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

The New York Jets won a game…and that’s completely fine

The New York Jets committed a mortal football sin on Sunday: a win in Los Angeles. But Gang Green has nothing to apologize for.

Christmas morning came about five days early for New York Jets fans.

Week 15 action saw two of their wildest fantasies become a reality, a pair of gifts that would generate a reaction forever immortalized in home movies. The early window of Sunday action saw the New England Patriots’ postseason streak finally end in a loss in Miami. On the other side of the country, the Jets perhaps prompted toasts of Zima amongst members of the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns. Their 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams…a team in legitimate contention for an NFL postseason spot…ended a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak and helped the Jets avoid 16-game imperfection.

For Jets fans, topping a team that could well be playing into February after watching the Patriots get erased from the playoff picture could’ve created rare tidings of comfort and joy. It was a feeling of watching your worst enemy have his gift of a PlayStation 5 taken away, but not before you get to use it for a couple of hours.

But, this being the year 2020 A.D., the sweetest of Sunday feelings, denied to the green New York fandom until the penultimate week of this cursed 366-day process, was viewed as the worst thing that could happen to an already star-crossed franchise.

The Jets’ victory in Los Angeles proved to be, in the eyes of some fans, an early Festivus miracle, as their feat of strength set off an airing of grievances unlike any other. Their triumph came at a price, the charge being lost real estate on the draft board in Cleveland. New York’s name now appears in the second slot, behind only the Jacksonville Jaguars, their compatriot in the brotherhood of 1-13 ledgers. Creating the imperfect, unholy trinity with the Lions and Browns has been no concern to the Jaguars, who have lost 13 in a row after winning on opening day. Their latest defeat was a listless 40-14 showing in Baltimore and they certainly won’t be favored in their final contests against Chicago and Indianapolis, each of whom harbors playoff dreams (the latter game could help the Colts win the AFC South). Jacksonville holds the tiebreaker with a worse strength of schedule.

The fear amongst Jets fans is that Jacksonville now has the inside track for Trevor Lawrence, who perhaps broke the hearts of two green teams in the span of a weekend. Saturday saw the Clemson quarterback solidify his status as the consensus top pick, torching Notre Dame for 412 total yards and three scores in a 34-10 victory in the ACC title game. Jets fans were willing to accept inclusion on the list of winless teams in NFL history in exchange for the glory of Lawrence. Now, Lawrence appears bound for Jacksonville, a five hour drive from Miami, where many believe he and the Tigers will be on January 11 for college football’s national title game.

But…it’s shocking it needs to be said, but hey, it’s 2020…what’s done is done. There’s no use crying over spilled Gatorade. The Jets won a game…and that’s perfectly all right.

Tank the Tank

The notion of tanking is ludicrous in all walks of life, particularly in a profession where you can be one of the 32 best people at your job in the entire world, and observers and supervisors alike will call for your axing.

To their macabre credit, the Jets rarely seemed to buy into the concept. Sure, there have been incidents where they might’ve been better off staying home…the brutal visits to Indianapolis, Miami, and Seattle come to mind…but one can look at the Jets’ 2020 schedule and find instances where, on paper, they should’ve come out with a win. Nothing more needs to be said about the ill-advised final blitz against Las Vegas, but they had control for a majority of prime time contests against Denver and New England. Even their first visit to SoFi Stadium could’ve gone worse, as they played the Chargers to a 34-28 decision.

Members of the modern Jets have been clear where their priorities lie. Spoiler alert, they’re not on the draft board.

“I don’t put my body through this, I don’t think anybody on the Jets puts their body through it, to lose,” offensive lineman McGovern said prior to the departure to Los Angeles, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “It might be easy for somebody sitting on the couch, eating pizza, chips, and dip, to say they should keep losing, but if they’ve ever strapped the pads on, that sounds like an impossible thing for me to do. I’m going to do whatever I can to win.”

Mekhi Becton, a rare Jet who has a spot on this roster beyond 2020, advocated that those rooting for losses should turn in their New York fan credentials.

“You ain’t really a fan if you didn’t want us to win, honestly,” Becton told Jeane Coakley of SNY. “I mean that in the nicest way possible. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. But I mean, if you wanted us to lose, you’re not a real fan, honestly.”

Even before the losses began to pile up, the Jets were made up of players who needed to prove their worth to build a long-term NFL future. That was apparent in general manager Joe Douglas’ free agent haul this offseason, where all but one signee (McGovern) was granted a contract worth one year or contained an affordable exit after 2020. To ask these players to toss away their final chances to impress, not only for the Jets but for the 31 other NFL squads as well, for the sake of a “reward” they maybe not even be around to witness is out of touch. For these players, these final hours could be the difference between another NFL paycheck or waiting for the XFL to come back in 2022.

Some of those holdovers are carving spots for themselves on a future roster. Midseason acquisition Ty Johnson earned the first 100-yard rushing game from a Jets rusher against Las Vegas and scored a touchdown on the opening drive against the Rams. Neville Hewitt is working his way toward another New York contract with 122 tackles. One can even point at Sam Darnold’s case as to why the Jets shouldn’t be tanking. He has, from at least a team standpoint, consequence-free opportunities to convince the Jets that he deserves to maintain his hold on the position.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that people will go to great lengths to keep their livelihoods when they’re on the line. The Jets shouldn’t be faulted for doing so in a relatively harmless fashion.

Hold that Tiger

Lawrence mastery on Saturday might’ve been just enough for even the staunchest Jets supporter to consider wearing blue, cream, and yellow in support of the Rams the next day. There’s no doubt that whoever is getting Lawrence is getting an incredible talent on and off the field. His prowess on the gridiron speaks for itself and he became a strong voice of unity and leadership elsewhere. Along with Sugar Bowl opponent and likely fellow first-rounder Justin Fields of Ohio State, Lawrence was an advocate for both societal equality and safely finding a way to play the 2020 college football amidst the ongoing health crisis.

But for all his magic, for all his powers…even Lawrence is not a be-all, end-all, fix-all solution to the New York Jets franchise.

Sure, there’s plenty of time for the Jets to tidy up and make their organization attractive to a sought-after newcomer, be a rookie like Lawrence or a veteran free agent like Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster. But it’s going to take a lot of work. The Le’Veon Bell case perhaps set the Jets’ transactional affairs back further than they could’ve imagined. What high-ticket free agent is going to look at the way the Bell situation played out, becoming a saga plagued by infighting amongst the team’s decisionmakers and leading to the post-draft firing of a general manager, and look to replicate that? The Jets certainly have a strong budget to work with (just below $73 million and potentially counting if they cut pricey veterans like Henry Anderson and George Fant), but they’ll need to do a better job building relationships.

At the very least, Douglas has made it clear that he has a plan, leaving traces of his blueprints across his transactions, even if they haven’t fully played out. When the quarterback needed blocking, Douglas traded for Alex Lewis and convinced Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement. With Darnold low on weapons, Douglas signed Breshad Perriman and found a day two gem in Denzel Mims in the draft. Noe everything has panned out on the field…Kalil failed to play up to his Pro Bowl form and Perriman has been inconsistent…but it at least showed that Douglas knew how to chase down a need position.

There’s definitely hope on the horizon. Mims has shown flashes of brilliance despite bouts with injury and Becton has been everything the Jets could’ve asked for. But this group, particularly the offensive line, is very much a work in progress. Putting Lawrence behind the current blocking unit would be only asking for trouble. There’s time to improve between now and the spring, but, if things stay the way they are, the Lawrence era probably wouldn’t be that much different from Darnold’s.

But, contrary to popular belief amongst the pro-tank crowd, the draft does not begin and end once Lawrence’s name is called. At least 224 men will be added to NFL rosters in Cleveland, and the Jets will be choosing quite often. Cincinnati’s shocking win on Monday night over Pittsburgh, perhaps another victory seen as ill-advised by those who wish to tank, ensured that the Jets would choose no later than second overall come April. There’s plenty of other needs that can be immediately satisfied with the No. 2 pick, even if Lawrence is donning a Jaguars cap and jersey. The non-Lawrence quarterback would be well protected with the combined efforts of Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater. He can throw to Ja’Marr Chase or Devonta Smith. The yearly couple against Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa would be easier to bear pass rushers Kwity Paye or Jayson Oweh if they trade down. Others from those positions (i.e. Azeez Ojulari, Wyatt Davis, or Terrace Marshall) could be available when the Jets choose later on day one with Seattle’s pick, obtained from the Jamal Adams trade.

It’s fair to mourn the loss of Lawrence in the early going…and even more so when rewatching the film from Charlotte on Saturday…but it’s a potential loss they can overcome with the right brand of drafting and scouting ingenuity.

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

Change is Still Coming

The Jets might’ve been on the right side of the scoreboard after Sunday’s affair, but there were still plenty of reminders as to why they’re long eliminated from the NFL playoff picture. Inspiring and fun as the win may be…former Super Bowl offensive coordinator and Jets head coach Adam Gase remarked per The Post that “I don’t think I’ve seen a group more excited after a game than what I saw (Sunday) when talking about the postgame reaction…it’d be silly to believe that it’ll serve as the deciding factor as to whether some veterans stay or go.

From a playcalling standpoint, for example, there’s no reason to waste consequence-free games on giving the ball to Frank Gore 23 times a game while Johnson carried it only thrice (returning rookie La’Mical Perine didn’t get any). There was a chance for the Jets to build on a 13-0 lead going into the halftime break, but opted for short runs that allowed Los Angeles to get the ball back and add a triple. The defense took a notable step backward when an injured Quinnen Williams was forced to leave the game, giving up three consecutive scoring drives in the second half.

Another asterisk came in the form of the opponent. Rams rusher Cam Akers, fresh off a career-best 171-yard performance against New England, was affected by an ankle injury they stripped him of his true impact (though two long Akers runs, including a touchdown, were called back due to penalties in the second half). Even if the Jets did buy into tanking, Los Angeles almost wouldn’t allow it. Five of the first six Rams possessions ended in a punt, one of which was blocked by J.T. Hassell. The outlier in that group resulted in a Bryce Hall interception.

So, unless Johnson or Gore helped you win your fantasy football semifinal, only true football die-hards are going to remember this win. Change is still coming with to the Jets. Previews of the purge have been plentiful…just ask Bell, Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Pierre Desir, or Gregg Williams…but it should begin in earnest this offseason. If the Jets are truly on the fence about Gase, a December win against an opponent that was clearly not operating at top speed shouldn’t be enough to sway the pendulum back in his favor.

Douglas has a plan, picks, and prosperity through cap space. One win, even at the cost of one potential quarterback, shouldn’t be the force of destruction that upends it all.

It’s rare enough that the Jets earn a thrilling December victory in this day and age. If you’re a fan, you should feel no reservation toward celebrating it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s win at Los Angeles

The New York Jets pulled off the unthinkable on Sunday, topping the Los Angeles Rams in a shocking road upset.

New York Jets fans received the most purgatorial Christmas gift on Sunday afternoon.

For the first time in 357 days, the Jets (1-13) were on the right side of the scoreboard, topping the Los Angeles Rams in a shocking upset out west on Sunday evening by a 23-20 final. Neville Hewitt was among the Jets’ stars with 10 tackles, while Jamison Crowder had a team-best 66 yards through the air. New York defenders had three sacks on the evening, playing a part in dealing a brutal blow to the Rams’ (9-5) chances to win the NFC West. The Jets will also avoid landing in 16-game infamy, a fate that still belongs to only the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns.

ESM looks back on the win and dispenses some game balls from a big victory…

3rd Star: RB Frank Gore

23 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD, 1 reception, 6 yards

Much has been made about the Jets continue to insist on providing Gore a retirement tour of sorts while younger backs sit behind him. But he made the most of his opportunities in Los Angeles and earned some of the biggest touches in Sunday’s victory. Gore helped set the pace with a one-yard score on the Jets’ first drive of the second half and later caught the six-yard pass just before the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter that allowed Jets fans to start celebrating…the ones that wanted to, anyway.

2nd Star: DL Quinnen Williams

4 tackles, 1 sack

Even with an elusive win, it’ll take Jets fans a lot of football therapy to fully remove the demons of 2020 from their mindset. But the season could likely go down as the year that gave rise to the justification of Quinnen Williams at the third overall slot in his draft. Williams continued his breakout on the Los Angeles stage, invading the Rams backfield numerous times and picking up his team-best seventh sack of the season. It’s unclear whether Williams will get to finish his sophomore season, as he missed the finishing touches in the locker room with a concussion. If his season is indeed over, its relative brevity shouldn’t take away the progress Williams has made and the opinions he has changed.

1st Star: RB Ty Johnson

6 receptions 39 yards, 1 TD, 3 carries 16 yards

Johnson is one of those names that have stuck behind Gore’s final days as a feature back, even as he became the first Jets rusher in 26 calendar months to reach triple-digits in yardage in a single game. But he’s making the most of his chances and more or less one of the greatest examples and cases against tanking: the former sixth-round pick from Detroit is potentially creating a longer career for himself, whether it’s in New York or elsewhere. Johnson was one of Darnold’s favorite targets during Sunday’s action, tying with Crowder and Robert Woods for a game-high six receptions. One of his first accounted for a touchdown on the Jets’ opening drive that foreshadowed the magic ahead.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Aaron Donald has kind words for New York Jets, Sam Darnold

On the cusp of Los Angeles Rams history, Aaron Donald made it clear he’s not taking the New York Jets’ visit lightly.

The holiday season is often meant to be one of glad tidings of comfort and joy. One of the NFL’s most fearsome defenders is fully on board with that concept.

With the holidays come the NFL’s most crucial games, as the calendar inches closer toward the postseason. Aaron Donald’s Los Angeles Rams (9-4) have three such contests remaining. Though their playoff prescience is mostly assured, they’re engaged in a brutal battle for the NFC title with the Seattle Seahawks, a battle that could shift an NFC playoff game from Lumen Field to the Rams’ palatial home of SoFi Stadium.

While the Rams have looked strong at the perfect time, having won three in a row and dismantling the New England Patriots on a national stage last week, they were unable to gain separation from the Seahawks, who crushed the woebegone New York Jets by a 40-3 final last weekend at home. Little more needs to be said about how wayward the Jets’ season has become, but things certainly have a chance to get uglier this weekend. The winless Jets (0-13) will return to the west coast this Sunday to round out their interconference slate in Inglewood (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox). 

Los Angeles would almost have every right to take the Jets lightly, especially with New York now missing six defensive starters from their opening day lineup after linebacker Jordan Jenkins was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

But Donald isn’t buying the idea of an easy Los Angeles victory. The interior pursuer of quarterbacks spoke highly of the opponent in his weekly statements and also had friendly words for his Sunday prey.

“Obviously, they’re not playing how they want to play, but I think he’s a good quarterback,” Donald said of Darnold, Peter Botte of the New York Post. “He’s really mobile. He can move, make things happen with his feet, and get out of trouble. It looks like he’s strong. I’ve seen a couple times when it looked like he was about to get sacked, but he was able to break out and make something happen. He’s a solid quarterback, so we’ve been studying that and understanding that plays aren’t going to come easy. We’ve got to earn them. We’ve just got to do our job. He’s a good quarterback. They’ve got some good players around him, young players.”

A Sunday sack of Darnold could set history for the second consecutive weekend. Donald is three sacks away from tying Leonard Little for the most in Rams history (87.5). Darnold was previously the victim of a Jamal Adams sack in Seattle that made his former teammate the NFL’s single-season sack leader amongst defensive backs.

A native of Orange County’s Huntington Beach, Darnold is ready to make his return to Los Angeles, where he entered the national spotlight as the star thrower for the University of Southern California Trojans. He reciprocated Donald’s praise in his own availability.

“Aaron Donald is a good player,” Darnold said, per Botte. “He definitely pops out on tape, especially it seems like whenever a play needs to be made, he is always there making it. So it will be fun playing against him.”

As the Jets seek some form of momentum and any good feeling to take from this lost season. Some members of the team feel like they can take a lesson or two from Donald, one of the premier defenders and scariest backfield invaders in the NFL.

“When you watch this guy get doubl- teamed almost every snap, and the five snaps he gets singled up, he wins,” Gase said of Donald, per team reporter Eric Allen. “I’m sure every D-tackle is trying to get to that point, especially guys that have similar skill sets of length, quickness, strength, things like that, they’re like, ‘Hey, I want to be like that guy.'”

“You look at their front, their front is very disruptive, with their games, especially on third down, so we have to do a good job up there up front and then the back end, they have really good players there too and they do a good of disguising coverages and mixing it up that way,” Darnold said of the Rams defense as a whole, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we are excited for the opportunity.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

The New York Jets are proving Jamal Adams right after latest loss

New York Jets, Jamal Adams

In their latest defeat, the most one-sided in the Adam Gase era, the New York Jets fulfilled their former star’s most damning declaration.

Sue Bird, Alysha Clark, Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart, and the rest of the defending WNBA champions were nowhere to be found in the spectator-free settings of Lumen Field on Sunday late afternoon. Yet, the New York Jets were forced to deal with a new brand of Seattle Storm.

Metropolitan football fans, especially those of the green variety, are no doubt used to gridiron disappointment at this time of the year, but the visit to the Emerald City set new standards for futility. In a day and age of glorified offense, the Jets put a grand total of 13 yards over the final 30 minutes. Had the Seahawks not mercifully pulled their starters in the game’s latter stages, that number could’ve well been in the red, as 28 of those yards came on a meaningless final drive. The ensuing final deficit of 40-3 was also the worst loss overseen by Adam Gase in his two years at the helm. Gase’s tenure has seen its share of unique achievements, albeit ones the Jets never wanted to see fulfilled. Seattle, for example, dealt the Jets (0-13) their 13th consecutive loss, a landmark even Rich Kotite’s doomed bunch managed to avoid.

The quaddrennial matchup with the Seahawks also carried the subplot of the Jets’ reunion with Jamal Adams, who spares no opportunity to talk about just how dreary things got for him as rare beacon of hope in the New York football realm. Adams made the game memorable with his own bit of history, as a first-half sack of Sam Darnold allowed him to take hold of the NFL’s single-season record for sacks by a defensive back (8.5), a record he came tantalizingly close to in his final season in green. Adams was even able to make up for a dropped interception that could’ve led to a touchdown in the first half, a mishap long forgotten when all was said and done.

The historic takedown was part of a showcase for former Jets in the Pacific Northwest, as Damon Harrison, Jason Myers, and Brandon Shell all played major roles in the victory. Even former franchise quarterback Geno Smith came in to complete 4-of-5 passes for 33 yards against a beleaguered Jets defense after Russell Wilson beat them for four touchdown passes.

Adams has spared no opportunity to speak negatively about his time of New York, but was congenial to his former comrades after the final seconds ticked away. He notable shared a hug with Gase, who told the safety to “go get one”, referring to a Super Bowl, according to Adams himself.

“(Gase) told me to go get one. He was talking about a Super Bowl,” Adams said of the exchange, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “A lot of the guys came up to us and I don’t want to blow our guys’ heads up or myself, which I’m not, but they were just saying that we have a great team. And we’ve always believed in that. But he just congratulated me, wished me well, told me to stay healthy.”

Seattle (9-4) currently holds the top NFC wild-card spot and is engaged in a battle with the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC West division title. It’s a stark contrast to his seasons in green, where playoff opportunities were often closed before Halloween, but Adams nonetheless had some friendly words toward his former employers in his postgame statements.

“At the end of the day, I don’t have any hate towards, not even just Gase, toward the organization,” Adams said in another report from Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “Everybody just had different views. We had to move different. We had to take a different leap. Obviously the trade happened and I’m happy to be here. I wish those guys nothing but the best, I really do. I mean that. I know a lot of Jets fans don’t really think I’m coming from the heart, but I really am. I’m thankful for my time over there because I don’t take it for granted.”

Adams’ kind words and well wishes to the Jets at the conclusion of an interconference shellacking could be closure of sorts for a Jets team that had some trouble moving on the early going (the departed Gregg Williams’ claim that Adams would get “bored” in Seattle seems particularly silly). But Sunday’s game showed more or less proved one of Adams’ most damning comments about the Jets correct.

“They do not want to win.” 

It was clear long before Sunday’s kickoff that Adams had the last laugh in the exchange between the two sides, if only because Adams has a chance to play for a Super Bowl while the Jets have been reshuffling their draft board since late September. But, in their futility, the Jets were given a macabre silver lining: the final hours of the woebegone 2020 season gave them a chance to not only conduct free research and development for 2021 and beyond, but they had a chance to play with relative reckless abandon. Free from the relative “burden” of playoff positioning, the Jets could use whatever means necessary to get a win. Sure, it would anger the cult of the No. 1 pick, a fanatical gathering dedicated to losing for the greater good of the ongoing “endeavor for Trevor (Lawrence)”, but former Jets boss Herm Edwards said it best when he declared “you play to win the game”.

Wins themselves, as the Jets have proven time and time again, might be a little too much to ask for at this point in time with the Jets, but they’ve shown they’re capable of strong efforts. This was a team that was, after all, one poorly-timed blitz away from more or less removing the Las Vegas Raiders from the playoff conversation as little as a weekend ago. Fight and resiliency should’ve been words ingrained in the locker room, etched into whiteboards through the facility.

Alas for New York, those qualities never came during their stay at Lumen Field. A week after Ty Johnson and Josh Adams united for 178 yards on the ground against Las Vegas (the Jets’ best rushing game in over two calendar years), Gase resumed his tradition of giving carries to a 37-year-old Frank Gore while the game was still manageable. As the Seahawks’ lead inflated, the Jets had opportunities to cut into their deficit, but opted for Sergio Castillo field goals instead (Castillo’s 1-for-4 day only adding to the Jets’ plight). Granted one last opportunity to escape from Seattle with a touchdown on the final drive, mostly overseen by the Seahawks’ defensive understudies, the Jets opted to instead run the clock out.

All of this has been overseen by Gase, whose New York ledger drops to 7-22, good for a .241 win percentage that’s better than only Kotite amongst Jets coaches who earned at least one full year at the helm. Gase remains on the New York sidelines, outlasting not only several of his NFL contemporaries, but also outlasting accomplished veterans like Le’Veon Bell, Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Pierre Desir, and Williams.

Does that sound like a team that’s trying to win games?

Again, no one was expecting a green miracle from the Jets, but the lackadaisical manner in how they’re conducting themselves is troubling from many standpoints. They could, for example, gain clarity on their 2021 run game through Johnson and Adams, but opt instead to give things off to Gore, whose retirement approaches. There are certainly players who are bucking the trend of inactivity…SportsCenter Top 10 mainstay Marcus Maye and backfield invader Folorunso Fatikasi are certainly doing their part…but the Jets are corrupting both their present and future through their modern struggles. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the top overall pick, be it Lawrence, Justin Fields, or an unknown third party.

But the best thing the Jets can do over these last few weeks is glean as many positives as they can before the year lets out while gaining clarity for their future. They’re proving Adams’ propehcy correct. At this point, the Jets look like a team that’s given up on the idea of winning not just in the present, but in the future as well. That needs to change, not even to prove that Adams wrong…that shouldn’t be anywhere near their list of concerns. It’s a matter of personal pride, a desire to change the course of this star-crossed franchise moving forward. That all starts with hanging your head high, going all out in the most dire of situations. The Jets are there, but couldn’t be lower as the season draws to a close.

The Jets seem well-destined to join the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns in the unholy brotherhood of 16-game imperfection. At this point, sympathy can be garnered. They’re overmatched and ready to make changes. The least they can do is make it look like they’re trying to avoid such a fate.

The only scary part for Adams? He and the Seahawks need some help from the Jets. New York’s trek of futility carries on next weekend against another contending foe, battling none other than the Rams at SoFi Stadium next Sunday afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets defense reacts to last-minute loss vs. Las Vegas

New York Jets

The New York Jets seemed on their way to their first win of the season, but a brutal defensive lapse brought them back to a winless reality.

Coming out on the wrong side of a Sunday scoreboard probably shouldn’t phase New York Jets fans at this point. After all, their team is the only winless squad left in the NFL and seems destined for 16-game imperfect infamy.

The Jets seemed ready to avoid such a fate with a narrow lead against the playoff-contending Las Vegas Raiders. New York had erased a 24-13 lead in the fourth quarter to the tune of rushing touchdowns from Sam Darnold and Ty Johnson. Their 28-24 lead seemed safe, even when Las Vegas got the ball back with 35 seconds to go. The Jets failed to pick up a first down after a potential go-ahead score was stopped, but they still figured to be sitting pretty at MetLife Stadium.

Braden Mann’s 47-yard punt situated the Raiders at their own 39 before a 15-yard Derek Carr pass to Darren Waller got them to the Jets’ 46. Victory still appeared imminent after Carr’s throw to Nelson Agholor was overthrown after a clock-stopping spike. But Las Vegas’ incoming redemption was a painful reminder that the team made to personify the year 2020 is still trapped in this cycle of distress.

Opting for a Cover Zero setting and an emphasized blitz on a ten-yard third down, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams apparently sought to use pressure to get the Raiders to fold. With the linebackers blitzing and the secondary engaged in man coverage, the Jets put all their hope in a sack to run the clock out and depart East Rutherford with their first win of the year. The plan backfired, with Henry Ruggs breaking free from Lamar Jackson and catching Carr’s deep ball. It led to the game-winning 46-yard score that sent the Raiders into hysterics. Five seconds remained on the clock, but all they produced was a desperation heave from Darnold that resigned the Jets to a 31-28 defeat.

The Jets (0-12) advanced one step closer to joining the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns in winless 16-game seasons, though most of their fanbase seemed nonplussed by such news, taking solace in the fact that the team appears to be closing in on the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Conversely, Las Vegas (7-5) averted disaster and remained alive and well in the AFC wild card hunt. They currently sit one game behind fellow Sunday winners Miami and Indianapolis for the final playoff slots in the conference.

On the other side of MetLife Stadium, postgame comments took on a somber tone. Johnson, fresh off a career-best 104 yards (the Jets’ first such rusher since October 2018), couldn’t fully enjoy the best afternoon of his young NFL tenure.

My family’s happy and a lot of people were messaging me this and that. But at the end of the day, we didn’t get the win,” Johnson said, per Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com. “I wanted to get the win, that’s point-blank. It’s a blessing. I appreciate the guys giving me the opportunity, the guys on the line, out on the perimeter. I appreciate the hell out of them. I just wish at the end of that we came out with that W.”

Safety Marcus Maye was on the field for the fateful score. Covering Hunter Renfrow in man coverage, Maye was forced to watch helplessly as the ball landed in Ruggs’ waiting arms.

With eight men blitzing, Maye and his fellow men of the secondary were forced to deal with Las Vegas receivers one-on-one. The safety appeared to take a jab at Williams’ defensive playcall in his postgame comments.

“That situation, (there) just has to be a better call. We gotta execute, but you gotta help us out at the same time,” Maye said, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “We fought hard to put ourselves in the position to win. That’s the point in the game we’ve just got to be in a better call.”

For his part, Jackson accepted responsibility for what happened with the Ruggs situation. The undrafted rookie has been pressed into a full-time role on defense due to both medical and transactional departures.

“I didn’t execute it to the best of my ability or how I wanted to. It’s tough, but at the same time, I also know that call is not going to define me or my career,” Jackson said in another Post report from Greg Joyce. “It’s tough. It’s definitely tough. I wasn’t looking for help, but I definitely was probably hoping it wasn’t on me. All I could think was, ‘Not me.’ I don’t want to be the reason. But I was. Gotta live with it. Gotta get better.”

Even Carr himself was shocked by the turn of events on the New York defense, telling SportsMax that he “couldn’t believe” that the Jets opted for an all-out blitz.

The call itself goes to Williams’ corner. Though the defensive coordinator did not speak after the game, head coach Adam Gase remarked that the team was trying to put pressure on Carr, which had worked to their benefit earlier in the game. New York was credited with six quarterback hits on Carr throughout the game, while Neville Hewitt and Quinnen Williams each earned a sack.

Nonetheless, the impulsive plan backfired at the worst possible time. The Jets’ appeared to ease up the pressure on the previous play, sending only four to the backfield on Carr’s final in completion of the afternoon.

“(The defense had) done well with (pressure) all game. That’s what happened. We had a couple of free runners, but we didn’t get there,” Gase said, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. “You’re in this league long enough, you see games like this. You don’t want to be part of them, I know that.”

The Jets return to action next Sunday, hitting the road to take on the Seattle Seahawks (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags