Morris Claiborne was right. Yesterday’s game versus the Dolphins was a must-win for the Jets if they had any hopes of returning to the playoffs after what’s been a 7-year hiatus. Having lost, the only chance for the Jets to make a realistic push would be for them to win out – a seemingly unimaginable fate given the team’s on-field product the last three weeks.
Sam Darnold and the New York offense wouldn’t convert on a third down until the game’s final quarter. Jeremy Bates, despite having both Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson back from injury, did nothing to give the Jets a legitimate shot at moving the chains. Every time the Jets would regain possession, Bates’ second down play-calling would set the Jets up for a difficult third and long, resulting in 4 three-and-outs in their 6 first half possessions.
Make no mistake, Darnold played bad. After getting a little time to play Monday morning QB, Darnold said, "I thought I played stupid football yesterday." By the game’s end, he’d wind up with 4 interceptions, all of which were mostly a result of poor decision-making.
On his first interception, Darnold faked the handoff, made his first read, moved his eyes away from it, locked in on Deontay Burnett and didn’t see Kiko Alonso coming underneath. It came on a 1st and 10 play in the first drive that saw the Jets gain some sort of momentum.
These are the kind of plays you expect to see out of a 21-year old QB. Jets brass praises Darnold’s short-term memory and his ability to rebound from bad plays. They also speak highly of his ability to avoid making the same mistake twice.
On his second interception, Darnold received yet another bad snap from his center, made a good play to corral it, then, despite getting some pretty solid protection up front, rushed to throw an out route to Eric Tomlinson. Darnold, again, hadn’t seen the linebacker coming underneath. The linebacker, again, would read Darnold’s eyes the whole way, resulting in the game’s only touchdown -- a pick-six for the Dolphins.
His final two interceptions, as he’s admitted in the postgame, were a result of him trying to force things after 57+ minutes of putrid offense. Given the situation, down 7 with under 3 minutes left, these can also be chalked up as bad rookie mistakes.
Along with Darnold’s four interceptions the Jets had to overcome Spencer Long’s awful snaps, the receivers’ lack of separation, the untimely penalties, the poor clock management, all the adjustments that were left unmade, and the overall bad coaching job that would ultimately equate to what was maybe the most brutally boring 60 minutes of Jets football in a long, long time.
One of the only positives to take out of Sunday’s game was the fact that the Jets defense held the Dolphins to just 6 points. That side of the ball would perform quite well. However, not to discredit the Jets defense, the Dolphins, who already lack playmakers at the skill positions, were without their starting QB and had a pretty terrible day in their own right.
"I’m sick of losing," said Jamal Adams, who had himself a nice game finishing with two pass deflections and 7 tackles, one of which was for a loss. "It pisses me off every time. I’m not a loser. I want to get back on the winning track. We’ve lost three straight? Come on, man."
The aforementioned Morris Claiborne dismissed the notion that there will be a divide between the team’s offense and it’s defense – "Everybody hears everything that’s going on. Everybody talks about everything. So, I don’t feel like that will be a problem."
Despite how it may seem, Adams and the defense weren’t the only ones who played well yesterday. Herndon and Enunwa contributed the best way they know how – with some timely, athletic catches. Additionally, Elijah McGuire made his season debut and picked up where left off last season, ending up with 67 total yards on 10 touches.
As for those Jets who didn’t perform well, the ones not named Sam Darnold that is, you’re looking at Jermaine Kearse, who had awful body language and visually lacked effort all game, and most notably, Spencer Long. Long has been dealing with a finger issue on his snapping hand and was left in the game despite what seemed like over a dozen poor snaps. Jonotthon Harrison eventually came in, replaced Spencer Long, and the offense seemed to have a bit of it’s timing back.
Looking forward, the Jets have a few decisions to make. Although the damage is done, do they finally sit Spencer Long?
Does the front office see Jermaine Kearse as a piece going forward? If not, it may be best they cut him and send a message to the young, developing roster.
Then there’s the big one – do the Jets fire Todd Bowles? What about Jeremy Bates?
As of today, Todd Bowles hasn’t shown Jets brass enough to convince them that he can be the one to develop the team’s most valuable asset – their young QB. The focus of the Jets season, although unsaid, was to help get Sam Darnold acclimated to the NFL. So far, it seems as if they’ve been doing Darnold a disservice. Bowles preferred Bates over Morton because of Bates’ willingness to establish the run. While it was a nice idea and Bates has had a couple of nice games, what he’s done with the offense, for the most part, hasn’t worked.
Perhaps the most indicting aspect of Bates’ gameplan and playcalling is his reluctance to make any significant or effective adjustments, especially at halftime. Whether it’s Bowles pressuring Bates to call the game the way he wants it called, or its Bates just trusting too much in his gameplan to pan out over the course of four quarters, the dynamic clearly isn’t working.
Todd Bowles’ fate going forward, perhaps along with the rest of the coaching staff, could be determined as soon as next week. If the Jets let loose another clunker in next weeks game versus the Bills, that could be enough to compel ownership and Mike Maccagnan to cut ties with the head coach.
Does Mike Maccagnan deserve some of the blame? That’s another problem in and of itself. If Woody and Christopher Johnson prefer to completely clean house and start from scratch, it would be hard to imagine they’d make that call during the bye. That sort of overhaul is the kind of decision that has to wait until the end of a season.
In the meantime, if Bowles and Bates are to stick around, here’s to hoping they don’t continue to impede the progress of the mind and the player with the organization’s most vested interest.