This has not been an easy time for Jets fans, who have suffered through four-plus losing seasons, with little end in sight to the misery. If it’s any consolation, Broncos fans are right there with you.
Thursday night’s matchup between the 0-3 Jets and 0-3 Broncos is indeed a misery-loves-company affair, with both teams facing an uncertain future no matter the result of this matchup of NFL bottom dwellers.
The Jets’ problems have been many — from Adam Gase’s inability to coax more points out of the offense during a brutal hat trick of losses to start the season, to Gregg Williams’ struggles fielding a capable defense without Jamal Adams, to Sam Darnold spinning his wheels with a disquieting number of mistakes, albeit with an injury-riddled assemblage of skill position players around him.
But the Broncos have their own embattled coach in second-year man Vic Fangio, the longtime defensive coordinator who last year got his first shot at a head coaching job and was just 7-12 heading into Thursday night’s game. Gase, too, is 7-12 with the Jets. At this point, neither man figures to last into 2021 in their current position.
Which coach has it worse this season? Take your pick.
Gase lost starting tailback Le’Veon Bell to a hamstring injury in the opener and hasn’t fielded a competent receiving corps because of an assortment of injuries. The defense hasn’t responded well without Adams and is still trying to find a consistent pass rush, something that has been missing for years.
But at least Gase has had his starting quarterback all season. Fangio lost Drew Lock to a shoulder injury in Week 2, and he is now on injured reserve. Jeff Driskel got the start in last week’s loss to the Buccaneers, and Fangio chose to go with Brett Rypien against the Jets. It is the first career start for Rypien, nephew of former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien.
"We’ve had a year and two training camps with Brett, and we think he deserves a chance to see what he can do here as the starter," Fangio said of Rypien, who was released by the Broncos the last two seasons before making the team in 2020. "Other than the last throw on Sunday — which was a bad throw and a bad read — he played pretty good in there, so we want to see if that can continue."
That last throw was an interception in the end zone against the Buccaneers.
Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who was fired after last year as the Giants’ coach, was hoping Rypien could inject some life into the offense, albeit in challenging conditions.
"Everything is expedited when you play on Thursday night," Shurmur said. "The schedule is very abbreviated. We try to work on things that we’ve worked on in the past and plays that we think are going to work well against the Jets. They’re going to be a tough opponent on defense. I’ve played against a Gregg Williams-style defense in the past and they like to bring pressure. Everything is compressed. You work longer, you work later, and you try to put a plan together."
Quarterback is just the latest injury problem for Fangio. He’d already lost All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller over the summer to an Achilles injury. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey is out for the year with a torn biceps. And starting right tackle Elijah Wilkinson is out with a knee injury.
Both teams have had little to celebrate since 2015, although at least Broncos fans were treated to a Super Bowl run that year when Peyton Manning led the team to victory over the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Manning retired weeks after the game.
Denver has struggled ever since to get back to championship form, and they’re as far from it now as you can imagine. Consider: Rypien is the ninth different quarterback since the start of the 2017 season. Denver has had five offensive coordinators in the last five years, and four different quarterback coaches over the last four seasons. Fangio is the team’s third head coach since 2016. Given general manager John Elway’s impatience, there could be a new head coach in 2021. After all, Elway fired Fangio’s predecessor, Vance Joseph, after just two seasons.
The Jets’ last winning season was in 2015, although it ended in heartbreak when Ryan Fitzpatrick stumbled in the regular-season finale against his former Bills team and lost a chance to reach the playoffs with a 10-6 finish.
They’ve gone 21-46 since, and with Gase off to a horrendous start, there’s a good chance he won’t be back next season. Unless he can pull off a run like the last half of 2019, when the Jets went 6-2 after a 1-7 start, Gase could be done.
Jets-Broncos, 2020. Two awful teams, two embattled coaches, one Thursday night matchup.
Not much more to say, other than . . . thank goodness for the Yankees.