Leading up to Week 12, confidence was building for the winless Jets.
The consensus among players and coaches was that this team is closer than ever to securing its first win in 2020. After back-to-back one-possession losses, they believed internally that it was only a matter of time until this group would turn the corner and find a way to win.
Then, the Jets lost 20-3 against the Dolphins on Sunday.
It was one of this team's worst performances of the season. That's saying something for a team that's now lost 11 games in a row to start the year, something only 17 other teams have done before.
After the game, it wasn't long before the elephant in the room was addressed. New York is now just five losses away from pulling off perhaps the most ignominious feats in NFL history.
"That's a thing that no player, no coach, no staff [member] ever wants to be part of. No one wants to go 0-16," linebacker Jordan Jenkins said in a Zoom call with reporters. "It's something that nobody in this league wants to do. So, I mean, we're gonna keep fighting to try and change that."
Any semblance of momentum that this group had built over the previous two games was squandered Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. After storming out to an early lead, scoring on their first drive, the Jets' offense was lifeless the rest of the way. New York's defense made a handful of plays, forcing a few turnovers, but quarterback Sam Darnold and the offense failed to take advantage of each and every opportunity they had to do damage.
"Our defense is playing well enough for us to win, so we've got to get it together as an offense score some points," guard Greg Van Roten said. "Our offense just needs to pick it up. We've got to get in the red zone. We've got to be more efficient on third downs. We have to score touchdowns."
The Jets have five games left to make those necessary adjustments and get into the win column in 2020. After putting 27 and 28 points on the board in their previous two games—and with Darnold playing alongside New York's starting wide receivers for the first time in 2020—you'd think this discussion would be a thing of the past.
Instead, Sunday was the third game in the Jets' last six where New York has failed to score a single touchdown.
Asked how to take care of business with the prospect of finishing out a winless season looming larger everyday, Jenkins said he and his teammates have no choice. They just have to do their jobs.
"You never know what game is gonna be your last," the veteran linebacker said. "Outside things can happen or you never know what play is going to be your last play in the game of football. You just got to go out there and give it your all. You never know when it's gonna be taken from you."
Darnold, who is now 11-22 in his three years with the Jets, feels the same way.
"No one at the beginning of the season thought that we’d find ourselves in this position at this point in the season. But at the end of the day, it’s football. We love our job," Darnold explained. "We love coming to work everyday. We have a great group of guys that come to work every single day. We’re just going to keep doing that and try to get a win this next week."
The final five teams remaining on New York's schedule are the Las Vegas Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots. New England, who narrowly escaped with a win against the Jets back in Week 9, are the only team of that bunch that has a sub-.500 record.
Even if the road won't get any easier starting next week against the Raiders, Darnold's confidence didn't waiver in his presser one bit. Asked if he's worried his team will finish 0-16, the quarterback answered emphatically.
"No," he said. "I mean, we'll find one. We’ve got to stack the days. We’ve got to have good practices. We’ve got to do everything the right way and then come ready to play on Sundays."