There is no bottom.
The Jets had a chance to salvage at least some level of self-respect after a hideous 0-3 start against admittedly good teams in Buffalo, San Francisco and Indianapolis. But even with the 0-3 Broncos in town with a third-string quarterback who’d never started an NFL game before and a defense that was without its best player in Von Miller, the Jets came up pathetically small once more.
The Broncos beat the Jets, 37-28, at MetLife Stadium, with fans mercifully spared an in-person embarrassment due to COVID-19 restrictions, but still subject to a televised humiliation that only makes their misery feel that much worse.
The Jets are 0-4, the offense at least showed some flickering signs of life yet not nearly enough, the defense was a discombobulated, undisciplined mess that produced six personal fouls, innumerable mistakes and almost zero fight, and there’s simply no telling when they’ll get their next win.
Or if they will even get one.
Adam Gase is this generation’s Rich Kotite, and even if team owner Christopher Johnson, who only two weeks ago used the word "brilliant" to describe his second-year coach, decides to continue on with Gase, this season is already a lost cause. It’s only a matter of how bad the record will get.
And if they can’t beat a previously winless Denver team at home, then who can they beat?
The much-improved Cardinals come to town next weekend, and the Jets are at the Chargers after that. Then it’s a brutal stretch against Buffalo, Kansas City and New England. It’s very possible that they’ll be 0-9 when they visit Gase’s old team, the Dolphins, for the first of two straight games against Miami.
Gase knows he’s on the hot seat, he knows fans have lost patience, and he knows there is no easy way out. Truth be told, there may be no way out at all, and it will most likely be a matter of when, not if, he is gone.
"We’re working to get this thing right," said Gase, who is now 7-13 as the Jets’ head coach. "I’m not happy about this. I know we can play way better than this. I know we cannot beat ourselves."
Yet that is exactly what they did – again. They were an undisciplined mess, with 11 penalties in all, and they repeatedly committed mistakes at key parts of the game. Sound familiar? It should. It’s what’s been happening all season.
"We hurt ourselves," Gase said. "We need to get this corrected, and we need to figure out what guys are going to do the things right, what guys are going to do the right thing at the right time. This is not the way we’re going to play."
Sorry, coach. You’re already playing like that, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue. This neither a talented, nor a well-coached team, so there is simply no reason to expect things to change.
"We gotta win games, man," quarterback Sam Darnold said afterward. "I guess it’s better than getting blown out, but we gotta win that game."
Darnold knows his coach is fighting for his job, and while the quarterback feels a deep affinity for Gase, he also knows the future remains uncertain.
"It’s nothing I’m worried about," Darnold said of Gase’s job security. "Obviously, I love Adam, but it’s not my decision to make."
Darnold did some decent things Thursday – there was a 46-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career, in the first quarter. And he did do just enough, thanks in part to two key interceptions by the Jets’ defense in the fourth quarter, to give the Jets a brief lead late in the game. But it wasn’t enough to be outplayed by a third-string quarterback making his first NFL start.
Darnold returned after an injury scare from a hard tackle in the first half that bruised his shoulder, and he showed plenty of fight the rest of the way. But he couldn’t solve the season-long problems with the red zone offense – they were 0-for-4 inside the opponent’s 20 – and he couldn’t bring the Jets back a second time after Denver had retaken the lead.
"It’s unacceptable," he said of the red-zone issues. "Got to score when we get down there."
It is Year 3 for Darnold, who was counted upon to be the Jets’ answer at quarterback when he was drafted No. 3 overall in 2018. But if that day is to come, it won’t be any time soon, because this team is headed for further calamity in the weeks ahead.
This feels like 1996 all over again, the year the Jets went 1-15 in Kotite’s second season and cleaned house shortly thereafter.
Is there someone out there who could do for this era’s Jets what Bill Parcells did in the post-Kotite era?
Jets fans are hoping – no, begging – there is.