Go ahead and admit it: When the Jets went up by 10 points in the second quarter against the Bills, you had no idea how to react.
Should you be happy the winless Jets finally were playing well? Should you feel good that Adam Gase’s decision to hand over the play-calling duties to Dowell Loggains appeared to jump-start the offense? Should you feel even better that Sam Darnold was running the offense with the kind of command you’d expect from a No. 3 overall pick?
Or was there this sinking feeling that perhaps this short-term satisfaction might lead to long-term disappointment?
The kind of disappointment over missing out on a chance to get a franchise-saving quarterback, a goal that would require the Jets to continue on their miserable way through the end of the regular season.
What an odd time to be a Jets fan, when you so desperately want your team to win but realize that winning might mean losing.
Well, the Jets took care of that brief moment of conflicted allegiance by reverting to the mind-numbingly bad play that has marked one of the darkest seasons in franchise history. They didn’t score another point and the Bills chipped away with field goal after field goal — after field goal — and came away with an 18-10 win to drop the Jets to 0-7.
Trevor Lawrence, Jets fans turn their lonely eyes to you.
Darnold’s return from a two-game absence with a shoulder injury looked promising at the start, and the change to Loggains looked like just what this ailing offense needed. But bad football teams find ways to lose, and the Jets found theirs shortly after rookie tailback La’Mical Perine scored his first career touchdown with 7:22 left in the second quarter. Darnold threw his first of two interceptions shortly before halftime, and it was downhill from there.
The Jets, who produced 186 yards in the first half against a Bills team that looks good enough to win the Tom Brady-less AFC East, managed only 4 net yards and no points in the second half. The Jets are the NFL’s only winless team, and it figures to stay that way for a while.
Gase eventually will head for the exit, and perhaps Clemson’s star passer will be the next of so, so many quarterbacks who fans hope can turn into the second coming of Joe Namath and deliver a second Super Bowl title after a wait of more than a half-century.
"They made some good adjustments," Darnold said of the Bills’ dominance after the Jets’ early success. "I think we just gotta adjust to their adjustments."
But as has been the case all too often this year, the Jets have no answers. Coaching adjustments are critical at every level of football, but particularly the highest. Gase didn’t have enough through the 0-6 start, and Loggains fell short in his play-calling debut with the Jets.
The Bills adjusted to Darnold by overpowering the Jets’ line with blitzes, but Loggains did not answer back by slowing down the pass rush with a few draw plays or screens — something, anything to repel the Bills’ upfield push.
Darnold was under siege and had little chance to do much of anything after a promising start. He was 11-for-15 for 116 yards in the first half and 1-for-8 for 4 yards in the second half, finishing with a miserable 31.1 rating. He was sacked six times.
"I think they were just adding guys, bringing seven-, eight-man pressures," Darnold said. "They were playing man coverage and suffocating the [tackle] box. We’ve got to adjust to that next time."
There will not be a next time against the Bills until next season, and who knows if Darnold will be around to see it. The remainder of the season will be a referendum on his future with the Jets, and unless he somehow can thrive behind an underperforming line and an overmatched coaching staff, general manager Joe Douglas very well could look for a new quarterback to go with a new coach in 2021.
The Jets still might end up with competition for the first overall pick. There still are six one-win teams, including the Giants, who have their own quarterback questions with Daniel Jones. But "Tank for Trevor" will continue to be the mantra for Jets fans who need some shred of optimism about the future.
There aren’t many winnable games the rest of the way, and the Jets almost surely will be underdogs in every one of them. The only guarantee of getting the first pick is matching the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns and becoming the NFL’s third 0-16 team.
At this point, winning is losing and losing is winning.
Welcome to Jets fans’ upside-down world.