Adam Gase believes he’s let Sam Darnold down.
The Jets hired Gase in January 2019 to help develop Darnold into a franchise quarterback. By all measures, he has regressed this season, and for the first time, Gase said he has failed him.
"I came here to help him, help him develop his career, and we haven’t been able to do that," a very candid Gase said during a Thursday Zoom call.
This was revealing because Gase usually speaks with confidence about Darnold and his offense. But Gase has been humbled during this historically bad season and is taking responsibility for not doing what Jets CEO Christopher Johnson hired him to do.
Gase seems to know he won’t be back for a third season as coach. The Jets are 0-11 and Gase has not been able to elevate the play of Darnold and the offense. The Jets rank last in the league in points, total offense and passing offense.
Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft, has thrown three touchdown passes and eight interceptions in seven games this season. He missed four games with a shoulder injury.
Darnold hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in the last four games he’s played and hasn’t led a touchdown drive in his last two.
Darnold indicated that Gase has shared his feelings with him, but the quarterback said his poor play is his fault.
"I take full responsibility for the way I’ve played," he said. "I haven’t played well enough. We have great people in this organization. Everybody’s going to take blame for certain parts of us not winning games."
Injuries at the skill positions have impacted Darnold’s season, but last week against the Dolphins, he played his first game with the starting receiver group of Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims. The Jets managed only a field goal, and although the defense forced two turnovers in Miami territory, the offense came up empty on both of those possessions.
Gase has been impressed with Darnold’s work ethic and focus and continues to say the entire offense needs to play together for Darnold to be successful. But he said it’s ultimately on him that Darnold hasn’t taken the necessary strides in his third NFL season.
"We need to do things well around him," he said. "But at the same time, it’s on me to get him to play better than what he’s played. So far, I haven’t done a good enough job. I have to keep trying to help him."
The Jets will play Las Vegas on Sunday. Last year, Darnold threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-3 rout of the Raiders. It was one of Darnold’s best statistical games and the last time he threw for at least 300 yards.
It’s remarkable, injury aside, that he hasn’t thrown a TD pass since Week 3 this year.
"Throwing touchdowns is nice, but all I care about is winning," Darnold said. "When you’re a quarterback and you’re not throwing touchdown passes for consecutive games, that’s not a good thing."
If the Jets finish with the NFL’s worst record and get the No. 1 overall pick, they likely will take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. If that’s the case, the expectation is that general manager Joe Douglas will try to trade Darnold for draft capital.
The Jets had high hopes that Darnold would take a big step in Year 2 of playing in Gase’s offense after the way last season ended. Darnold bounced back from his bout with mononucleosis and led the Jets to a 6-2 finish, throwing 13 TD passes and four interceptions. But the only steps he has taken this year are backward.
"It’s frustrating for both of us," Gase said.
Gase contends that things might have been different if Darnold had a full offseason, training camp and preseason to build chemistry with a mostly new offensive line and new receivers Perriman and Mims. But no team had that because of COVID-19 restrictions.
"I would have loved to have time to work with him on a lot of different things," Gase said. "Things didn’t go quite the way we wanted them to early in the year and it snowballed on us."
I came here to help him, help him develop his career and we haven’t been able to do that.”
— Adam Gase on Sam Darnold