Franchise quarterback Sam Darnold—at least until the Jets draft his replacement in 2021—took the field for the first time in nearly a month Sunday against Miami. It did not go well for the erratic 23-year-old, who completed just 59.3 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions as the hapless Jets ran their season record to an embarrassing 0-11, easily the worst start in the franchise’s 60-year history. Per Elias Sports Bureau, Darnold’s streak of 142 straight passes without a touchdown is the league’s longest active dry spell.
With five games remaining in his New York tenure—assuming GM Joe Douglas does the sensible thing by throwing Adam Gase to the wolves—it seems the Jets’ soon-to-be-unemployed head coach is finally ready to acknowledge his shortcomings. High on that list is his handling of Darnold, whose progress has stalled of late. Once touted as a “quarterback whisperer,” Gase has not lived up to that reputation in the Big Apple, failing to deliver on his promise of making Darnold an upper-echelon NFL starter.
“I came here to help him, help him develop his career and we haven’t been able to do that,” admitted an unusually introspective Gase during Wednesday’s press conference. “We need to do things well around him, but at the same time, it's on me to get him to play better than what he's played. I haven’t done a good enough job.”
While seeing Gase own up to his mistakes may come as refreshing to some, it’s probably an instance of too little too late. The Jets haven’t won a game since December 29th of last year—a span of 340 days—and with upcoming matchups against the Raiders, Seahawks, Rams and Browns, all of whom boast winning records, that drought figures to continue for the foreseeable future. Darnold has had every reason to fail this year—injuries, middling receiving weapons and a barebones offensive line for starters—but it’s still concerning how little he’s progressed since arriving as the third overall pick in 2018.
“It’s frustrating,” said Gase in comments relayed to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “We've got to put these guys in the best position possible and those guys have to go execute. It's on all of us.”
At this rate, it’s doubtful New York will exercise Darnold’s fifth-year option for 2022 (which would put them on the hook for an additional $25 million), particularly if the Jets land the top selection in next year’s draft. New York would presumably use that pick on Clemson prodigy Trevor Lawrence, ushering in a new era at quarterback for the long-suffering Jets while also putting a bow on the team’s failed Darnold experiment.