Sam Darnold's return from injury did not go according to plan.
The third-year quarterback threw two costly interceptions, failing to find the end zone for his fourth straight game, in a miserable 20-3 loss to the Dolphins.
In New York's previous two games, before Darnold was back from his shoulder injury, veteran Joe Flacco paved the way for the Jets' offense to score a combined 55 points. He found the end zone a total of five times, throwing for 200-plus yards in each contest.
If the Jets are trying to win over the final month of the season, then does Flacco give this team their best chance to win?
Jets head coach Adam Gase says no. It'll be Darnold starting at quarterback—barring any injury setbacks of course—for the rest of this season.
"Sam is the starter and we need Sam to play as many snaps as possible," Gase said in a conference call with reporters on Monday. "I think we’re just going to keep working to get better every week and I think he will. I think he’s very competitive and he wants to do well and he’s looking forward to this next game."
Now entering Week 13, Darnold ranks last among qualifying quarterbacks in yards per game (177.4), QBR (36.7) and passer rating (64.0). He's thrown eight interceptions in seven games and has just three touchdown passes in that span.
It's not just 2020 either. Darnold is now 11-22 in his three years in green and white since being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in 2018.
"I think for me, it’s just continuing to take what defense gives me and being patient with that, really focusing on just completing the football and putting ourselves in a good position to move the ball down the field and score touchdowns," Darnold said Monday. "And with that, it’s also taking care of the football, which I didn’t do a good enough job of yesterday."
In the third quarter on Sunday, Darnold threw across his body into double coverage, while on the run and in field goal range, to gift the Dolphins with an easy turnover. Then, he telegraphed a pass that was picked off by ball hawk Xavien Howard on the Jets' final drive of the game.
With all three of New York's starting wideouts at his disposal for the first time this year, Darnold was poised to break out on Sunday. Instead, he wound up with only 197 yards through the air on 16 completions. That's good for a 51.0 quarterback rating, not even his worst game of the season.
"I think there can definitely be improvement. I think there was some things that he can fix very quickly," Gase said on Darnold. "I think we all forget that he hadn’t played in a few weeks, getting out there with a couple new guys ... I know there are some plays where he definitely wishes he could go back and have a redo, but that’s not how it works."
Asked if he's thinking about auditioning for a role with another franchise, should the Jets go on to draft Trevor Lawrence with the first pick next spring, Darnold said he's focused on the present.
"Every single day I need to come in with a worker’s mentality and make sure that I’m doing everything I need to do every single day to put this team and this offense in particular in a good position to go score touchdowns and win a football game," he said. "That’s all I’m focused on."
New York's final five games include four opponents in the playoff hunt. The only team they have left to play that doesn't have a record north of .500 is the New England Patriots in Week 17, Darnold's nemesis.
To Gase, the blame this year doesn't fall squarely on Darnold. Poor play and mistakes aside, the 23-year-old will be under center going forward.
"Sam needs to play. I want him to play. I want him to be out there."