• adamzielonka

An incredible, predictable Jets loss tells us what we already know

It would have been a hollow victory, anyway, if the Jets had held on to beat the Patriots last night. Hated rivals they may be, but where’s the fun in it when they’re 2-5 and Tom Brady is no longer there to sulk after taking a sack?

But don’t worry. Instead, the Jets fell to 0-9 by blowing a 10-point lead — thanks to a 12-men penalty in a field goal block formation, an abysmal attempt at a 2-minute drill and a defense that played as tough as throw pillows throughout the second half.

It was no butt fumble or “seeing ghosts” rerun, but in a chaotic year like 2020, it’s almost comforting that the Jets can continue to find new ways to blow games against New England.

With Joe Flacco back in for the re-injured Sam Darnold, the Jets nearly ruined their chance at a perfect 0-16 record but ultimately lost their first meeting with the Patriots of the year, 30-27, for all to see on Monday Night Football.

The fan base is already dreaming of next year, salivating over presumptive No. 1 draft pick Trevor Lawrence replacing Darnold. With that in mind, the various elements of this loss should be a reminder of two key points I think we already know deep down:

  • If the Jets make a quarterback change and Darnold is shown the door after three NFL seasons, it’s through little fault of his own.

  • The Gase-Loggains-Williams coaching staff bears the brunt of all this. They’ve got to go.

The Jets' 0-9 record marks the worst start to a season in franchise history. Coincidentally, the team is now 0-9 in the Darnold era when Darnold doesn’t play. He’s missed time due to a foot sprain, mononucleosis and now an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder. I hesitate to label him injury-prone; some of that is just stupid luck.

Perhaps the worst part of Monday’s game was that New York finally had its top three wide receivers — Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and second-round rookie Denzel Mims — all healthy and playing at the same time, and Darnold wasn’t there to benefit. Each of those wideouts had their own injuries to cope with and missed time in the first half of the season, leaving Darnold to rely on the Braxton Berrioses and Vyncint Smiths of the world in what was supposed to be a crucial year for his development.

So with healthy weapons available, purported offensive guru Adam Gase and his right-hand man, coordinator Dowell Loggains, opened up the playbook for Flacco. They threw the deep ball all night, eventually to a fault.

The Jets were lucky to catch Patriots cornerback and NFL interception leader J.C. Jackson on the worst night of his career — he allowed Perriman to score two touchdowns, the second by falling down in coverage. Yet Jackson still managed to pick off Flacco with six minutes left to play, the result of a forced and badly overthrown deep pass on first down when the Jets should have begun milking the clock. New England's ball.

I know multiple Jets defensive starters shouldn’t even have a job in the NFL, but subpar talent faced subpar talent as the Patriots marched down the field with (*checks notes*) Jakobi Meyers and Rex Burkhead. New England just had superior coaching. The Jets needed one stop, somewhere, anywhere, and couldn’t get it, as defensive coordinator Gregg Williams called inexplicably soft coverages all quarter.

Once the Patriots tied it at 27 with 1:57 left, most of us were thinking overtime. How cute.

After completing a pass over the middle to running back La’Mical Perine on first down, Flacco had Perine wide-open in the same spot on second down — but ignored him and took a sack instead. Flacco has 24 career game-winning drives to his name, so I don’t lay that error at his feet. My suspicion is he was told to go deep, maybe to attack Jackson some more if he saw an opening.

But the bonkers play-calling meant the Jets ran a total of four plays in the fourth quarter, resulting in one interception and one three-and-out. The Pats took it from there, driving for the game-winning field goal.

Gase fell to 7-18 as New York’s head coach, and his supposed offensive prowess has resulted in a league-worst 13.4 points per game. But on the bright side, he also feuds with his players and coaches and loses everyone’s respect.

If the franchise’s plan is to select Trevor Lawrence next spring — or even Ohio State’s Justin Fields, the second-best quarterback the class has to offer — why would you place him under Gase’s wing? That’s to say nothing of the very real speculation that Lawrence, a junior, could see that the Jets are picking first and decide that returning to Clemson for his senior year sounds like a better plan.

But I think Lawrence is far less likely to do that if the Jets hand the reins to a new coach like, I don’t know, pick a name, Eric Bienemy. Wouldn’t you want to see the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator paired with a quarterback billed as one of the best of his generation? It’s worked out for Kansas City so far, right?

By the way, when Darnold is flourishing as the next starting quarterback for the Colts or the Bears, don’t be surprised. He’d just be the latest in a long line of offensive players — Ryan Tannehill, DeVante Parker, Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage — who drastically improve once they get away from Gase and treat themselves to an ounce of good coaching.

Maybe the Jets would have been blown out if Darnold played Monday. Maybe they would have actually won. We just don’t know. Darnold is damaged goods, however unfair his first few NFL seasons have been to him. But keep one thing in mind: If you listen to any football analysis on ESPN or other major networks, people smarter than me often argue that Darnold has enough talent and still could become a good quarterback in this league. You never hear anyone say the same about Gase’s coaching.

(Screenshot of press conference video via newyorkjets.com)

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