FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The list of disappointments is so long and so demoralizing that it tests the patience and loyalty of even the most loyal Jets fans.
There have been broken dreams and broken bones, soul-crushing losses and blown opportunities. Dashed hopes and head-shaking mistakes.
And now, another gut punch — actually, a series of them — on Thursday to pile on to the misery. To which these poor souls who root for this team are left muttering: Will it ever end?
A season that began with legitimate optimism now hangs in the balance just a few days after it started. Sam Darnold has mononucleosis and will likely miss the next few weeks. Now the Jets are without their franchise quarterback for most, if not all, of the toughest part of their schedule.
It was a difficult enough task the first six games WITH Darnold, who got off to a rocky start in Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Bills but was still uniquely positioned to lead what appeared to be a quality offense. The Jets host the Browns on Monday night and then face the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, the Eagles and Cowboys before facing New England again. The Jets have a bye in Week 4.
If they win two of those games, they’ll be lucky. If they win none, the season is effectively over at 0-6. Possibly before Darnold even gets back.
The Jets’ locker room showed no hint of panic Thursday, and the usual raucous post-practice banter made for a loose atmosphere. The “next man up” mentality is as much a part of the NFL as blocking and tackling, and the Jets were keeping a stiff upper lip about losing their quarterback.
Jamal Adams talked about welcoming adversity this early, claiming it will bring the team together and echoing what coach Adam Gase told the players earlier in the day.
“It starts with me and my attitude,” Gase said. “What’s our attitude going to be? Is it going to be woe is me or sky is falling? Or is it going to be this is a challenge we’re going to embrace and guys being tighter in the locker room and everybody coming together and doing their job as well as they can to help us win?”
Trevor Siemian, a former Broncos starter who took over after Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 season, will fill in for Darnold. He, too, remains undeterred.
“This team is built to handle it,” he said.
All things considered, there are worse options than Siemian at quarterback. He has starting experience, going 13-11 as Denver’s starter in 2016-17. He threw for 5,686 yards, 30 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions.
Then again, what happened then may not impact what happens now.
“I don’t know if anything I did two years ago will help me now,” he said.
But it’s not just the quarterback situation that has the Jets in a bind and has Jets fans fearing the worst.
One game into Le’Veon Bell’s career with the Jets, and he’s already dealing with a shoulder issue. Gase believes it’s just soreness from Sunday’s game — his first since a playoff game in January 2018 — but Bell went for a precautionary MRI on Thursday. The good news: Bell tweeted later in the day that he is OK.
The Jets are also concerned by a groin injury to linebacker C.J. Mosley, a prized free agent addition in the offseason. Mosley had to leave Sunday’s game against the Bills, and the defense collapsed after his departure as the Jets blew a 16-0 lead.
Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa is out for the season after suffering a recurrence of a neck injury that sidelined him in 2017. First-round defensive lineman Quinnen Williams suffered an ankle injury Sunday and hasn’t practiced. And wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, acquired in a trade with the Patriots this week, hasn’t practiced yet because of a hamstring injury.
So much for all that preseason optimism, which has suddenly evaporated.
Unless the Jets can pull it together and overcome a swarm of bad news — the latest in a seemingly unending series of calamities — there’s more heartbreak ahead.