The Jets had just stopped the Miami Dolphins in their tracks to give themselves a chance to rally from 9 points down with under seven minutes remaining in their showdown on Sunday. Starting deep in Jets territory, quarterback Sam Darnold lined up in the shotgun formation.
But before he could throw a pass, center Jonotthan Harrison snapped the ball past Darnold out of the end zone. The safety handed Miami another 2 points and all but sealed the game for the previously winless Dolphins, who won, 26-18.
Television cameras panned to Jets fans screaming at the team’s bench and another green-clad fan with a brown paper bag over his head.
It has been that kind of season for the Jets, who at 1-7 join the Dolphins at the bottom of the A.F.C. East. Like the play that resulted in a safety on Sunday, the Jets’ 2019 campaign has been filled with mishaps, miscommunication, disputes and a whole lot of bad football. But unlike the Dolphins, who are widely assumed to be tanking, the Jets’ losses point in a direction opposite any previously advertised strategy.
The Jets tried to rebrand themselves in the off-season when they unveiled new, dark green uniforms. They hired Gase, who was billed as an offensive guru and was supposed to give Darnold a fresh start after his 4-12 debut season.
The team announced the hire of a new general manager, Joe Douglas, late on a Friday night in June, as if it did not want the news media to notice. Running back Le’Veon Bell, who sat out last season after a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was brought in to solidify the offense.
And yet, at the halfway point of the season, none of the moves seem to have helped much. The Jets have now lost 16 of their last 18 games dating to last season. Since shocking the Dallas Cowboys in October for their only win of the season, the Jets have been outscored, 88-33. They join the Dolphins, the Redskins, the Falcons and the Bengals in the race to pick first in next year’s draft.
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The past few weeks alone have provided more than their share of embarrassments, starting with a dreadful 33-0 loss at home to the New England Patriots. During that game, Darnold was heard on the ESPN broadcast talking about seeing ghosts.
Since then, the Jets released the Pro Bowl offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, who had surgery on his injured shoulder after a heated dispute with the team and its doctors, who had deemed him healthy enough to play.
In a possible waving of the white flag, the Jets then traded defensive lineman Leonard Williams, a first-round draft pick, to the Giants, and followed the move by shopping other key members of the team at the trade deadline last week.
That appeared to anger their safety, Jamal Adams, a third-year starter, who took umbrage at being shopped after having reportedly told team executives that he wanted to remain in New York.
“The Rams don’t take calls on Aaron Donald,” Adams said. “The Patriots don’t take calls on Tom Brady. That’s where I hold myself in that regard.”
On Sunday, Adams was evaluated for a concussion.
In the postgame news conference, Darnold was asked whether losing to the Dolphins was the most embarrassing loss he had suffered in his young career. “I feel like every loss is embarrassing,” he said.
It’s hard to know how many more losses the Jets have in store this season. According to Tankathon.com, the Jets have the easiest schedule remaining, with games against the Bengals, Dolphins, Giants, Redskins and Raiders. But as the Jets have shown, the opponent rarely matters.
During the first few games, the Jets had plenty of excuses, starting with Darnold missing several games after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. Then Trevor Siemian, the backup quarterback, injured his ankle. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa injured his neck. Center Ryan Kalil, another off-season signing, sat out Sunday’s game with an injury.
Darnold said there was too much inconsistency in the team’s play, and he was right. After an impressive opening drive for a touchdown on Sunday, the Jets gave up three scores and never caught back up. But he easily could have been talking about the entire franchise, which promised change when the season started and then quickly revealed that its plans, as usual, amounted to very little.