Adam Gase walked out of the trainer’s room and into the locker room about 30 minutes after the Patriots had embarrassed his Jets 33-0 on national television.
The head coach walked straight over to Sam Darnold’s locker, where the young quarterback was buttoning his shirt and trying to make sense of what had just happened. Gase put his hand on Darnold’s shoulder and offered some words of reassurance.
The rebuilding of Darnold’s confidence had begun.
The coach and quarterback are going to be under the microscope this week. For Darnold, the question will be how he rebounds from his five-turnover nightmare performance when he was “seeing ghosts” and Jets fans were seeing every failed quarterback they had put their hopes in before, from Richard Todd to Geno Smith.
For Gase, this week is even more critical. He got a pass for the first month of the season, when Darnold was out with mono, C.J. Mosley was sidelined by an achy groin and the team clearly was working through growing pains.
That pass has expired.
It expired Monday night when the Jets looked ill-prepared and failed to figure out a way to stop a cavalcade of Patriots defenders from running through the offensive line and into Darnold’s brain.
It expired with a performance in which the Jets looked like a Division III team on the field with Alabama.
“Obviously what we put on the field is on me and it wasn’t good enough,” Gase said.
Gase must get this fixed now.
There is no doubt the Patriots defense is one of the best we ever have seen. They are on pace to set records and to draw comparisons to the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens. But the Jets looked inept and their quarterback was in the middle of the ineptness.
It is on Gase to make sure Darnold does not crumble and to figure out a way to protect him better. The offensive line looks lost. It looked confused about whom to block, how to block and everything in between.
“We have to learn from this game, it’s a game where it’s very painful and frustrating to go through,” Gase said. “You have to take as much as you can as far as learning from mistakes made, learn from the experience and put yourself in a position to where that doesn’t happen again. There’s a lot of things as an entire team that we need to do a lot better. We didn’t play well in any phase and we have a lot to work on.”
The Jets’ schedule has been brutal up to this point. The Patriots (twice), Bills, Eagles and Cowboys all look like playoff contenders. But now the schedule eases. This week the Jets go on the road to play the Jaguars (3-4) in a game that won’t be an easy win, but is against a team in the same weight class. After that, winnable games follow with the Dolphins (twice), the Giants, Redskins, Raiders, Bengals and Steelers. Road games at the Ravens and Bills are the only ones that look like probable losses.
Gase needs to salvage something from this season. That means getting Darnold back on track and trending upward and finding an identity for this team to gain some positive feeling entering the offseason. If Gase can get them to 6-10 or 7-9, that would be a success at this point.
On Tuesday, Gase pointed the finger at himself for the team’s struggles. The offense is dead last in the NFL in nearly every category.
“Obviously, I haven’t found the formula yet to make us anything close to consistent,” Gase said.
Know this about Gase: He will work every waking hour of this week to try to solve this. This team’s failures are burning him up. So while the results have not been there yet, this is a coach who will work tirelessly to fix things.
“You don’t have a lot of time to really feel sorry for yourself, feel sorry for anybody,” Gase said.
The fixes began in the postgame locker room in front of Darnold’s locker. The microscope is fixed on the coach and the quarterback.
It’s time to see who they really are.
For more on Darnold and the Jets’ Week 7 loss to the Patriots, listen to this episode of the Jets podcast, “Gang’s All Here”: