Lichtenstein: If losing is everything to tanking Jets, Adam Gase gives them best chance to succeed

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After the Giants and the Falcons, the two teams ahead of the Jets in the reverse tankathon standings due to the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker, both emerged from their early Sunday contests with their first victories of the season, my impulse was to compose a snarky tweet that, knowing the Jets, they’d ruin their so-called good fortune by winning in Miami.

Then the cognitive function of my brain kicked in. What was I thinking?

Football, as my son Jack often tells me, may be a game of small sample size and high variance (in other words, on any given Sunday…), but c’mon, these are the Jets, a franchise that is currently experiencing perhaps their highest degree of dysfunction in their mostly woebegone history.

Sure enough, Gang Green played perfect complementary football in falling behind 21-0 by halftime, with the offense, defense, and special teams all performing with brutal, synchronous incompetence.

The 24-0 final was New York’s sixth straight defeat, all by multiple scores. This team is now entering 1996 Rich Kotite territory, whereby it will likely take a miracle just to match that nightmarish one-win campaign. After six games, these Jets have been outscored 185-75; in 1996, the cumulative deficit at this stage was 166-75.

Forget what you hear from players and coaches, the remainder of the season has only one worthwhile mission: secure the first-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, where Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the consensus Next Big Thing.

To tank or not to tank should no longer even be a discussion amongst fans. The Jets are the lone winless team left in the NFL, and there is nothing to gain and everything to lose if the Jets should slip up by winning meaningless games from here on out.

Sure, you’d like to see developmental progress from the few young players that might become part of the core, but how many are we really talking about? General manager Joe Douglas has had one draft class, and only three of those nine selections even suited up on Sunday. The most consistent performer has been sixth-rounder Braden Mann, a league-average punter who has been a better tackler than some of the Jets’ defensive backs.

Let the other rookies, like tackle Mekhi Becton and wide receiver Denzel Mims, fully heal from their injuries, while everyone else on this team – including quarterback Sam Darnold, who missed his second straight game on Sunday due to a sore shoulder – should be available to all who call in advance of the November 3 trade deadline.

Douglas started the sell-off process when he released running back Le’Veon Bell last week after finding no bidders willing to take on the remaining commitment in Bell’s contract (including an $8 million injury guarantee in 2021). That continued after Sunday’s game when he dealt defensive lineman Steve McLendon, one of New York’s few veteran leaders to Tampa Bay – and folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The only conundrum in the tanking plan is what to do with head coach Adam Gase. On merit, he’s two weeks past his expiration date, as he should have been canned after the Week 4 Thursday night loss to a Denver squad that featured a third-string quarterback. However, despite the ten-day respite in the schedule, owner Christopher Johnson opted to stay the course, even if such a course continues to be littered with embarrassment.

The Jets have scored six offensive touchdowns this season, three of which came off broken plays by Darnold and one of which was a garbage-time run. The conservative Gase hasn’t exactly dialed up a plethora of high-octane designs, and the few he may have called, like Sunday’s opening-drive deep balls to wide receiver Breshad Perriman, have been poorly executed.

There’s evidence now that the Jets are coming apart at the seams, too; defensive coordinator Gregg Williams took a shot at Gase in his Friday press conference, explaining that the blame for his unit’s lousy ranking should be shared. When asked to clarify, Williams said, “You’ll have to figure it out,” meaning, “Hint, hint—look over there at how often Gase’s offense puts us in bad spots.”

A perturbed Gase later told the CBS pre-production crew, “That’s not what we need. No one is pointing fingers. Everyone needs to shut up and play.”

Gase denied that Sunday’s masked pregame conversation with Williams, which was interpreted by some as “animated,” was Round 2 in an alleged dust-up – instead saying it was about how the officials were not happy with the way center Connor McGovern holds the ball on his snaps.

Given the underachievement of Williams’ defense this season, there likely wasn’t going to be a Buddy Ryan/Kevin Gilbride-like brouhaha – if you don’t remember, Ryan, then Houston’s defensive coordinator, took a swing at his offensive counterpart on the sideline of a 1993 game against the Jets. Indeed, Williams kept his cool through six three-and-outs in New York’s first seven possessions, as well as several subsequent missed scoring opportunities undermined, in part, by Gase’s miserable play calling.

However, it’s unclear if any tensions that do exist will remain below the surface. The theory goes that Johnson won’t make a coaching change unless his hand is forced by more public controversies. Whereas I once surmised that Williams would be a natural interim figure in such a case, the latest gossip suggests that both would pack up their Florham Park offices simultaneously, assuming Gase is unable to label Williams as the fall guy first.

No matter who coaches the team, though, there should be no tanking concerns in the next two weeks. The 11-point underdog Jets will get a second sampling of division-leading Buffalo Sunday at MetLife Stadium, before visiting Bell and the Chiefs in a game that might set a point spread record.

This dysfunction is not going to unwind itself, nor do I believe that a new voice will right the ship. However, if you go back to the basic principle, that losing is everything, who gives you a better chance to succeed than Gase?

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils, and Jets, follow Steve Lichtenstein on Twitter: @SteveLichtenst1