One question will define Sam Darnold’s New York Jets tenure

As the Sam Darnold era ends, a lingering question will haunt New York Jets fans as he prepares to move to Charlotte.

With respect to the countless devotees of movies, books, television shows, etc., across the world, no one writes more fan fiction than football fans. Rather than “Once upon a time…”, football fables often begin with a question: “What if…?”.

The question is endlessly asked before, during, and after every NFL season. What if that star prospect falls? What if they went for it on fourth down? What if that quarterback retires?

What if the New York Jets hired someone…anyone…other than Adam Gase to oversee Sam Darnold’s developmental years as head coach?

It’s a question whose answers reside months, even years, away. Both Gase and Darnold are now distant memories in the New York archives, the former fired and the latter bound for Charlotte in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. The Jets only have numbers to show for it in the immediate aftermath. Dealing Darnold netted them the 226th overall pick in the coming draft, as well as a second and fourth-round choice in the spring of 2022.

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

In the immediate aftermath, it’s easy to call the Jets’ Darnold deal with Carolina a win for both sides on paper. Darnold gains welcome stability in Carolina (reuniting with fellow ex-Jet Robby Anderson and working with All-Pro rusher Christian McCaffrey) while the Jets make some fine additions to their draft collection. But the Jets will forever look back on their Darnold with a sense of regret and what might’ve been. The chorus of “what if” echoes as the countdown to what’ll likely be the beginning of the Zach Wilson or Justin Fields era.

It starts with the hiring of Gase, a supposed offensive guru brought in to oversee Darnold’s vital post-rookie campaigns. Todd Bowles’ tenure had undoubtedly run its course, but its final stages were full of hope through Darnold’s final four games. It was a stretch that saw Darnold earn a come-from-behind victory in Buffalo (topping fellow 2018 draftee Josh Allen in their first meeting) and go head-to-head and blow-for-blow with Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks. The latter tilt, a Festivus showdown with the Green Bay Packers, was an overtime thriller that saw Darnold earn career-bests in passer rating (128.4) and passing yardage (341).

When Bowles was let go, the Jets needed someone with a strong developmental mind, someone who could nurture Darnold’s potential and build on the promise shown over the final stretch. CEO/Chairman Christopher Johnson knew just how vital the search would be when he spoke after dismissing the current defensive coordinator of the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I think the Jets are a really good spot for a coach to end up,” Johnson said at the time. “So I think that we have a competitive advantage there. But we’re not going to sit down and wait for people to come to us, we’re going to search hard and fast. We want to get this done.”

It got done through the arrival of Gase, fresh off three years of Miami mediocrity. From the get-go, there probably should’ve been something off about the new boss, one who never truly fostered a young quarterback. Peyton Manning put the best numbers of his career under Gase, but the most adamant football denier could probably oversee an offense with Peyton Manning and still average 21 points a game.

Gase helped get the Chicago Bears’ offense back on track as coordinator in 2015, but Jay Cutler, despite a career-best passer rating, was in his 11th season and headed toward his polarizing career’s final stanzas. Even if Gase’s work with Cutler counted for something, it was more or less undone when the pair reunited for a fruitless season in South Beach two years later. In terms of youth, Ryan Tannehill endured what seemed like an endless stream of “make-or-break” campaigns before being mercifully shipped to Tennessee after Gase’s Floridan ousting. By now, little more needs to be written about Tannehill’s success sans Gase.

Yet, the Jets insisted Gase was their man, sticking with him after a dreadful 0-4 start. After his infamous bout with mononucleosis…a happening only amplified by social media schadenfreude that amplifies the Jets’ simplest errors…Darnold helped right to ship to the tune of a 7-9 ledger. Further fleeting flashes of brilliance emerged, such as Darnold’s return from illness, a 338-yard, two-score showing in a triumph over Dallas, the Jets’ first win of the year. Further silliness came through Darnold’s failed Ghostbusters tenure, but to have him post a winning record (7-6) despite endless silliness surrounding him was a promising sign.

Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

But seeds for a destructive 2020 season…for reasons far beyond limitations set up by the ongoing health crisis…were starting to take root. Anderson, Darnold’s favorite target during his opening years, absconded for Carolina after “(losing) his love of football“. Every week, it felt like Gase had to ensure the public that he wasn’t dealing with a full-on mutiny.

As the season moved on, the Jets continuously eschewed the notion of firing Gase in-season. Johnson even broke out the guru comparisons after a listless opening day loss in Buffalo by calling Gase “a brilliant offensive mind” after the Jets pulled off the statistical anomaly of earning under 300 yards in Orchard Park. The sub-300 tally, in fact, occurred 11 times during the 2020 campaign…a downright jaw-dropping occurrence in an NFL that worships offense.

All the while, the Jets gave up on several accomplished names before deciding Gase was expendable. A mini-fire sale ensued that saw accomplished defenders Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, and Pierre Desir sent away. Le’Veon Bell, a constant co-combatant in Gase headlines, was outright released while the eyes of the nation were centered on a rare Tuesday night game.

Darnold sank further into oblivion, forced into situations that even the greatest, most established quarterbacks would have trouble salvaging. One couldn’t even argue that the Jets were showing promise in these losses. All but one of their first eight defeats came by multiple possessions, exacerbated by the struggle to gain yardage. Unlike their blue MetLife Stadium co-tenants (the Giants losing five of their first eight in single possession games), there was nothing to get excited for from a Jets perspective.

For the record, it’s not only the Gase hire that Darnold had to put up with. His rookie season was spent behind an offensive built through the negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era. When the 2020 season kicked off, Darnold had only a single receiver left from his rookie campaign (tight end Chris Herndon, who has struggled to maintain rookie momentum) and his offensive line had undergone yet another makeover. The fact such flashes of brilliance were achieved despite playing in the far reaches of the football netherworld perhaps says something about Darnold, who has a prime opportunity to put his career back on track in Charlotte.

It could’ve happened in New York. The offensive line still needs work, but the Jets upgraded their weaponry this offseason, bringing in capable targets (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole) that can compete with returnees (Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims) for top receiving honors. A multi-faceted rushing talent like Tevin Coleman can take some of the pressure off of whoever the quarterback will be.

But the Jets are trying to pen their own redemption story. They don’t have the time to co-author someone else’s.

In short, the Gase era left the Jets no other choice. His firing brought in a new regime, one praised not by the hot take artists but by players themselves, both domestically and abroad. For Robert Saleh to fully implement his vision and the Jets holding the ever valuable second overall pick of the NFL draft…the original of aerial franchise saviors like Donovan McNabb and Roman Gabriel…Darnold simply had to go.

Still, that won’t stop the eternal discussions, the fabled chapters that Jets fans will write for months before a single down is played and in the years after that, both supporting what Darnold could’ve done and celebrating his release.

The question will still be asked…what if?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Drafting Zach Wilson goes beyond talent

zach wilson, new york jets

Just a few days ago, the world saw BYU QB Zach Wilson produce one of the most memorable pro days in the past decade. Wilson caught the eye of so many that he’s viewed as a virtual lock to the New York Jets. Wilson’s performance may have booked him a ticket to MetLife for some, but others were less than enthused about his performance in shorts and drew comparisons to Sam Darnold’s past performances. The reality is that although Wilson is unproven, sometimes it’s better to take a shot at contention than aspire to toil in mediocrity. That shot is trading Sam Darnold and selecting Zach Wilson.

The case for trading Darnold goes beyond just the bad outweighing the good; since the day Darnold came out of USC, there has always been concern about his turnovers and decision making.

In two seasons as the quarterback for the Trojans, Darnold had 57 TDs to 22 INTs. Darnold also had a completion percentage of 64.9% in college, which is above average, but not a number that jumps off the page. For comparison, Zach Wilson had 56 TDs to 15 INTs. Not only that, but his completion percentage was over 3% greater than Darnold.

The eye-opening season that vaulted Wilson above Darnold in these categories was last season. After spending his offseason with John Beck, Wilson saw a jump from around a 64% completion percentage in his first two seasons to 73.5% last season. He also saw his interceptions drop from 9 in the season before to 3. Not to mention his pass attempts went up by over 25, his yards per attempt went up by nearly 4 yards and his touchdowns went up by an astronomical 22 touchdowns. Wilson refined his game and had a jump on par with that of Joe Burrow. Wilson’s decision-making is evidently better than Darnold’s was at this point, and there is an argument to be made Wilson has grossly exceeded where Darnold was when he came out of college.

The problem for Darnold is that his biggest issue was never talent, everyone knows he is talented. Darnold needed to see a jump in key categories like completion percentage and his touchdown to interception ratio, and it’s just not there. Darnold had a completion percentage of 59.8% throughout his three seasons to this point, along with a touchdown to interception ratio of 45 to 39. His touchdowns barely outweigh his interceptions, and his completion percentage ranked below nearly every quarterback who started a game last season. Darnold lacks confidence, and that stems from a lack of development. He doesn’t trust himself, and when he does, he tries to overcompensate with poor decisions.

It has been beaten to death how bad of a supporting cast he had, and that is true. I legitimately cannot think of a worse offensive line or wide receiver room than the Jets trotted out last season. Not to mention the utter incompetence of head coach. Darnold has not had help, and he has not seen any legitimate progression to this point. Sam Darnold is capable of making throws like Zach Wilson, and he has proven it, but Darnold has not developed, and with a new head coach, new offense, and a new future for the Jets, it may be best for parties to separate. It’s an unfortunate reality that, once again, a Jets quarterback has not worked out, but Darnold has not developed enough to earn the keys to the kingdom, and Wilson at least gives the Jets a chance to start fresh and the front office personnel a chance to take their guy.

The ghosts of the Adam Gase era still haunt the New York Jets

New York Jets, Adam Gase

The Adam Gase era lasted two seasons, but the burden left behind creates an uphill battle for the New York Jets.

At what point does a new football regime officially “own” its respective organization’s ledger? The unspoken accords of college football appear to dictate that if his team isn’t performing by his third season at the helm, he’s to seek employment elsewhere. The leash is even shorter in the NFL with patience wearing especially thin in the New York/New Jersey area.

Both the Jets and Giants bid two of their respective head coaches farewell after two seasons of futility. The blue representative, Pat Shurmur, quickly found work as the offensive coordinator in Denver, while Adam Gase’s redemption story has yet to be greenlit.

The January firing of Gase has allowed the tenure of general manager Joe Douglas to officially begin. Douglas wasn’t the one who hired Gase…that general manager, Mike Maccagnan, was let go before Gase ever wore a New York headset. Thus, the former Philadelphia Eagles executive has a bit of a restart button through the hiring of Robert Saleh, a hire that received positive reviews both domestically and abroad. The pair have admitted that it will take some time, but that they are committed to getting the Jets back in contention.

But, through little fault of their own…particularly Saleh and his clean green slate…the new unit remains sidelined by the ghosts of the Gase era.

As star-crossed as the Jets’ fortunes have been, few coaches reached the levels of futility seen during the Gase era. Among those that lasted two full seasons on the Jets’ sidelines, only Rich Kotite’s cursed squads posted a lower win percentage (9-23 vs 4-28). Gase’s group even managed to best Kotite’s dubiousness in some aspects. For example, the 2020 Jets lost their first 13 games…even Kotite’s notorious 1996 team (1-15) managed to secure a win by Halloween.

The Jets have managed to keep busy with the NFL’s legal tampering period well underway. Over the past 48 hours, the Jets have upgraded their defense, their offensive weaponry, and their special teams. Each of their acquisitions makes the Jets a better team. Sure, part of the reason for that is because there’s little room to truly fall further, but a plethora of cap space has created shrewd deals that have yielded a rising talent in the front-seven (Carl Lawson), an affordable audition for a former first-round linebacker with 4-3 experience (Jarrad Davis), a reliable weapon for the quarterback, be it Sam Darnold or otherwise (Corey Davis), and a defender to help pin opponents deep on punt coverage (Justin Hardee).

Yet, it’s not like Jets fans soothed themselves in 2020 with dreams of adding Jarrad Davis. With a plethora of cap space, the time seemed right to make a truly big splash, one that could welcome fans back to MetLife Stadium with open, hopeful arms. Even if it wasn’t the type of addition that tore up box scores, the Jets could’ve used the money to bolster their blocking, a long-gestating and neglected endeavor that got off to a strong start through the drafting of Mekhi Becton. Even Patrick Mahomes was neutralized when key pieces of his protection were lost prior to the Super Bowl.

But that’s when the reminders of the Gase era began to rise and create further losses for the Jets.

Jets fans have no doubt kept track of Joe Thuney’s career over the last two years. The team expressed interest in him when he was up for free agency last season, but the interior blocker was franchise tagged by his New England employers before anyone else could make a move. Thurst onto the open market this time around, Thuney was indeed lured away from the Patriots…through a five-year, $80 million contract from Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Former Green Bay Packer Corey Linsley switching shades of green could’ve helped the Jets resolve a center situation that has been in limbo since Nick Mangold’s retirement. The defending All-Pro, however, will instead hit the west coast and join the Los Angeles Chargers.

These early developments…the operative term being early…should be viewed with a bit of an asterisk. There’s plenty of time for the Jets to recover and earn themselves a stronger grade, all while acknowledging that an instant fix before the offseason lets out probably isn’t going to happen. But the Gase era has left this team in a precarious position.

Name-brand recognition through a city alone isn’t a selling point in this day and age. The NBA’s New York Knicks have spent the past decade learning this lesson the hard way. The Jets were a bit of a tough sell as it was; they’re the current owners of the longest postseason drought in the NFL and social media has amplified every little green mistake into viral disasters.

But it isn’t just the on-field woes from the Gase era that have the Jets reeling. What elite free agent is going to look at the way Gase handled things and declare “I want in on that”?

Every week, Gase had to be armed with two gameplans: one for the opponent and one for whichever superstar was feeling disgruntled. The usual suspects were Le’Veon Bell and Jamal Adams, a talented pair who have long abandoned their Jets equipment. Before the 2020 season began, Bell had to publicly insist that he and Gase “like(d) each other“. Less than a month later, Bell was bound for Kansas City. The lasting effects of the Gase era can well be witnessed through comments by Marcus Maye’s agent. Apparently disgruntled with the way the Adams situation was handled, Burkhart went on a mini-rant that has gotten only a quick passing reference since Maye was franchise tagged earlier this month. The comments showed just showed how a sense of mistrust has risen throughout the organization since Gase arrived in 2019.

The fact of the matter is that Douglas can bestow a big contract and evaluate talent with better resources than anyone in football. But the damage left behind in the wake of the Gase era has put the Jets in an even tougher situation. That might not fully be on Gase, but, as the most public face behind this most recent stretch of struggling, he’ll ultimately be the face behind it…even if he’s not the one who winds up suffering from it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Robert Saleh is a risky, but affordable choice

New York Jets, Robert Saleh

Opting for a defensive-minded boss is risky in today’s NFL landscape, but the New York Jets are in prime position to pull the trigger.

Arguing with Paul “Bear” Bryant might be ground for dismissal from any football-related conversations for the foreseeable future. But his time-honored axiom of “defense wins championships” has been put to the test over recent seasons.

The modern NFL has come to worship a deity known as fantasy football. Scoring is at an all-time high, as the average NFL team scored 24.8 points per game this season. It was a year that teams routinely reach the 20s and 30s in scoring…and still lose. For the Cleveland Browns, 42 points weren’t enough for them to steal a win from Baltimore during Week 14’s action. Penalties against quarterbacks and receivers serve as defensive death sentences. NFL Red Zone was created as a means of informing fans when offensive happenings were occurring or nearby.

So, of course, when searching for the 20th head coach in the franchise history to lead them into the high-voltage 2020s, the New York Jets went out and hired…a defensive guru?

Ten days after Adam Gase’s firing, the Jets have brought in Robert Saleh to oversee the latest chapter of their perpetual rebuild. Saleh’s resume is one of endless defense. All but two of his prior postings have included words “defense” or “defensive”, the exceptions being his role as a linebacker supervisor in Houston (2009-10) and Jacksonville (2014-16). Saleh has overseen the San Francisco 49ers defense for the past four seasons, the penultimate of which ended with an appearance in Super Bowl LIV.

Ironically, Saleh has also earned football’s finest prize at MetLife Stadium of all places, earning a ring with the Seattle Seahawks as a defensive quality control coach during their dismantling of Denver in 2014.

Choosing a defensive guru is risky from a New York standpoint in the sense that the Jets are at a bit of a crossroads with their offense. For the umpteenth time, they may be searching for the long-term franchise quarterback denied to them since Joe Namath disappeared into the Miami night after his legendary victory at the Orange Bowl over a half-century prior. Whether their quarterback come Week 1 is Sam Darnold, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Deshaun Watson, or an unknown party yet to reveal himself, the Jets also need to surround him with weapons and protection. General manager Joe Douglas appeared to start the process with the respective acquisitions of Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mims. Surely an experienced offensive name…a Greg Roman, Brian Daboll, or Arthur Smith…would’ve been something to kickstart an offense that’s going to have to counter whatever Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs put up in Buffalo for the foreseeable future.

There’s a slight sense of deja vu with the Jets’ attempt to bend the curve, to defy the new football order where offense is king. That’s what made the Adam Gase hire so different: the Jets had been trying to buck a decade-long trend of smashmouth defense-first football that, frankly, had appeared to run its course. Rex Ryan’s bold and brash philosophies netted the Jets consecutive conference title game appearances with Mark Sanchez under center, but his schtick wore thin once his tactic proved unsustainable. Todd Bowles, another accomplished defensive mind, was well-liked by his players but it only translated to the most heartbreaking 10-win season in NFL history. Going the defensive route yet again seems counterproductive, especially with the Jets ill-equipped to handle shootouts. Last season, the Jets failed to break 30 points in any of their 16 contests, one of only two teams reach such dire straits (the other being Philadelphia).

But Saleh is a risk the Jets can well-afford to take.

For one thing, the Jets are a team that can use any form of good vibrations right now. Cleveland and Tampa Bay’s ongoing playoff treks only serve as reminders that New York now owns the longest playoff drought in the league by far at 10 years and their lone winning season in that span was the star-crossed 2015 season that ended in Buffalo heartbreak. Too many coaching candidates would’ve brought unnecessary baggage to let the good times flow. With the team stuck in a perpetual rebuild, they need as little distraction as possible. Gase, with his spotty Miami track record and uncanny clause of having his former pupils rise to stardom elsewhere (Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake) wasn’t going to bring that aura of peace. Doug Pederson had the connections with Douglas but would undoubtedly have to deal with questions about his supposed tossing of the Week 17 contest against Washington during his Philadelphia finale. Smith just had to watch his Tannehill-led offense get stymied by Baltimore in a home playoff game.

Saleh, however, emerges with a mostly clean resume. San Francisco struggled in the final season of his era, but it was little fault of the defense, that ranked fifth in the league in yards surrendered and fourth in first downs allowed. Their spot in the statistical penthouses was secure despite several key defensive contributors (Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Solomon Thomas, and Jimmie Ward) missing a majority of the season.

The Gase-hire was met with a sense of wariness, his lone endorsement coming from Peyton Manning. While the accomplished Manning posted the best numbers of his career under Gase, there was a general sense that the staff from The Waterboy could’ve handled Manning during his early Denver days. Saleh, ironically one of those who helped solve Gase’s offense during the 43-8 destruction of the Broncos at MetLife Stadium, was endorsed by Richard Sherman himself. Unlike Manning, Sherman was never saddled with high expectations, more or less an afterthought when the Seahawks chose him 154th overall in the 2011 draft. But under Saleh, Sherman not only turned himself into a household name in the NFL but he also recovered from a lull in his career when he joined up with the 49ers in 2018. Sherman took to Twitter to extend his congratulations to the Jets upon learning of Saleh’s hiring.

Long before the Jets’ head coaching slot officially opened, Sherman endorsed Saleh for such a role, namely the one in Detroit after the Lions bid Matt Patricia farewell.

“You’ve got to give Robert Saleh an abundance of credit. You have to give him an unusual amount of credit, and I don’t think he’s getting enough credit not only here but in the league, in general,” Sherman said of Saleh after San Francisco’s 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams in November, per video provided by the 49ers. “I expect him to be a head coach next year, because of what he’s able to do,” Sherman said. “He’s able to rally men. He’s a leader of men, and that goes a long way.”

In that game, Sherman’s clutch interception of Jared Goff helped push the 49ers to the first win for a SoFi Stadium history. Los Angeles earned 308 yards and tallied only a dozen first downs in the triumph. Sherman would later tell Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer that Saleh “had” to get the Detroit job.

“He’s a great leader of men. And he’s not stubborn,” Sherman said. “He doesn’t just think he has all the answers. He comes up with a great plan and evolves it with his players.”

Sherman might not have gotten his de facto wish of Saleh in Detroit but he seems happy for him nonetheless. He wasn’t the only one celebrating his New York arrival, with Quinnen Williams likewise joining the chorus. The Gase hire seemed to be appreciated only by the hot take artists like Colin Cowherd (who infamously demanded AFC title game tickets), with players mostly keeping to themselves. Some of Gase’s most vital constituents (i.e. Robby Anderson) wound up fleeing. With Saleh being welcomed with apparent open arms, it’s a swift, welcome departure and change of pace for the organization. From at least the outlook, the Jets are a destination that doesn’t seem so garish in the ultimate long run.

The Jets are in dire need of any positivity flowing in the organization. At least in the infantile going, Saleh is providing the best surge in a long, long time.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: New York Jets fire head coach Adam Gase

New York Jets, Adam Gase

The New York Jets have relieved Gase of his duties after two seasons at the helm, the shortest tenure since Al Groh’s single campaign.

The New York Jets have announced the firing of head coach Adam Gase following their 28-14 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon.

Gase’s two-year New York tenure ends with a mark of 9-23, picking up the second-worst win percentage for a Jets head coach with at least one full year in the role, besting only Rich Kotite (1995-96, .125). His two-year term is also the shortest for a Jets head coach since Al Groh served a single season in 2000. Gase also held the title of interim general manager for just under a month after the firing of Mike Maccagnan during the 2019 offseason.

“This evening, I informed Adam Gase he will no longer serve as the Head Coach of the Jets,” Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said in a team statement. “During his time here, I had the pleasure to get to know Adam and his wonderful family and wish them nothing but the best moving forward.  While my sincere intentions are to have stability in our organization – especially in our leadership positions – it is clear the best decision for the Jets is to move in a different direction. We knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done when Adam joined us in 2019. Our strong finish last year was encouraging, but unfortunately, we did not sustain that positive momentum or see the progress we all expected this season.

“To our fans, it is obvious we have not been good enough. We are committed to building a strong organization, on and off the field, and will continue to provide the necessary resources to field a team that you can be proud of.”

Hired in January 2019 after three years overseeing the Miami Dolphins, Gase was marketed as a head coach that could help the Jets’ offense turn the corner. He was reportedly even recommended by Peyton Manning, who posted the best numbers of his career during Gase’s time as the offensive coordinator in Denver.

However, the Jets never lived up to the promises of offensive prosperity, ranking dead last in the league in yardage in each of their two years under Gase’s watch. Additionally, franchise quarterback Sam Darnold never took the steps forward the Jets were hoping to see. The Jets endured several lengthy losing streaks over the past two seasons, including a streak of 13 consecutive defeats to open this season.

Gase’s tenure was also marred by rumors of in-fighting with several notable names in the organization, namely former rusher Le’Veon Bell, who was released in October. Bell was in the midst of the second season of a four-year, $54 million contract and never returned to his former All-Pro form displayed in Pittsburgh. Other prominent Jets to depart during the Gase years included Jamal Adams, Robby Anderson, Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Jason Myers, and Andre Roberts.

With this latest lost season, the Jets now own the longest active postseason drought in the NFL at 10 seasons after Cleveland, and Tampa Bay ended their respective streaks of futility this year. The Jets’ most recent two-win campaign was also their worst victory tally since the 1996 season under Kotite (1-15). Their last winning season came in 2015 when they finished 10-6 and lost their playoff spot on the last day of the season. Relative consolation comes from the fact that the Jets will choose second in the 2021 NFL Draft in April, a choice they will potentially use on their next franchise quarterback.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The complicated legacy of Frank Gore

New York Jets fans constantly complained about Frank Gore’s usage. But the experienced rusher left a lasting impact on his young teammates.

When 2020 denied us sports, America talked about…well, sports.

The major professional sports leagues made their return amidst the ongoing health crisis (with varying degrees of success). But, in the interim, we, the sports-loving public, amused ourselves with icebreaker-like games on social media. One such pastime, played in a tongue-in-cheek manner, named “legends” from countless sports…but facetiously remembered them for their most obscure seasons and uniforms. Local examples included “Giants legend Kurt Warner” and “Knicks legend Tracy McGrady”. A reverse example would include Orlando Magic legend Patrick Ewing.

Frank Gore’s name could be a popular name when that game is inevitably played again. The running back is best known for his decade in San Francisco but has since embarked on a gridiron sabbatical that has taken him to Indianapolis, Miami, Buffalo, and the New York metropolitan area over the past six seasons.

Gore’s final NFL snaps could well come with the New York Jets, with whom he signed a one-year deal in March. This single season ended on Sunday in East Rutherford against Cleveland, as Gore will not play the Jets’ 2020-21 finale against New England on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) due to a lung contusion. Prior to departing, Gore made NFL history in a Jets uniform, joining Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton as the only members of the NFL’s 16,000-yard club. His entry was a bright spot in an otherwise bleak season for New York football, as the Jets’ 13-loss tally is their worst since 1996. Gore did manage to score a touchdown and earn a crucial catch in the Jets’ first win of the season, a 23-20 triumph over the Los Angeles Rams on December 20. 

Save for that memorable landmark, Gore, 37, has struggled to leave a true on-field landmark in a New York uniform. He was ostensibly seen as a spell option for Le’Veon Bell but was pressed into service upon the former’s release in October. Gore tallied 653 yards on 187 carries, two of which went for scores. He improved on yardage (up from 599 with the Bills last season) but the 3.5 average was the lowest of his career. 

The Miami alum has been mum about his future but seemed to hint that retirement was on the horizon following the Jets’ 34-28 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in November. It was their tenth loss in a row to open the season. 

“We’re thinking about (0-16) every day,” Gore said, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. “We’ve got to get one. You don’t want to go 0-16, especially (since) this might be my last year. I can’t go out like that.”

One could hardly blame Gore for walking away. Sunday’s trip to New England will mark only the third NFL weekend over the past decade that won’t feature a dressed Gore. An elusive Super Bowl aside, he’s accomplished plenty at the NFL level, including five Pro Bowl invitations, a spot on the league’s All-Decade Team for the 2010s, and the 2016 Art Rooney Award for sportsmanship. Even if Gore sticks it out for another year, there’s no use in delaying the discussion on his legacy.

With his resume, Gore is likely on his way to football immortality in Canton. He’s likely well on his way to a one-day contract in San Francisco so he can retire a 49er. The team will likely retire his No. 21 when fans are allowed to visit Levi’s Stadium again. His previous employers during his traveling days are inching toward completed rebuilds, but the Jets are set to complete one of the most brutal seasons in their already star-crossed history. With Gore possibly set to move on before the renovations are completed, it’s fair to see what role he’ll be eventually remembered for in this latest chapter of change, especially with his name etched all over this year of toil and drudgery.

 Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the eyes of some observers, Gore will be seen only as a hindrance. It was clear at several points this season that he was no longer capable of a primary rusher’s workload. Signed with the intentions of being a spell back, it was clear Gore was meant to be a temporary solution, not part of the Jets’ plans beyond the start of the new decade. When the situation became increasingly dire, the Jets had an opportunity to take advantage of free research and development. Instead, Gore continued to receive a majority of the New York carries over La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams.

An opportunity was there for the Jets to cross an item off their offseason shopping list, a chance to audition someone like the fourth-round rookie Perine or Johnson, the first Jet to reach triple digits in yardage in a single game in over two full calendar years after Gore was hurt in a December loss to Las Vegas. Gore got his retirement tour, though, perhaps stemming from the relationship he previously built with head coach Adam Gase in Miami.

Yet, Gore has a chance to leave a positive impact on One Jets Drive, especially if the words of his teammates are to be believed.

If anyone knows about rising from the depths of the football underworld, it’s Gore. He first did so on a personal level, recovering from a devastating ACL tear at the University of Miami in 2002 (where he beat out future NFL starter Willis McGahee for starter’s reps in his sophomore season) to become a third-round pick of the 49ers in the 2005 draft. If retirement is truly on the way, Gore’s career is bookended by some truly garish times on the turf. It took him seven seasons to just to experience a winning record in the pros, as he and other homegrown San Francisco talents (Alex Smith, Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis, NaVorro Bowman, Colin Kaepernick, and Joe Staley among them) eventually built them into Super Bowl contenders.

If there’s any voice the players of this developing team needed to hear, it was that of the resilient Gore.

“The young guys including myself and all the guys on the team look at him and you just want to embody everything that he shows on a day-to-day basis,” Jets quarterback Sam Darnold said of Gore, per Andy Vazquez of NorthJersey.com “It’s so consistent, and that’s why he’s had such a long career, that’s why he’s had the career that he’s had, because of how consistent he is day-to-day, regardless of circumstance. He isn’t a “rah-rah” guy, but you know when he has something to say, people listen and it’s important. He’s a great leader for this team and one of the best ones to ever do it. I’m super happy to have played with him and very grateful to play with him this year.”

“Frank, man, he’s like no other,” wide receiver Breshad Perriman, a rare veteran in the Jets’ organization, said of Gore in a training camp report from Rich Cimini of ESPN. “If you know Frank, if you see him work, especially in the offseason, he grinds so hard. He works like he’s young, you know what I’m saying? Like he’s young, like he hasn’t accomplished anything. He’s still got that hunger, that drive, and you see it every time he works. You have to respect that.”

For a player like Perine, a third-day choice looking to prove why he belongs at the NFL level, Gore was a welcoming prescience, a bright light to turn to.

“We come in every week and meet one-on-one to go over the plays, every Wednesday. He’s a guy I look up to, Perine told team reporter Jack Bell in October. “I’m trying to find my routine, and he has a good routine. I just hope I can last as long as he has. He’s a great leader on and off the field. I just try to learn from him.”

At the end of the day, Gore’s Jets career, seemingly set to last only 15 games, won’t be fondly remembered by metropolitan football fans, at least not in the present day. If his words and experiences can even lead to even one unexpected victory, they’ll come to appreciate his brief time in green, even if it comes in an unwitting fashion.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Bill Belichick praises New York Jets, Adam Gase as Week 17 looms

As a meaningless Week 17 showdown awaits, Bill Belichick had some kind words for the New York Jets and their embattled head coach.

As Adam Gase faces an uncertain future, he’s receiving some encouraging words from an esteemed colleague going into the 2020-21 season finale.

The embattled New York Jets head coach received some compliments from Bill Belichick as the two’s doomed squads are scheduled to do battle in a meaningless Week 17 tilt that will end their respective seasons on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). While the lack of stakes may be a macabre routine for the Jets (2-13), it’s more or less new ground for Belichick’s Patriots. New England (6-9) was eliminated from playoff contention during Week 15 action in Miami and clinched their first losing season in two decades with an embarrassing 38-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Monday.

While Belichick is likely only leaving New England through his own volition, things are much murkier for Gase once the final seconds tick off Gillette Stadium’s scoreboard. The Jets have won two games in a row to avoid imperfect infamy but it hasn’t done much to lower the temperature on the second-year boss’ proverbial seat.

But Belichick had some kind words for Gase in Tuesday’s lead-up to the finale, praising him for the job he’s been able to do with numerous departures through injuries and transactions.

“I think Adam’s done a great job this year of continuing to improve the team with coaching,” Belichick said, per Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “As usual, his excellent game plan and play calling are problems for the defense. This is a team that’s gotten better. How many guys are on some kind of injured list? It must be 20. It’s a long list. They continue to plug guys in there and play very competitively in all three phases of the game.”

Belichick called out the job Gase and his staff has done with their front seven, as well as the progress they made on offense with two quarterbacks (Sam Darnold and Joe Flacco). To his former point, the Jets had have 17 sacks over their past six games after tallying only 11 in their first nine.

“They’ve got a good level of play the second half of the season from a lot of guys, defensively, especially along the front seven,” Belichick said. “They’ve been productive offensively, running the ball, throwing the ball with different quarterbacks with Joe and with Sam. They’ve both played well.”

“His offense is well designed and well called,” he continued. “Fundamentally, you can see the improvements that they are making steadily through the course of the season. Coach Gase and his staff have done an outstanding job. The players have individually gotten better and collectively they’ve performed better. They’ve done a good job there.”

The Jets’ brutal season, featuring their worst loss tally since the 15 in 1996, could be gain a sense of relief if they finish off with a win over New England. New York has not won at Gillette Stadium since their shocking triumph in the 2012 AFC divisional playoff round and hasn’t beaten the Patriots in regulation in the regular season since 2010. They led a majority of their November meeting at MetLife Stadium but were done in by allowing 13 unanswered points in the final quarter, capped off by a 51-yard field goal from Nick Folk.

Belichick has not announced his starting quarterback for the finale against the Jets. Cam Newton’s continuing struggles, leading to his benching against the Bills, have led some to believe that Jarrett Stidham will be granted his first NFL start as the Patriots continue to search for Tom Brady’s successor. Stidham made his NFL debut in a blowout victory against the Jets last season, infamously throwing an interception that was taken back 61 yards for a touchdown by Jamal Adams.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Jets look toward a “stopgap” QB in 2021?

The New York Jets have decisions to make at quarterback. A stopgap can provide welcome stability if they move on from Sam Darnold.

Well-meaning parents who purchased their children New York Jets jerseys bearing Trevor Lawrence’s name for the December holidays have some explaining to do.

The Jets’ endeavor for Trevor is more than likely over after Sunday, as a combination of a New York win and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 14th consecutive defeat sent the top overall pick in this spring’s draft to Duval County. Considering the Jaguars (1-14) opted to play Mike Glennon in place of Gardner Minshew for their 41-17 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bears, it’s more or less assured that they’re planning to select the Clemson thrower set to partake in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Friday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Even if the Jets (2-13) landed the top overall choice…a scenario rendered impossible by their pair of December wins and the strength of schedule tiebreaker…there was going to be debate over whether they should use it on Lawrence or entrust another year to incumbent starter Sam Darnold. With nearly three stanzas completed, the narrative of Darnold’s New York saga is a complicated one. It has been defined by the occasional flash of brilliance too often countered with head-scratching decisions on the field. The story has also been interrupted by calamities that are either an unfortunate part of the game (injuries) or something most go quarterbacks go through their whole career without seeing (mononucleosis). Missing four games with a shoulder ailment hasn’t helped, but Darnold is on pace to set new career lows in most major passing categories, including yards (currently at 1,942) and touchdown passes (8).

 Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY NETWORK

Countless amounts of turnover have like played a role in Darnold’s lack of progress. His crucial developmental years have been staged in not only the Todd Bowles-to-Adam Gase staff transition, but the general manager swap from Mike Maccagnan to Joe Douglas. Nothing drives the point of unstable turnover than the fact that no receiver (with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon) from Darnold’s rookie campaign (2018) remains on the current Jets’ roster. The Jets may be ready to make yet another coaching change with Gase’s win percentage (.290) besting only Rich Kotite amongst green head coaches with at least one full year at the helm.

Tempting as it may be to see what Darnold could do with a new coaching staff (provided Gase is indeed dealt his walking papers), a legal separation, one perhaps involving a trade for draft picks, may be the best for all parties involved. The Jets don’t have time to help pen anyone else’s redemption story…they’ve spent a decade trying to write their own…and Darnold deserves a place that isn’t relying on him to be a one-size-fits-all solution.

If 2020 has proven anything, it’s that the Jets are far removed from being “a quarterback away’ from mere relevancy, much less the Super Bowl. This is a team with many needs, and it’s not fair to Darnold, Lawrence, or an unknown, young third party to expect them to be the savior sought since Joe Namath hung up his green and white paraphernalia for the last time. Even if the Jets are poised to miss out on Lawrence, the 2021 draft has provided solid consolation prizes in the form of Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Kyle Trask.

But what if the Jets took a year off from the franchise quarterback process?

Such a concept has been on the rise in recent years, the phenomenon informally labeled as using a “stopgap” quarterback. Through this endeavor, a talented quarterback helps the team in question keep rolling while other needs are addressed and developed.

The stopgap, as his name implies, is not meant to be the starter for any extended period of time. Rather, they arise out of necessity or in case of emergency. Oftentimes, the stopgap is called upon to clean up the mess or void a retired or departing franchise quarterback left behind. Modern examples on the 2020 circuit include Phillip Rivers in Indianapolis and Cam Newton in New England. Sometines, the stopgap manages to extend his stay. Modern Tom Brady could arguably be seen as a stopgap in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers sought his services to capitalize on a strong team around him in plans to make the most of a window of contentions. The Tennessee Titans perhaps envisioned Ryan Tannehill, fresh off a polarizing stint as Miami’s franchise man, as a temporary solution when they pulled the plug on the Marcus Mariota experiment. Tannehill helped guide the Titans to a pair of surprise playoffs wins and was rewarded with the Comeback Player of the Year Award and a four-extension.

A similar plan could work out for the Jets, a team working on a playoff game drought that’s older than all but two movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The most important thing the Jets need right now is stability. They’re a team venturing off the football rails, where even a mere winning record has proven elusive. This is a squad that needs to get back to a place where a win isn’t the worst thing that can happen to the franchise, as many have declared after the Jets stole wins from playoff contenders in Los Angeles and Cleveland. This isn’t a scenario like the Indianapolis Colts had in 2012, when Andrew Luck turned a two-win squad into a playoff team. The Jets don’t have a plethora of reliable veterans to help the kid, unlike Indianapolis’ haul of Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Adam Vinatieri, among others.

There’s a light at the end of the green tunnel in the form of 2021 cap space. The Jets’ offseason bank currently stands at just over $81 million, once again trailing only Jacksonville. This season, particularly a strong December, has yielded some potential building blocks (Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, Quinnen Williams, Marcus Maye among them), but the Jets are far from a completed project. They still need blocking and weaponry on offense while the defense needs help in the secondary. The pass rush also needs to be bolstered with matchups against Josh Allen on the horizon for the next decade, and their kicking situation needs clarity. It’s not fair to waste further development on Darnold on a situation like this, nor is this any condition in which to subject a top overall pick. As the Jets try to find their footing, a stopgap man could work wonders. A short-term deal is feasible in this cap space surplus, filling one need while diverting attention to more long-term goals. Draft picks obtained from a potential trade of Darnold can be used to net weaponry that can be overseen by a proven throwing option.

Whereas the draft class may loaded with franchise potential, 2021’s free agency class is laden with stopgap potential. Jacoby Brissett had a strong showing in filling the gap between Luck and Rivers last season and would potentially seek a new chance to return to starting duties. Andy Dalton has kept the Dallas Cowboys in contention for the NFC East title since taking over for the injured Dak Prescott. The Jets may even have a stopgap option on their roster in the form of Joe Flacco. Super Bowl XLVII’s MVP may be facing the twilight of his career, but showed that he did have some gas left in the tank while filling in for an injured Darnold earlier this season.

The Jets’ most recent glory days…or the closest thing resembling them in this dreary decade…have come with stopgap guys under center. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 2015 season appears at or near the top of nearly every single-season passing record in the Jets’ record book. Fitzpatrick (as well as fellow free-agent-to-be Tyrod Taylor, who helped end the Buffalo Bills’ eternal playoff drought before Josh Allen arrived) has nearly made a career out of the concept and currently serves in such a capacity in Miami on a part-time basis as they bide their time with Tua Tagovailoa.

 [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]
Two years later, Josh McCown kept the Jets competitive in a year some expected them to go winless. The final ledger read 5-11, but McCown’s brief restablization kept them in ball games.

Of course, the Jets have plenty of time to rectify their current surroundings to make them more desireable to an incoming franchise quarterback. If offseason funds are spent wisely (i.e. adding a strong receiving talent like Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster), the idea of a stopgap man could seem almost laughable. For all we know, Darnold could emerge to pilot his fourth straight kickoff weekend for the Jets, hopefully one packed to the brim with fans this time around. But the stopgap conversation is one the Jets shouldn’t ignore this offseason.

Whatever the Jets have been trying in the franchise quarterback department, it’s clearly not working. Maybe some change would do them some good…if only temporarily.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Have these victorious final hours saved Adam Gase?

The New York Jets have banded together to compete in the final stanza. This effort can save some players…but not this doomed staff.

If this keeps up, the New York Jets might be able to win the NFC East.

Alas, even the woebegone division, one that will undoubtedly put a team with a losing record in the playoffs after Sunday’s transpirings, would be too far out of the Jets’ reach in a surprising team swap. But Gang Green has spent December providing some holiday cheer in the form of consecutive victories at the end of the NFL season. Each win has come against a team in the thick of the NFL playoff hunt. The Jets (2-13) stole a tilt at SoFi Stadium against the Los Angles Rams (9-6) last weekend before topping the Cleveland Browns (10-5) in this season’s MetLife Stadium finale two days after Christmas.

The triumphs themselves have proved controversial amongst the fanbase. New York’s endeavor for Trevor Lawrence is officially dead after the win over Cleveland, as the Clemson quarterback appears to be headed for Jacksonville after Duval County endured its 14th consecutive loss while the Jets put a Christmas bow on their win over the Browns. The fact the Jets are etched into what will presumably be the first non-Lawrence pick is of little consolation to supporters of the metropolitan green squad.

Those responsible for the on-field triumphs have heeded no mind to those calling for losses, only energized by the past couple of weeks.

“It proves that we don’t quit,” linebacker Tarell Basham, a Sunday hero with two forced fumbles over the final four minutes, said in the aftermath according to an Associated Press report. “It proves that we still are approaching every week to win.”

“We’ve been more consistent, but obviously it’s too late,” quarterback Sam Darnold added in team reporter Jack Bell’s recap. “But it’s huge for our guys who are so resilient playing the way we did as an offense struggling in the second half. The defense and specials having our back. I’m super proud of the guys. We had a huge win in LA last week then came into work on Monday, the whole week and had a good week.”

In an effort to exorcise the demons 2020 has brought forth, football or otherwise, the box scores from the last two weeks are probably set for incineration, along with the rest of the ledgers of this cursed year. But it’s certainly encouraging to see the players band together and play well against what is clearly superior competition.

The Jets have pulled no punches when it comes to expressing their thoughts about supposed fans wishing active harm against the team. Seeing their hard efforts culminate it what has been a strong December…each game of their Christmas quartet has been close with the exception of a 40-3 shellacking in Seattle…is inspiring. All across the roster, participants could well be securing NFL futures in either New York or one of the other 31 markets.

But, in the midst of celebration, it’s worth wondering…have these unexpected triumphs breathed new life into the Adam Gase era?

New York Jets, Adam Gase
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Gase’s tenure as Jets head coach, however long it remains, could well become defined by ill-advised victories. Time will potentially tell just how much a 7-2 stretch at the end of his debut season, one that followed a garish 1-7 start, altered the course of Jets history. The strong finish gained mostly against teams somehow in even more dire straits than the Jets was enough to convince the powers that be that Gase was the right man for the job. His 2020 performance has consistently proven otherwise.

Yet, even as the Jets threatened to join an unholy trinity of 16-game imperfection with the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns, Gase’s departure somehow felt anything but certain. After all, several names with football resumes far more expansive than Gase’s were bid farewell before a change in head coaching was apparently considered. Veteran defensive starters Steve McLendon and Avery Williamson were dealt for day three draft picks. Le’Veon Bell was outright released. It took highly publicized bad call for Gregg Williams to be handed an ousting less than 24 hours later. All the while, Gase remained in charge, making increasingly questionable decisions that didn’t exactly fuel the idea that the Jets were trying to win ball games.

The wins over teams of a playoff caliber may be reopening the case for Gase. Even some of the Jets’ recent defeats have show a sense of honor, with four of their prior seven losses coming by one possession. Darnold even remarked after the Cleveland win that he “(loved) working for him”, per Connor Hughes of The Athletic.

But if Gase is back coaching the team in 2021 even in part thanks to this last stretch, that says more about New York management than it ever will about the former Peyton Manning overseer.

For one thing, future discussions of these Jets victories may require asterisks. The Rams victory lost a little bit of luster with rookie rusher Cam Akers noticeably sidelined by an injury (not to mention two of his longer runs, including a touchdown, erased by penalties). A positive test for COVID-19 not only delayed the Browns arrival but the ensuing contact tracing forced them to leave a good portion of their receiving output in Ohio. It’s safe to say that the timing of their respective matchups played well in the Jets’ favor.

But hidden behind the final score are subtle signs that the Jets are making the same mistakes that dug them into this hole in the first place. Progress isn’t be made in the right areas. The Jets are winning in spite of their recurring, apparent issues…not because they’ve overcome them.

For example, the Jets offense still hasn’t reached optimal levels of output, especially under a supposed “guru” like Gase. Darnold, for example, hasn’t taken the next step on his journey as an NFL franchise man. He has yet to earn a triple-digit passer rating and has yet to break the 300-yard mark this season. Sure, numbers don’t entirely make or break an NFL quarterback’s career, but there was a reason that Jets fans were so eager to see Lawrence fall into their laps. Speaking of offense, a lack of scoring, particularly the shrinkage as the game goes on, has been concerning from an offensive standpoint. The Jets have had matching, convincing 13-3 leads at halftime in each of their last two games, but have been forced to rely on bailouts from a tired defense to secure each win. This Sunday marked only the fourth time this season the Jets offense has gotten past the 300-yard mark (333). Such a struggle should almost be impossible in this modern NFL ruled by a fantasy football deity.

Additionally, Gase and Co. continue to make baffling decisions that make one question whether the Jets want to truly pull out a victory. The Jets continue to leave points on the field at opportune times of the ball game, whether it’s sending Braden Mann out to punt on a one-yard fourth down circa midfield or continuing to insist on a Frank Gore farewell tour while Ty Johnson and La’Mical Perine watch. Not only does it affect the Jets’ task at hand, but it throws a wrench into their future as well. One can argue that Johnson and Perine aren’t cut out for a New York future, but the evidence will never be present if they’re not getting some of Gore’s workload in a dire situation.

A purge is indeed coming to the New York Jets. Part of it will be enforced by contractual endeavors…the Jets will have 32 players up for free agency this offseason…but necessity will be the primary factor. At no point in Gase’s tenure have the Jets come remotely close to resembling a contender in the modern NFL. Not even the good times, whether it was the optimistic second half of last season or this new, active winning streak, have given much hope, as fans have grumbled about falling down in the draft order rather than relatively upward in the standings. With rare exception, players have not been put in a strong position to succeed, to extend whatever good times have surfaced over the past few seasons. Those shortcomings, still very much present despite new results on the scoreboard, primarily fall on Gase and his staff with little exception (i.e. special teams boss Brant Boyer).

At the end of the day, those who thrust the Jets into a bizarro football world where victories are considered to be the worst thing that can happen to the franchise should be the first ones held accountable when the purge inevitably comes. Two wins don’t change the fact that Gase is the main culprit.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Quinnen Williams’ breakout 2020 set to end on IR

The New York Jets’ Sunday victory couldn’t stop the bad news from rolling in, as breakout star Quinnen Williams is done for the year.

The bad news keeps rolling in for the New York Jets.

Head coach Adam Gase announced on Wednesday that the second-year defender was “probably be done for the year”. Williams has enjoyed a breakout season after a tough rookie year, leading the Jets in sacks with seven, and has appeared at or near the top of several analytical lists documenting efforts from interior defensive linemen.

“Quinnen is in the concussion protocol and also has a neck (injury), he won’t participate (in practice),” Gase said on Wednesday, per notes from the Jets. The head coach further elaborated that he wasn’t exactly sure what the issue was, but Williams will probably go on injured reserve once he clears concussion protocol. This season’s injured reserve rules require players to sit out at least three weeks and there are only two games left in the season.

Gase did take the time to praise Williams’ development in year two. Williams was chosen third overall in the 2019 draft after only Kyler Murray and Nick Bosa.

“He’s done a good job. Obviously, Sunday you saw what kind of impact that he had, made a ton of TFLs, was in the backfield, created pressure,” Gase said. “I felt like he had a good run of games. I felt like his consistency was pretty good.”

“I mean, there were a few games where it was like, he kind of disappeared, but it didn’t happen a lot. Last year, I felt like there would be a couple of games in a row where you kind of didn’t really feel him, but this year I felt like the high majority of the games that you felt him. If you were on the other team you felt him, whether you’re playing quarterback or in the run game.”

Williams had four tackles, including one sack, in his final game of the season, a 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams last weekend. He left the game in the second and the seen vomiting as he walked off the field toward the locker room.

In other injury news, Gase announced that Harvey Lagni, another defender with a neck ailment, would likewise be placed on IR. Cornerback Javelin Guidry (knee) was likewise held out of Wednesday’s practice. The Jets (1-13) did receive some good news with Folorunso Fatukasi emerging from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Fatukasi did not test positive but was deemed to have come in close contact with someone who did.

New York will partake in their final home game of the season on Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Browns (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags