Just two weeks ago, excitement surrounded the Jets. They had a new coach, a franchise quarterback, a new star running back and hope that a big season was about to begin.
Two weeks later, it feels as if the Gang Green sky is falling.
Sam Darnold has mononucleosis. His backup, Trevor Siemian, is now out for the season with an ankle injury. The offense has scored 11 points. The defense is missing C.J. Mosley. The Jets have lost their opening two games at home.
An 0-6 start looks not just possible, but probable, when you consider who is on the schedule.
This week, they are 23-point underdogs against the Patriots at Foxborough. It feels as if they are a Sun Belt Conference team getting a payday from an SEC school to show up.
All of this lays out the challenge for first-year Jets coach Adam Gase. He has to do his best sales job with his team this week and convince them all the pessimism the fan base is feeling this week is wrong. He has to keep the locker room insulated from the negativity and prevent this season from getting flushed in Foxborough.
It won’t be an easy task. The Jets players were despondent after Monday’s loss. Veteran Steve McLendon sat at his locker and said he felt like he let his son down. Jamal Adams’ social media moves were much ado about nothing on Tuesday, but during an interview on WFAN, the safety sounded as down as he has in his three years with the Jets.
Gase can say “next man up” as much as he wants, but the Jets players know a team can only deal with so many injuries, and they are over their limit. Gase needs to convince his players the season is not over even before summer officially ends.
“I think really it’s probably more about the 0-2 than the injuries,” Gase said Tuesday. “When you’re in the heat of things, it’s hard to worry about things you can’t control like that. I think guys are looking at this, ‘What do I have to do to get better? What do we have to adjust? What do we have to buckle down and fix?’ The thing that I do like about this group is these guys are solution-based.”
Teams have been trying — though mostly failing — to find solutions for Bill Belichick and the Patriots for the past 19 years. This year’s Patriots team seems to have hit a higher gear earlier than usual. Typically, New England does not play its best football in September, but the Pats have outscored their first two opponents 76-3.
“Anytime you play New England it’s a challenge,” Gase said. “You understand what kind of team you’re playing. You understand who their head coach and staff is. You know who’s at quarterback. You know you have to play ultimate complementary football against these guys, especially at their place.”
Moral victories are usually frowned upon in the NFL, but this week the Jets could use one. Beating the Patriots at Gillette Stadium with an undermanned team feels like an impossible mission. But if the Jets can keep it close, that would give them something to build upon as they enter their bye week.
The Jets are hopeful Darnold can return after the bye. If he does, those games against the Eagles, Cowboys and the second meeting with the Patriots look a lot more winnable.
Gase has been through this before. His Dolphins started the year 1-4 in 2016 and managed to make it to 10-6 and earn a playoff berth. He knows the road map to get out of this.
“We all have a lot to get better at and we have to do it quickly,” Gase said.
The season is off to a terrible start, but the Jets are not even a quarter of the way through it yet. There is plenty of time to turn their season around. It’s on Gase to figure out a way to get the players through the doldrums of this week and recapture that preseason hope.