Head coach Adam Gase of the Jets talks with Sam...

Head coach Adam Gase of the Jets talks with Sam Darnold #14 during the first half against the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Happy New Year, Joe Douglas! Now you really are on the clock, and the gears just got stickier.

That slam dunk decision on a No. 1 overall draft pick?

Gone. Thanks to Sunday’s 23-16 upset of the Browns at MetLife Stadium and the Jaguars’ 41-17 loss to the Bears, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence likely is headed to Jacksonville.

That seemingly easy decision to move on from quarterback Sam Darnold and the even easier one to move on from coach Adam Gase?

Gone. Thanks to shockers over the Rams and Browns, the Jets suddenly seem – dare we say it? – competent, giving Douglas something to think about at least in Darnold's case.

It says here that it is time to say goodbye to both, but even if Douglas agrees, the mini-winning streak has complicated the general manager’s broader offseason analysis.

As is always the case with teams that come to life in garbage time, the trick is separating the truly good news from illusion.

Not easy. But that is Douglas’ task, starting a week from Monday. In Gase’s case, his status is ownership’s call more than Douglas’, but the GM has plenty of other things to keep him busy between now and April.

Sunday was a plot twist.

Maybe Lawrence will become a Hall of Famer and the Jets’ pick will not. (The last time they chose at No. 2, in 1990, they took Blair Thomas. Jets fans absolutely should not look at the names taken after him in that draft.)

If so, the events of two meaningless late December Sundays won’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

But here we are, and even fans who are disappointed should allow themselves to feel good about what their players have done – and take heart that some of them will be pieces of what comes next.

Shortly after making a game-clinching fourth-down stop on Baker Mayfield, Tarell Basham spoke with passion about players not wanting continually to go home to their children as losers.

"So this is big for us as players, as men, as coaches, as an organization," he said. "This is big."

Later, when asked what he would say to fans who had hoped for the top draft pick, Basham said, "My daughter is my fan, and she’s pretty excited about her dad winning these last two games, so . . . "

So . . . deal with it Jets fans, no matter how understandable your frustration may be at present. Players play and coaches coach, and their job is to win or at least look good enough losing to remain employed.

"Whether it’s Coach Gase or anybody else," center Connor McGovern said, "it starts with getting that losing culture out of there and getting a winning one put in, and that takes everybody, and I think that’s what we’re trying to build right now."

Beating the Rams and Browns was a nice start. On Sunday, they benefitted from the Browns’ wide receiver corps being sidelined under COVID-19 protocols, but they still had to make things happen.

Gase did so by calling a play that featured Darnold handing to Ty Johnson, who flipped to Jamison Crowder, who threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Berrios. Fun!

On defense, interim coordinator Frank Bush had his line – minus the injured Quinnen Williams – harass Mayfield and hold a powerful running game to 45 yards on 18 carries.

Do the Jets wonder what might have been had they played like this earlier in the season? They do.

"When you lose games then you win a couple in a row, you kind of look back and say, ‘What if we did this, this and this different,’ " Gase said. "But it is what it is at this point. I’m just glad the guys are still fighting."

Gase was effusive in praising his players for working through losses, saying, "I can’t ask for more from a group of guys who have absolutely had our coaching staff’s back . . . I can’t say how much I appreciate how much these guys have done to battle week in and week out. It’s hard to put into words."

Players returned the favor by saying nice things about Gase, but soon his future – and the personnel picture in general – figures to be out of his control.

All Gase and his players have is a one-more-game present. Then it will be Douglas’ turn.


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