You can explain away the knee-jerk firing of the general manager after the draft. At least there was a vision.
You can explain away the mounting distrust between the growing number of unwanted Jets on the roster (who know they’re unwanted) and the coach who clearly has a different plan for the future. At least he can get new players.
You can explain away the organization’s misplaced, but still budding optimism that the marriage between Adam Gase and Sam Darnold will work out, still just a few weeks removed from the unexplainable victory over the Dallas Cowboys. At least they have a fortuitous schedule down the stretch.
What you can’t explain away is what happened on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The Jets fell to a team whose personnel department is executing a strategic freefall. They lost to a team that played one of the worst half-seasons in NFL history. They lost to a team that started, benched and then re-started Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. A team currently in last place in both points scored and points surrendered. Last in turnovers caused. Tied for second to last in sacks. (Funny thing about those last two stats: The Jets turned the ball over to that team. They also allowed three sacks.)
From an optics perspective, this might be one of the worst losses in modern Jets history. Two weeks ago, we wondered if Sam Darnold would ever be able to overcome the emotional weight of an embarrassing, Monday Night Football pantsing at the hands of the Patriots in which he admitted, on camera, that he was “seeing ghosts.” At least then they had an experienced coach and the runway to rebuild their personnel department. Now, is it fair to wonder if Gase himself can overcome this? What is left from keeping this cardboard boat from folding up and sinking?
Yes, the Jets are a team that is fundamentally flawed. There is a reason the owner green-lit the firing of Gase’s predecessor, and the highly unconventional firing of Mike Maccagnan after the draft and free agency. They are beat up. Injured. But against a semi-professional opponent, with their starting quarterback intact, best wide receiver intact, Pro Bowl running back intact, Pro Bowl safety intact and top-three draft pick on the defensive line intact, they lost to a team whose primary objective this season was to strip itself for parts, in hopes that the corresponding draft capital would one day result in a playoff-caliber roster.
And the Jets didn’t just lose to this team by a field goal. The final score was 26-18.
“It’s the NFL,” Gase said. “You can’t be embarrassed by this s---.”
In the coming days and weeks, it’s likely we’ll hear more about the flimsiness of this roster—maybe that it was worse than the Jets thought when they took the gig. Didn’t you know almost none of the old draft picks are here? Didn’t you know that the old guys overpaid for bad free agents? Didn’t you know he somehow failed to draft any offensive linemen? Didn’t you know that what took place was almost exclusively not the fault of the people in the room right now?
It is perhaps the last, flailing punch that this version of the Jets has to save themselves from another seasonal exodus of fans and, generally, credibility. Minus some truly inspiring performances with their remaining eight games—the kind of rapid ascent that makes Darnold a force to be gameplanned against—even a presidential-level smear campaign might ultimately prove worthless.
But hey, look at it from the bright side: At least they still have one more excuse. For now.
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