‘A brilliant offensive mind’. That’s the description Christopher Johnson gave for New York Jets head coach Adam Gase after week 1 of this NFL season. It was a head-scratching statement, given the Buffalo Bills had just blown out the Jets in the season opener days earlier. It certainly brought the ire of long-suffering Jets fans, who flooded the team’s social media accounts calling for Gase’s dismissal after one game. The consensus from outside the fan base was slightly more forgiving; The Bills have a top defence, the Jets are banged up with injuries, there was no preseason to fully prepare for the intensity of the regular season. Former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan had neglected the offence in the draft for years. Joe Douglas had only just begun rebuilding around quarterback Sam Darnold.
The Jets were humiliated again last weekend, this time against a threadbare San Francisco 49ers team that missed George Kittle, Richard Sherman, and Dee Ford, while losing Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, and Raheem Mostert to injury during the game. The aberration of the Bills game wasn’t an aberration at all. It was symptomatic. Last season, a 1-7 finish saved Gase’s job. However, the Jets’ strength of victory record was only .401. They lost to four teams who ended up with six or fewer wins. The only team better than 8-8 that they beat was a second-string Bills team in week 17.
After week 2, we are officially on Adam Gase Watch. The fanbase, incendiary at the best of times, overwhelms the team’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram page with some variation of the same message – Fire Adam Gase
Offensive to watch
The sheer ineptitude has been laid bare in just two outings this season. The Jets have totalled 531 yards of offence and 30 points in two games. Their AFC East rival Bills had 528 yards of offence and 31 points against the Dolphins on Sunday. This was despite Gase being an offensive minded coach, and Bills head coach Sean McDermott having a defensive background.
In two weeks, the Jets have amassed drives of more than five plays just seven times on 21 possessions. They have one touchdown and one field goal on possessions of five or fewer plays. This is down to some frankly terrible offensive play-calling.
In both games, the Jets were down 21-3 at half time. Yet, the Jets had just eight plays gaining 10 or more yards in 120 minutes of football. All but one of these were passing plays. Despite a large halftime deficit, the Jets had 32 pass attempts and 29 rush attempts against San Francisco. Play-action was a non-factor, even when a large volume of rushing was perfect for fooling a defence without nearly half of their starters.
Short passes and runs were the bread and butter of third downs, resulting in just four conversions on 14 attempts. They abandoned the deep pass in the face of a makeshift 49ers defensive line. Six third downs required eight or more yards to convert, with no deep pass attempts to make up the yardage. This included an unforgivable call to run on third and 18 at the 49ers’ 26 yard line.
Bottom of the barrel
The Jets are 30th in passing, 31st in rushing, and last in total yardage after two games. The lack of talent simply can’t defend Gase’s offensive play-calling deficiencies. The Miami Dolphins are not one of the top offences in the league, yet they had 410 yards against the Bills, and averaged an extra yard per carry than the Jets (4.5 to 3.5). The massively improved Arizona Cardinals had an extra 51 yards of passing, and averaged 1.4 extra yards per carry (5 to 3.6) while playing a fully-loaded 49ers defence.
Gase calls the offence with a sense of resignation to defeat. Last season, a solid defence kept them in games. That defence has taken a step back without Pro-Bowl safety Jamal Adams. They can’t depend upon the defence to save Gase’s blushes. Gase said he loved Chris Herndon’s ability, calling him a ‘game-changing type player’ because of his danger in the passing game. Herndon has 11 targets in two games for under 50 yards receiving.
Things aren’t getting easier for the Jets either. They still have games against serious Super Bowl contenders – Bills, New England Patriots (twice), Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, and Seattle Seahawks. Next week, they face an Indianapolis Colts defence that held a Minnesota Vikings offence with Dalvin Cook, Kirk Cousins, and Adam Thielen to 11 points and under 200 yards of offence, while forcing three interceptions. If the Jets suffer another humiliating defeat like the previous two, the Jets will surely be on track for a top-three pick in next years’ draft.
Unintentionally tanking for Trevor?
A continued downward trajectory under Gase’s current leadership may lead the Jets to a conundrum; If Trevor Lawrence is available, do they take him? We still don’t know what Sam Darnold is. He makes some fantastic throws, particularly on the run like the Berrios touchdown pass last weekend. However, he turns the ball over too much and take unnecessary sacks such as the sack outside the pocket against Buffalo. He still struggles sometimes with zone defences.
Lawrence looks to be the cleanest quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. Labelled as a ‘once in a generation’ player with as little bust potential as can be had with NFL quarterbacks, Lawrence is the sure-fire first pick in the 2021 draft. With an anaemic offence and difficult schedule, the Jets may well own that spot. Without clarification on Darnold, do they trade down and hope Lawrence doesn’t haunt them for years? How can they know what they have with Darnold if Gase’s offence hasn’t played to his strengths?
Darnold has a great arm and works better in a high-tempo offence that can stretch the field to create openings. The insistence on limiting downfield throws and playing against what he does best prevents a real evaluation of Darnold’s potential as an NFL starter. If Gase isn’t the right person to unlock that potential, he shouldn’t be the head coach of the Jets.
Offensive genius or not.