback performances in recent memory. Along the way he was revealed to a national TV audience to have confessed on the sideline that he was “seeing ghosts,” a comment seemingly destined to, ahem, haunt the young player for years to come.
Week 8 brought a desultory loss at Jacksonville in which Darnold threw three interceptions and was sacked eight times, while New York’s defense made the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback, Gardner Minshew, resemble Joe Montana in his prime. That only set the stage, though, for the Week 9 debacle in Miami.
This was a game the Jets had to win, and not just because Gase’s three previous seasons were spent as the Dolphins’ coach, meaning that, in theory, he should have had insights into how to beat his former team. There was also the well-known fact that Miami, in the midst of a season-long tank job, is itself not exactly going all-out to avoid losses.
Yet there were the 0-7 Fins, led by Jets castoff Ryan Fitzpatrick, rolling up 21 second-quarter points and getting a late safety to cap a 26-18 win. Meanwhile, Darnold looked good in taking the Jets downfield for a touchdown on their opening possession, then struggled the rest of the way, including on a hideous interception near the end zone toward the end of the first half.
Down 11 points with 15 seconds left, the Jets decided to kick a field goal. That helped Gase avoid a double-digit loss, which was significant to those who have pointed out that over his 55 games as a head coach, he has 25 such losses, as opposed to just 24 wins by any margin.
After the game, Gase told reporters, “This is the NFL. You can’t be embarrassed by this [expletive].”
That’s as may be, but plenty of Cowboys fans were feeling something a lot like embarrassment Sunday on behalf of their team. Sure, the Jets have some seemingly winnable games ahead, including another against the Dolphins, as well as matchups with the Giants (2-6), Redskins (1-8) and Bengals (0-8), but as things stand now a 1-15 campaign can’t be ruled out. Under that scenario, Dallas would, of course, be the “1.”
The Jets were linked to the Cowboys in a different but related way earlier in the week, when Dallas was reportedly making trade offers for New York’s Jamal Adams. That deal didn’t go through, but just hearing about it was enough to “definitely hurt” the talented safety, as he let the world know amid a string of complaints about his team.
The Jets did manage to trade away defensive lineman Leonard Williams, a former No. 6 pick in the draft, and, according to numerous reports, took calls on wide receiver Robby Anderson and Le’Veon Bell. Jets General Manager Joe Douglas felt compelled to deny to reporters that he was holding a “fire sale,” while Bell revealed that one of the teams inquiring about him was the Steelers, with whom he’d had a much-noted divorce just last year.
In other words, Tuesday’s trade deadline brought the Jets something of the worst of both world: not getting much by way of draft picks, which could have provided hope for the future, while giving several important players reason to question their own futures in New York.
Then things really went from bad to, well, the worst, with the loss to the tanking Dolphins. Miami had been allowing 34 points per game but the Jets could manage barely more than half that.
With 96 total points thus far, New York is the only NFL team to have failed to crack 100 points, despite Gase’s background as an offensive coordinator. Following the loss in Miami, Football Outsiders ranked the Jets among a handful of the worst offenses the NFL has seen, at the midpoint of the season, since 1986.
Of greatest concern to Jets fans is that Darnold appears to have regressed this season, which is the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen under Gase. In his 13 starts as a rookie last year, he only had two in which he was held under 5.00 in AY/A (adjusted yards per pass attempt, via Pro Football Reference), whereas he has already had three such games in just four 2019 starts.
Darnold’s other start, in which he posted a sparkling AY/A of 10.56? Yup, against the Cowboys.
Sure, Dallas has two other losses, but those came against the Saints and Packers, who have a combined record of 14-3. The Jets, on the other hand, have become the laughingstock of the league, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to explain how they managed to beat anybody, let alone a certain squad that likes to think of itself as a Super Bowl contender.