NEW YORK (AP) — It was a coach-player union that made the New York Jets excited about what could be.
Adam Gase was the hotshot offensive guru, and Sam Darnold the young gun quarterback and face of the franchise.
Instead, the Jets can only lament what should have been.
“It’s on me to get him to play better than what he’s played,” Gase said Thursday. “And so far, I haven’t done a good enough job.”
The fallout from that will likely be significant this offseason. With the Jets sitting at 0-11, Gase is almost certainly gone after the regular-season finale. And, with Darnold struggling to progress in his third season, New York will likely move on from him, too.
The Jets currently hold the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in April and it's looking increasingly more likely that Clemson star QB Trevor Lawrence will be there for them to make a franchise-changing pick. That would mean Darnold will be out the door at some point, too, leaving behind him a trail of unfulfilled potential.
Some of that is on him, of course, for not being able to raise his game and overcome the constant adversity around him. But Gase recognizes he is also at fault for what has transpired — or, hasn't — the past two years.
“I came here to help him, help him develop his career,” Gase said, “and we haven’t been able to do that.”
Darnold has thrown just three touchdown passes this season and none in his past four games, spanning 19 quarters. He has also been intercepted eight times, making decisions many would argue a third-year QB shouldn't make. And his 64.0 quarterback rating ranks last in the NFL among players who have started four or more games.
“First of all, I take full responsibility for the way I’ve played,” Darnold said. “I haven’t played well enough. ... For me personally, I’ve just got to play better and put the team in the right positions to be able to win games and make it close at the end.”
The 23-year-old Darnold has also had two separate two-game stints on the sideline because of shoulder injuries. Add that to him missing three games last year because of mononucleosis and three games as a rookie with a foot injury, and the quarterback has only now played the equivalent of just over two NFL seasons at 33 games.
“Yeah, I mean, it's frustrating for both of us,” Gase said. "I think he's trying to do everything he could possibly do. It's hard to control the injury situation this year and last year. Also, like, mono? I mean, if you're in Vegas, that's not one you're probably betting on. No offseason, short training camp (this summer) — would've loved to have had a lot of that time to work with him on a lot of different things.
"And then, things didn't go quite the way we wanted them to go early in the year, and it just kind of snowballed on us."
It wasn't until last Sunday that Darnold played with all three of his starting wide receivers — Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims — on the field at the same time because of various injuries.
Still, it didn't change the result. Darnold looked rusty in the 20-3 loss to Miami and made some of the same mistakes that have overshadowed the sometimes — but not often enough — brilliant plays that have flashed.
"That’s why every game’s so important to just keep trying to help him grow, keep trying to help him develop and see things the way he needs to see them and play the way he’s played in certain games,” Gase said. “At the same time, that’s what’s frustrating sometimes about the quarterback position is you need 10 other guys to do their jobs as well.”
Still, Gase has been impressed by Darnold's work ethic — “it's phenomenal” — and the youngster's ability to tune out the outside chatter. The talk that he's not good enough, and the hype surrounding Lawrence and the potential of him becoming the next Jets quarterback.
“We've had conversations about just focusing on the moment and not worrying about two weeks from now, five weeks from now, four months from now,” Gase said. "Control what you can control, which is preparing for the game on Sunday and performing well. I think that's probably easier said than done. At 23, he can say, ‘Yeah, I’ve gotcha.'
“It's probably way harder than what he portrays.”
Added offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains: “This kid is the most mentally tough kid I’ve ever been around and there’s going to be a really bright future for Sam Darnold.”
To his credit, Darnold never flinches or appears flustered when speaking to reporters. He has shown time and again that he has the mental ability to handle the spotlight of playing in New York — and for a franchise that hasn't seen a Super Bowl since the glory days of Joe Namath in 1969.
That's 51 years and counting.
Many fans hoped — and believed — Darnold could be the quarterback to lead them back atop the NFL. Instead, he and Gase are stuck looking up at the rest of the league from rock bottom.
NOTES: LB Blake Cashman was placed on IR for the second time this season, both for hamstring issues. ... RB Frank Gore sat out for his usual rest day. ... DL John Franklin-Myers and LG Alex Lewis also didn't practice for non-injury reasons. Lewis didn't play Sunday and Gase, who has not gone into details, was uncertain if he'd play this week. Franklin-Myers was a new addition to the injury report. ... OL Pat Elflein (shoulder), RT George Fant (knee/ankle) and WR Breshad Perriman (shoulder) were limited. Fant was an upgrade after sitting out Wednesday. ... C Connor McGovern (elbow) was a full participant after being limited.
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