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Jets' Adam Gase has a simple message for his quarterback, Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold and head coach Adam Gase of

Sam Darnold and head coach Adam Gase of the Jets meet on the field during a timeout in the fourth quarter against the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Oct. 27 in Jacksonville. Credit: Getty Images/Julio Aguilar

Adam Gase has kept his distance from Sam Darnold — literally and figuratively — in accordance with state rules to contain COVID-19 and NFL rules limiting football-related contact with players early in the offseason.

But effective Monday, while the Jets’ coach still could not see his quarterback in the flesh, he was free to talk football with him as the team began its first virtual offseason program.

The mission statement from Gase, both on the computer in the coming weeks and on the field someday in the future, is simple: “Grab ahold of this offense.”

That’s fair. It is time for Darnold to do so, even if he still is only 22 years old and so far has had modest talent around him.

In two NFL seasons, he has shown flashes of promise and plenty of . . . meh. He is 11-15 as a starter and has thrown 36 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions.

That is not good enough for a No. 3 overall draft selection / franchise savior. But all is not lost.

Darnold is smart and self-motivated enough to do his job in these unique circumstances, even if studying alone in California is not the same as doing so with his coaches and teammates in New Jersey.

That is the theory, anyway.

“I’m not worried about it with how we’re going to be doing things and how we’re going to be talking through it,” Gase said on a call with reporters on Monday. “I know that he’s kind of had the ability to do some things on his own out West.

“I know we had discussions before he left at the end of the year of some things that we wanted to work on. But really, it’s grab ahold of this offense and really learn from studying the film, which he’s gone through a lot on his own.”

Gase said that watching last season’s ups and downs “gets Darnold] fired up, because he knows ‘I can do this better; I know how this is supposed to look.’ His brain worked so much faster when you go into Year Two of these things. You know all the little tiny details of what the offense is about.

“Now it’s more about hey, playing faster, adjusting to things that maybe you didn’t talk about, adjusting to things that you’ve never seen before, and being able to do those little tiny detail things so much quicker just because of experience and studying the film and learning from your mistakes.”

Last November, Darnold shared with Gase the sorts of plays he prefers to run, and it led to improved performance.

That sort of give-and-take between the two will be essential moving forward, even if for now it will be done on a screen rather than on a field or in a meeting room.

So is the young quarterback ready to make a major step in Year Three?

“I feel like things are kind of moving in the right direction,” Gase said. “It’s hard for me to talk about these mythical steps that everybody’s talking about. I mean, all I know is we need to find ways to win games and put ourselves in position to where we can make the tournament. That’s what the goal is.”

It is an impossible goal without Darnold progressing further.

“Sam’s trying to do the right thing as far as making sure that he knows this offense cold and he knows all the little details that he needs to do, day in and day out, and we just have to help get all these guys who are new caught up to speed as fast as possible,” Gase said.

“I mean, he’s really kind of an extension of the coaching staff in that aspect, because he has more experience in this offense than most of the guys that are here, and he’s going to have to do a good job of just making sure that he’s on point.”

And making sure that he’s producing them.

New York Sports