Normally, when an NFL team is 1-7 and has a new coach and GM and has a “franchise quarterback” in place and has an owner who lives and works in London and has a remaining schedule littered with fellow nonentities, it is reasonable to look ahead and see two months of “meaningless” games.
That theory works only if one regards the awful record as some sort of glitch, perhaps the result of bad breaks or injuries or supernatural forces such as . . . ghosts? Not so for the Jets.
Their last eight games are anything but meaningless, because in the wake of Sunday’s loss against the previously hopeless Dolphins, the second half of the season is deeply, disturbingly meaningful.
Let’s take two questions that come to mind, the rest of which pale in comparison as the Giants, Redskins, Raiders, Bengals, Dolphins, Ravens, Steelers and Bills await their turns ganging up on the men in green.
Question No. 1: Is Adam Gase the right man to lead the Jets into the near future?
Question No. 2: Is Sam Darnold really, truly the answer at quarterback?
It is not a surprise that Gase remains a question mark. (OK, many fans consider this question already answered, in the negative.)
He entered the season having gone 23-25 in three years with the Dolphins, and his hiring was met with mixed reviews, with many fans preferring former Packers coach – and Super Bowl winner – Mike McCarthy.
But no one expected this. Darnold has regressed under Gase, who also has failed to solve how to use Le’Veon Bell to maximum effect, and who has a mostly dysfunctional offensive line. (Bell had an MRI on a knee on Monday, by the way. Gulp.)
At last report, arguably Gase’s best player, safety Jamal Adams, was not on speaking terms with him – or GM Joe Douglas – in the wake of hurt feelings at the trade deadline.
Did we mention the Jets are among the league leaders in penalties?
On his day-after call with reporters on Monday, Gase praised the team’s resolve and togetherness, and insisted he does not focus specifically on his job security, nor has he discussed that with CEO Christopher Johnson.
“1-7 is not fun to go through," Gase said. "Things haven’t gone the way that we wanted to. That’s what happens in the NFL sometimes.”
Gase figures to get these next eight games to show what he can do, because the Jets obviously do not want to fire him and start over again, especially when it comes to the disruptive effect on their young quarterback.
Speaking of whom . . .
Coaches come and go, as we have learned all too well in local football over the past several years.
Darnold’s sophomore slump is the bigger concern, and his performance over the next eight games is by far the more important matter.
Is this just part of the process, or is this all there is for a guy with a 5-13 career record, 23 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions?
I don’t know. You don’t know. He doesn’t really know. But the fact we still are left to wonder in November of Year Two is not what you want.
Gase said he saw “a lot more good than bad” from Darnold on Sunday, but that there were things that need to be “cleaned up.” Darnold used the same term.
“There’s not much we can say; 1-7 is not a good spot to be in,” Darnold said. “All we can do is continue to come back to work and grind.”
With the Giants and Daniel Jones up next, comparisons between the two are inevitable this week.
If Jones outplays Darnold in the quadrennial intra-stadium showdown – look out.
There have been far too many meaningless December games played around here this decade involving the two local elevens. In terms of the standings and playoff picture, there are more to come over the next eight weeks. But in terms of the Jets’ near future, these eight are meaningful indeed.