Moments after the injury-riddled Jets fell to 0-2 with a 23-3 loss to the Browns in a Monday night mess at MetLife Stadium, coach Adam Gase was asked what he could say to a team that is racked by misfortune and now is down to its third quarterback in two weeks.
Less than a week after Sam Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis, Gase lost another passer when Trevor Siemian was leveled by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett in the second quarter and suffered a gruesome ankle injury, leaving Gase to go with former practice squad quarterback Luke Falk.
The coach smiled briefly before responding.
“It’s familiar territory for me,” he said.
Sad but true.
Gase had similar quarterback injury issues through most of his three seasons with the Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill played in only 24 of Gase’s 49 games with Miami. In his second season, Gase lured former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler out of the Fox broadcast booth after Tannehill suffered a knee injury.
And here he is again, suffering through another quarterback crisis in his new gig with the Jets.
“The quarterback situation isn’t what you want,” he said. “It’s not something you want to go through. You’ve got to battle through it and figure out a way to get the ball in the end zone.”
Gase and the Jets never did figure out a way to get the ball into the end zone Monday night, coming up with only a field goal by Sam Ficken in the second quarter, as they were rolled by a much healthier and much more functional Browns team. Former Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who lashed out at Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams last week for what the receiver said was the coach’s instructions to go after him in a Giants-Browns preseason game two years ago, put the finishing touches on the win with a spectacular 89-yard catch-and-run touchdown off a short pass from Baker Mayfield.
The Jets were left in the uncertain hands of Falk, a former Washington State quarterback who was elevated from the practice squad after being claimed on waivers in May.
Jets fans packing MetLife Stadium surrendered to the hopelessness of the situation, yelling “Luuuuuke” after his first three handoffs to Le’Veon Bell.
And there was a rousing ovation for Ficken, who nailed a 46-yard field goal in a massive moral victory after the Jets went through three previous kickers.
Falk actually looked pretty decent on a third-quarter drive, throwing a 36-yard pass down the right sideline to Robby Anderson and getting the Jets inside the 15. But on fourth-and-2 from the 12, a short pass to Bell came up a yard short.
And that was that. On the Browns’ first play after taking over on downs, Mayfield found Beckham over the middle, and Beckham outraced the Jets’ secondary to give the Browns a 23-3 lead with 3:32 left in the third quarter. (Hey, Giants fans, remember that?)
Darnold can’t get back soon enough. With a game Sunday against the defending champion Patriots, who figure to obliterate them, the Jets are virtually guaranteed to be 0-3 heading into their bye week.
It doesn’t get much better after that: At the Eagles, home to the Cowboys and Patriots (on a Monday night) and then at Jacksonville.
With or without Darnold, this team could be 1-6 or even 0-7.
It all began with such hope — and what seemed legitimate hope. Gase got a fresh start after a three-year run in Miami that also was marked by quarterback injuries. Bell was aboard after holding out in a contract dispute with Pittsburgh. Darnold looked to be better after taking major strides forward near the end of last season. And linebacker C.J. Mosley’s signing instantly elevated the defense.
But it’s all falling apart. Darnold got sick. Mosley got hurt. Mercurial cornerback Trumaine Johnson, the only reliable cornerback on the team, was in uniform but didn’t play against the Browns. Rookie defensive lineman Quinnen Williams missed the game with an ankle injury. Newly acquired receiver Demaryius Thomas reinjured his hamstring. Tight end Chris Herndon is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
What a mess.
And it isn’t even October.