MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.
The final seconds were winding down when the familiar sound of a doomed season wafted from the stands toward the tunnel where the Jets soon would enter their locker room.
“Fire Gase! Fire Gase! Fire Gase!” some in the stands at Hard Rock Stadium chanted as the Jets completed a 26-18 loss to previously winless Miami on Sunday to leave both teams 1-7.
It would have been an ominous sign for Adam Gase under any circumstances, but that it was happening on the road, in the stadium that he called home just last autumn, likely made it even more painful.
Were Jets fans leading the chant? Presumably. Were some Dolphins fans joining in? Why not? This has been a shared experience. Gase is 1-10 in his past 11 games dating to his last three with the Dolphins in December.
Would CEO Christopher Johnson actually can Gase in the middle of his first season? That is difficult to imagine, even if the coach compounds his woes with a loss to the Giants next weekend.
But after this shocking flop, Gase’s future beyond the next eight games officially is a matter of justifiable debate.
He had a reasonable excuse for the team’s second, third and fourth losses, because they came with quarterback Sam Darnold sidelined by mononucleosis. When he returned, the Jets beat the Cowboys, 24-22.
All seemed well. A competitive game against the Patriots widely was predicted. A playoff run seemed possible.
Then came losses five, six and seven, which began with a blowout against New England and continued with back-to-back duds against the Jaguars and Dolphins, a team widely perceived to be pioneering the art of NFL tanking.
Gase has Darnold, who has regressed under the tutelage of the alleged quarterback expert. He has Le’Veon Bell, one of the best backs of the 2010s, and cannot for the life of him seem to figure out what to do with him.
He has a superstar defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams, whose unit allowed former Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw three touchdown passes in the first half on Sunday.
The Dolphins had not scored more than 21 points in any of their first seven games.
Gase is an open and quotable fellow in news conferences, but some of his comments on Sunday did not go over well with many fans, at least as expressed on social media.
For example, when he said this about whether he found the loss embarrassing: “It’s the NFL, man. It’s the NFL. You can’t be embarrassed by this [expletive].”
When asked what he would tell the disappointed fan base, he said, “We haven’t won. We haven’t figured out a way to put together a good week of practice and go win a game; that’s what we have to do.”
More than anything, he blamed the 10 penalties for 105 yards. His predecessor, Todd Bowles, often was accused of running an undisciplined operation because of his teams’ penalty totals. So what are you going to do about it, Coach Gase?
“Obviously, we have to do a better job,” he said. “It’s on me.”
The Jets’ short-term problem is that they are in free fall. They will have a long-term problem if Darnold does not snap out of his slump.
The coach increasingly is an intermediate-term problem. He is not going anywhere this week, no matter how much Jets fans might wish it to be so.
But if the losing continues against a soft upcoming schedule, how can management sell Gase to fans for 2020 and beyond? Answer: It can’t.
For now, his players claim to be in his corner, including the most important player of all.
“I mean, Coach Gase is one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around,” Darnold said. “It’s just a matter of going out there as players and executing, staying consistent.
“He’s putting together great game plans. We’re staying motivated. Every single game we go out there and give great effort, practice with great effort.”
One might think that things cannot get worse than losing to the Dolphins. But losing big to the Giants next weekend might qualify.
“They’re not going to cancel our season,” Gase said.
On Sunday, that might have been the worst news of all.
Best of Times,
Worst of Times
Newsday columnist Neil Best has joined the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns with 0-16 records. The Jets and Giants are winless with Best in attendance over the last 16 games, a streak that likely will have to come to an end next Sunday when the Giants visit the Jets. Best and NY football’s run of futility:
Sept. 16: COWBOYS 20, Giants 13
Sept. 30: JAGUARS 31, Jets 12
Oct. 7: PANTHERS 33, Giants 31
Oct. 22: FALCONS 23, Giants 20
Oct. 28: BEARS 24, Jets 10
Nov. 11: Bills 41, JETS 10
Nov. 25: Patriots 27, JETS 13
Dec. 2: TITANS 26, Jets 22
Dec. 16: Titans 17, GIANTS 0
Dec. 23: Packers 44, JETS 38
Dec. 30: PATRIOTS 38, Jets 3
Sept. 8: Bills 17, JETS 16
Sept. 22: PATRIOTS 30, Jets 14
Oct. 6: EAGLES 31, Jets 6
Oct. 27: LIONS 31, Giants 26
Nov. 3: DOLPHINS 26, Jets 18
Home team in caps