It was as if Adam Gase were reading from the Dead Coach Walking 101 textbook.
He spoke about how when one unit does well, another falters. And how it was the small failures of technique that are hurting his team. And then, inevitably, this: Things look great in practice!
"If you were there day in and day out and saw those guys, how they practiced last week, you wouldn’t know what our record was," said Gase, whose record now is 0-5. "Wednesday and Thursday they came out and it was max effort. They were flying around and they competed and the execution was really good." (Friday’s practice was scuttled by a false COVID-19 positive.)
Then came Sunday at MetLife Stadium, when the Jets lost to the Cardinals, 30-10, to strengthen their claim as perhaps the worst team not only in the NFL but arguably in all major pro North American sports this calendar year.
They have lost by no fewer than nine points in dropping their first five games for the first time since 1996, leaving Gase’s 21-game term in peril and the rest of the season largely meaningless.
"What I see at practice and the result, it just doesn’t match up," said Gase, whose job is to make it match up.
Backup quarterback Joe Flacco, who started for the injured Sam Darnold, was asked about the frustration level.
"I mean, c’mon, we’ve played five weeks now and we haven’t won a game, so you can guess what the level of frustration is in the locker room," he said. "That’s why this game is played at this level by grown men, and we have to look ourselves in the mirror and keep our heads up."
Given the Jets’ recent local TV ratings, many people likely passed on watching and instead only will see the final score and draw their own obvious conclusions about the state of the team.
But to appreciate the dysfunction fully, one had to observe its nuances. Space precludes covering all of them here, but a few lowlights:
Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, the Jets drove to the Arizona 13, at which time tight end Trevon Wesco and Le’Veon Bell were stopped on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 runs. (Bell rushed for 60 yards but strangely was targeted with a pass only once.)
"Anytime we’ve run the ball with Wesco, we’ve gotten a yard," Gase said. But not this time.
Said Flacco, "We just haven’t been able to get out of our own way. At some point, we make a mistake that kills the drive."
Shortly thereafter, Avery Williamson returned an interception to the Arizona 10, and the Jets began their drive from there with a delay-of-game penalty, for which Flacco later accepted blame.
The Jets settled for a field goal after a four-play, 2-yard drive.
And then there was the greatest indignity of all. The Jets had just gotten within 17-10 in the third quarter and seemed ready to make a game of it when the Cardinals had a fourth-and-1 at their own 39-yard line.
They lined up to run a play, and it appeared they might try to draw an offside penalty on a hard count. Instead, Kyler Murray took the snap, faked a handoff and found Darrell Daniels alone for a 31-yard gain.
"I was shocked they went for it," Williamson said.
It was a blatant sign of Arizona’s lack of concern over the Jets scoring ability, and their confidence in Murray’s playmaking versatility. The Cardinals went on to score and make it 24-10.
OK, one more embarrassment: On the final play of the third quarter, the Cardinals committed a pass interference penalty, and the Jets took the option to extend the quarter and run an untimed play.
It resulted in a false start penalty on Wesco, which led to another untimed play, on which Frank Gore ran for 2 yards.
Again, this only is a partial list. Why belabor the point? There seems to be no saving Gase now, and no saving this Jets season, which still has 2 ½ months to go.
But hey, there’s always practice. Wednesday and Thursday should be great!