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

New York Jets: RB Frank Gore to miss finale in New England

After making history on Sunday, top rusher Frank Gore will miss the New York Jets’ season finale against New England.

Frank Gore’s season, and potentially his NFL career, has come to an end after making history.

The veteran rusher will not play in the New York Jets’ season finale on Sunday against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS). His season in green ends with 653 yards on 187 carries, two of which went for scores. Gore took on a larger workload this season following the release of Le’Veon Bell, starting the past 14 games.

Gore left last weekend’s win over Cleveland with what was initially reported to be a chest injury. Head coach Adam Gase later revealed that Gore had instead suffered a lung contusion.

“That’s going to be one of those ones where he will not be available for a few weeks, which obviously with one game left, he won’t be able to finish that last game,” Gase said, per notes from the Jets. As for Gore’s NFL future, Gase remarked that he hasn’t had those types of conversations with the running back yet. “I think Frank’s always going to kind of worry about that when the time comes and if he wants to play again, he may try to do it.”

During Week 16’s win over Cleveland, Gore, 37, hit the 16,000-yard mark for his career, joining Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton as the only rushers in NFL history to reach that plateau. Gore holds the NFL record for most games played as an NFL running back (241) and Sunday’s finale will mark only the third time since 2011 that he has had to miss due to injury.

Speaking about his future to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Gore said “I’ve got to be real with myself, how teams think about my age. They might not want a 38-year-old running back on the team”.

Gase has faced criticism for increasing the aging Gore’s role in the offense, often at the expense of ignoring younger rushers like La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams. Gore’s 187 carries are his most since 2017 but his average of 3.5 yards per carry is a new career-low.

Nonetheless, Gase praised Gore for his veteran leadership and the calming effect he has had on some of the younger players.

“I think as far as what he’s done this year, helped keep these guys together, showing guys the right way to do things,” Gase said. “I think he’s been great for that running back room, with the amount of young players we have in there.”

“I think the young players just in general on the whole team, seen him working day in and day out, understanding no matter what your record is, how you’re supposed to come to work, how you’re supposed to go through practice, how you’re supposed to play the game, I can’t say enough as far as what he’s done leading by example.”

Gore entered the league as a third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, one of seven active picks remaining from those selections. He has also spent time with Indianapolis, Miami, and Buffalo. Gore’s finest performance as a Jets likely came against the Los Angeles Rams earlier this month, when he capped off a 59-yard day with a touchdown that proved to be a major role in the winning margin and a fourth-quarter reception that helped the Jets (2-13) seal the deal.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: S Marcus Maye named Team MVP

The fourth-year safety topped the list of honorees as the New York Jets released their list of team award winners.

As it turns out, a fourth-year safety from the SEC wound up making a big difference for the New York Jets after all.

The team announced on Thursday that safety Marcus Maye was the winner of their Team MVP Award for the 2020 season. Named after legendary rusher Curtis Martin, the award is voted upon by Jets players. Maye’s name will be added to a large wall at One Jets Drive’s training facility in Florham Park, joining fellow secondary defenders Jamal Adams (2018-19), Darrelle Revis (2009, 2011-12), Brian Washington (1992), and Dainard Paulson (1964).

Forced to take on a larger, stronger role on the Jets defense with Adams dealt to Seattle during the offseason, Maye has earned positive reviews for his 2020 performance and has served as a rare silver lining in a brutal season. He currently ranks second on the team in tackles (71, including a pair of sacks) and leads with 11 pass breakups. Maye has also earned his share of highlight-reel plays, including jaw-dropping interceptions against Miami and Seattle. He also had a critical pass defense in the final stages of the Jets’ Sunday visit to Los Angeles, where they earned their first win of the season over the Rams.

Speaking with Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com, Maye credited his teammates with helping him win the prestigious green honor.

“I’m out there showing the ability that I have, but it’s not just me out there, it’s 10 other guys,” Maye said. “We all have a common goal and that’s to make plays and win games, and when we step out on the field, that’s what we try to do. So hats off to them.”

“Showing up to work each day and seeing that wall right in front of the door, you have no choice but to look at it and see all the names on it, see all the greats that have been through here. So just being part of that, something that’s going to be there forever, that’s definitely an honor.”

Maye, a second-round pick out of Florida in 2017, is set to become a free agent this coming offseason.

“He’s one of those guys that works hard and doesn’t talk much, but he will speak up if he feels like he has to,’’ former Jets teammate and modern New York Giant Leonard Williams told Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post. “I think it’s even more powerful sometimes when you hear something from a guy that doesn’t talk much. You know he means it.’’

Other honorees released by the Jets on Thursday included…

S Matthias Farley: Maye wasn’t the only safety honored on Thursday, as Farley won the Community Service Award named after Marty Lyons, the Jets’ former defensive star and current radio analyst. This season, Farley has made virtual visits to Atlantic Health Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ. He joins Kevin Mawae and Kyle Wilson as the only two-time winners of the title.

DL Folorunso Fatukasi: In the midst of a breakout season on the defensive line, Fatukasi has also won the Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award. The title is voted upon by the Jets’ staff and is named after the longtime defensive presence.

RB Frank Gore: The 38-year-old rusher was bestowed Most Inspirational Player Award named after the late Dennis Byrd. Gore joins his fellow running back Martin (2001-03) on the list of winners of the honor, which pays tribute to Byrd’s recovery from a devastating neck injury during a 1992 game.

TE Ryan Griffin: Griffin was nominated by his teammates to be the Jets’ representative in the Ed Block Courage Award The title is earned by players who “exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage”. Griffin has been praised for rehabbing through an ankle injury suffered last season in unusual times. He has played a majority of offensive snaps this season.

WR Denzel Mims: Injuries have prevented Mims from making a true impact on the field, but the second-round choice earned the Bill Hampton Award, sent to the “Rookie Who Acts Like a Pro”. It is named after a former Jets equipment manager.

The Jets (1-13) return to action on Sunday afternoon for their final home game of the season against the Cleveland Browns (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

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 

New York Jets: Frank Gore’s TD was special in more ways than one

It could be forgotten in the grand scheme of things, but Frank Gore’s touchdown was special in ways beyond the New York Jets’ realm.

In the photo archives of the New York Jets, the images of Frank Gore adorned in green will probably be stored in the same folders as LaDanian Tomlinson, Matt Forte, and even recent departee Le’Veon Bell. They’ll no doubt prove popular in the never-ending Twitter trend when someone facetiously speaks of legends of the game through an identity they’re almost never associated with (i.e. “Boston Bruins legend Brian Leetch” or “Seattle SuperSonics legend Patrick Ewing”).

But Gore is leaving an impact on the modern Jets through his continued rushing exploits. With Bell having moved on to Kansas City, Gore continues to carry the heaviest rushing burden, a trend that continued in their latest endeavor on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Despite the winless Jets falling in a 34-28 final, Gore managed to end a personal streak of despair, scoring his first touchdown of the season on a one-yard plunge in the second half. He finished the game with 61 yards on 15 carries, his best output in the former since a season-best 63 during Week 2’s loss to his most well-known employers in San Francisco

Gore’s touchdown was special in the fact that not only has he now scored in a third NFL decade…he’s now tied with Edgerrin James for 20th-most on the all-time NFL rushing touchdown ledger at 80…but also in the fact that he was not the only man named Frank Gore to earn a touchdown over the weekend.

This weekend marked the first time that both Gore and his son, Frank Jr., each scored a touchdown on the same game schedule. The younger Gore earned his score on Saturday during college football action, representing the University of Southern Mississippi, a 51-yard tally through during the Golden Eagles’ tilt against Texas-San Antonio. It was the second score of the season for the freshman Frank Jr., who also had a rushing touchdown in USM’s win over North Texas on October 3. Gore Jr. also earned his first career triple-digit yardage output with 130 on the ground.

Unfortunately for either Gore, their efforts weren’t enough to avoid the cold reality of defeat. USM fell to UTSA by a 23-20 final while Gore and the Jets couldn’t muster up a comeback effort against the Chargers. The loss officially eliminated the Jets (0-10), who trailed 24-6 at halftime, from playoff contention.

The elder Gore wasn’t keen to focus on the positives on display in yet another defeat and spent his postgame comments focusing on the unfortunate reality that the Jets are careening towards becoming the third team in NFL history to post a fully imperfect 16-game season (joining the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns).

In the process, Gore, the third-leading rusher in NFL history, brought up an unfortunate reality: 2020 could be his final season in the NFL.

“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.”

In other words, don’t expect Gore, 37, to go along with the notion of tanking that Jets fans so desire to secure the top overall pick in next spring’s draft. He certainly knows what it’s like to go through a rebuild: upon joining the 49ers in 2005, it took Gore seven years to enjoy his first winning season, one that ended in the NFC title game against the Giants. The team made the Super Bowl a year later, partly in thanks to Gore’s magnificence on the field.

But, in another cold reality to both Gore and the legions of fans he has built up through his longevity, the running back knows that his time is limited on the NFL circuit. It’s clear also that Gore is removed from his prime, as evidenced by a 3.6 average carry that’s tied for the career-low he set last season in Buffalo.

“I’d say it’s tough because it’s the stage of my career,” he said in Cimini’s report. “I was younger in San Fran and I always felt like, ‘I got time, I got time.’ Now, I don’t know if I’m going to play next year and…I don’t know. You just never know. I’ve got to be real with myself, how teams think about my age. They might not want a 38-year-old running back on the team. It’s tough because I don’t know about next year.”

If the words of Gore’s teammates, ones that have more of an assured future within the organization, have been any indication, they’d be more than happy to have Gore back for another go at it.

“I respect the guy so much,” rookie and fellow rusher La’Mical Perine said of Gore, per Jack Bell of New York Jets.com in October. “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. 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.”

“Frank has been an unbelievable veteran to have on this team,” general manager Joe Douglas said during an address last month, per notes from the Jets. “The leadership that he brings on a daily basis, how vested he is to help not only the offense but the entire team and especially young guys.”

Both rushing members of the Gore family will be back in action next weekend. The younger Gore will represent USM against UAB on Friday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN) while his father and the Jets take on the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Releasing Le’Veon Bell depicts everything wrong with the Jets’ Organization

New York Jets, Leveon Bell

When the Jets inked Le’Veon Bell to join the team, the consensus was that Gang Green may have just rejuvenated their offense. The team handed a big contract to a former All-Pro running back and expected him to contribute immediately. Now when you add that caliber of a talent to your team, you expect a certain level of production no matter what side of the ball.

Bell had 245 carries for 789 yards and 3 TDs. He also added 461 yards and a score on 66 receptions. Bell put up numbers that look impressive on paper and for other backs, but when looked at in the grand scheme of things. It was an abnormally abysmal year for him.

Looking at his numbers from Pittsburgh in contrast to his little over a season in the green and white, the drop off was eye-opening. With Pittsburgh, Bell had an average of 129.0 scrimmage yards per game in contrast to his 80.2 in New York. The other startling statistic was his 3.2 yards per attempt that stood as the lowest mark of his career. So, why did Bell have such a massive drop off in quality of play?

While the obvious culprit seemed to be Adam Gase.

You can make the case that the team failed to provide quality blockers for Gase, but Bell’s utilization was the biggest issue. Gase was adamant about this in his preseason pressers as he stated that one of his primary focuses of the offseason was on using Bell better. Bell received a high volume of reps, but they were not meaningful ones. With just 19 attempts this season for 74 yards, Bell had bumped his production up to 3.9 yards per attempt, but he had 3 receptions for 39 yards out of the backfield. Now, this was only in two games since he missed time with a shoulder injury, but one thing was different this year than last. Gase DID use Bell slightly more efficiently than last season, but the primary reason he was able to get those reps was because of how Gase used his 37-year-old back, Frank Gore.

It was obvious to even the casual observer that Gase and Bell had a tumultuous relationship, but it was only furthered based on Gore’s usage. Gore was used as the bell cow back in the offense while Bell was out and even given reps that would typically go to Bell when he returned. Here is the cold hard truth, Adam Gase and Le’Veon Bell were never on the same page. The “innovative mind” failed to realize the talent he had in his hands and instead failed to adapt his playbook to his best players. Gase instead remained stubborn and set in his ways by continuing to overuse basic halfback dives and receiver screens. See, the poor utilization of Bell by Gase that led to the rift is the utter depiction of the incompetence that has plagued this organization.

Le’Veon Bell now joins the list of so many other talents who were wasted whilst with an “offensive genius.” Some of those players include Jarvis Landry, Robby Anderson, Kenyan Drake, Ryan Tannehill, and DeVante Parker. All have had rejuvenated careers WITHOUT Adam Gase. If the blind eye could see that is the issue, why can’t the ownership? The fact is the Jets thrive off of their own self-destruction and incompetence beyond just the gridiron. Bell moving on and having success would just be the latest feather in the cap of the embarrassment: the Adam Gase era and the organization as a whole.

New York Jets: LeVeon Bell to return in week 5

New York Jets, Leveon Bell

The New York Jets have been without their former All-Star running back since week one of the season. In the Jets’ 27-17 loss to the Bills, Bell seemed to have an awkward fall in the midst of running a route.

It ultimately ended up being  a hamstring injury that sent him to the IR. Now, before the Jets take on the Arizona Cardinals, Bell will be joining them.

What’s This Mean?

This is great news for the Jets organization for multiple reasons. The first that tomorrow marks the first start for Joe Flacco while Darnold sits with a shoulder injury, so adding a playmaker like Bell back into the fold could ease some of the pressure. Especially with a veteran quarterback who is coming off an injury himself, having Bell can open up things more for him.

The next reason this is so important, is because of the impact Bell has when healthy. Without Bell for the past few games, the Jets have accumulated only 263 yards on the ground from running backs.

Sam Darnold is currently the team’s leading rusher with 117 yards, while Frank Gore sits at 74 yards on 55 carries. It’s safe to say the Jets need a boost out of the backfield and Bell could provide that.

The last reason this is crucial is because of a potential trade. With Bell likely out the door after this season, the team could use the next two or so games as a showcase for what Bell can do. If he’s the key cog in the offense for the next couple of games, don’t be surprised because that may be an order from management. A trade of Bell could shed around eight million dollars of cap space for the organization and potentially nab a mid rounder. It may not be the route the team goes, but it’s certainly a possibility.

One thing is for sure though, the Jets need some kind of fire on offense right now. That’s a fire that Bell can bring. Who knows, his return may just make this offense competitive.

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Thursday fate vs. Denver

Conservative football stifled the New York Jets’ chances at a surprise victory in primetime, as they fell to Denver in an unusual thriller.

At certain points of Thursday night’s showdown with the Denver Broncos, the New York Jets resembled an NFL football team. But that wasn’t enough to steal a win in primetime.

A battle between two winless squads at MetLife Stadium somehow managed to be entertaining, but the Jets (0-4) fell short by a 37-28 final, the endgame of a topsy-turvy thriller that featured lead changes, mistakes, and hurt feelings.

ESM looks back on this latest defeat, highlighting a play from each quarter that doomed the Jets to their weeknight fate…

1st Quarter: Sam-I-Ran…46 yards 

We’ve outlined exactly why the Jets and Trevor Lawrence would create a union that benefitted no one. Sam Darnold made several plays of his own on Thursday to at least start dispelling the new notion that he may not be New York’s green franchise quarterback. 

Darnold gained all but two yards on the Jets’ opening 75-yard drive after the first kickoff. Remarkably, only 16 of those yards were gained through the air. He gained a pair of first downs with his legs before breaking loose for the longest run by any quarterback so far this season. It also allowed Darnold to set his career-best in rushing, demolishing a 35-yard output posted in December 2018 against Houston.

Adam Gase quarterbacks have never been known for their scrambling, mostly relegated to a prescience in the pocket. If the Jets can allow Darnold to move around more, through plays like the rollout that has played out well in goal-to-go situations, it can help him develop much-needed confidence.

2nd Quarter: Mekhi Pressure

The handling of Mekhi Becton was one of the most curious developments of Thursday’s game. After enduring a shoulder injury on Sunday, Becton was deemed healthy enough to dress, but not to start. Chuma Edoga’s injury in the opening quarter, however, forced Becton to enter. He didn’t last much longer either, as he sat after the early stages of the second frame.

His last play was a scary one, as it was also Darnold’s first play back in after enduring his own shoulder injury. The ailing Becton was beaten by Bradley Chubb, who sacked Darnold on third down. At that point, the Jets really should’ve questioned the true value of leaving both men in the game. Sure, the morbid gift of consequence-free football at least allows you the idea of playing loose, but it should never, ever lead you to risk a player’s health. Darnold at least appeared to look unbothered by the situation. But the question can still be asked over whether it was worth it.

3rd Quarter: Sore of Gore

Frank Gore definitely has a purpose in New York. He’s a veteran who has had experience in rebuilding programs (primarily his earliest days with the 49ers) and can still earn the short-yardage first down as a spell option. But Gore is no longer at a level where he can the primary offensive threat. His carries were down to a mere 13 after averaging 19 over the last two weeks, but the continued insistence on using Gore is stunting the development of projects like La’Mical Perine and Kalen Ballage.

The Jets had a strong opportunity to take the lead in the early stages of the third quarter after a 38-yard pass interference penalty. After two short Gore runs, Darnold tried to find him on a wheel on third-and-four 14 yards from the end zone. The incompletion forced the Jets to go for a mere Sam Ficken field goal that sliced the lead to 17-16. An argument could be made over whether kicking was the right decision (we’ll get to that in a minute), but it could’ve been avoided entirely.

4th Quarter: That Ficken Field Goal

Once again, the decision to kick was one that came back to haunt the Jets. Doing so down 24-3 during the San Francisco disaster was one thing. Pride was the only thing on the line and things got so pathetic that the Jets even denied themselves that. But this new instance might’ve played a role in this brutal defeat.

Down 27-25 and granted a generous spot on a crucial third-down at the edge of the Denver red zone…set up by Brian Poole’s interception…the Jets had an opportunity to think of a way to potentially earn the go-ahead score and force a struggling Denver offense to score a touchdown with relatively little time left on the clock while the Broncos threw the challenge flag.

Instead, cowardice might’ve cost the Jets the game. If the Jets opted to go for the necessary inches on fourth down with six minutes to go, they could’ve continued their trek to the end zone, forcing the struggling Rypien to go for a matching six-pointer. Even if you failed to convert the fourth down…how badly do you lose in the long run? The Jets played it safe and kicked…all the Broncos needed was for the reliable Brandon McManus to respond. Denver’s offense made it difficult on their own end, but they eventually secure the lead permanently. Everything else…the embarrassing Melvin Gordon clincher, the bad blood in the final seconds…could’ve been avoided if they had gone for it.

Ficken has proven reliable this season…he’s a perfect 8-for-8 on the season and he booted a 54-yarder on Thursday night…but alas, that doesn’t do the Jets any favors in the win column. A good kicker is vital on a team with a developing offense, but one could well argue if “developing” is the right way to describe the Jets at this point in time.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

3 keys for a New York Jets win against San Francisco in week 2

New York Jets, Jimmy G

The New York Jets were utterly embarrassed this Sunday in Buffalo. The team looked poorly coached, poorly prepared, and not ready to face even the worst teams in this league. Heading into today’s game, there are there key factors that will decide whether or not the team starts the season at 1-1 or 0-2.

Take Advantage of Injuries

Today’s game will be a tough one for San Francisco. With George Kittle out for the game, the 49ers will revert to Jordan Reed as their starting tight end. For those that don’t remember, when he wasn’t battling concussions, Reed was a productive tight end in Washington. Still, he is no Greg Kittle. The Jets need to take advantage of the lack of weaponry that Jimmy G has and let them rely on the run. The Bills rushing attack, outside of Josh Allen, could not get going against the Jets front 7. Quite frankly, if the Jets can keep that offense at bay, this could be a close game.

As for the other side of the football, Richard Sherman is out, and that could also be a huge help. Without Sherman, the Jets will have an opportunity to face the 49ers backup corners, which ended well for Atlanta last year. Granted, the Jets have no Julio Jones, but they can have success like the Falcons had when Julio put up over 100 yards. The Jets receivers need to create space and make Darnold’s life a little easier in order to win today.

Run Gore To The Ground

I hate to say it, but in the few reps Gore had last week, he looked like the best running back on the field. The 37-year-old back is a workhorse, and I think him complimenting a healthy LaMical Perine could be a nice rushing attack until Lev Bell is back. The issue is, this is one of the best defensive lines in the game. Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas make up that talented group, and all four can be game wreckers. If Gore can continue the momentum he had in camp today, the Jets could pick up some yards on the ground against this tough defensive line; if not, it will be a long day. 

TACKLE

The Jets’ biggest issue has fallen somewhat under the radar. The Jets could not tackle last Sunday. Consistently, the Jets were creating pressure in the backfield. Yet, they would get back there and fail to wrap up the receiver, quarterback, or rusher. This led to a long day of exploiting that poor play. The Jets need to come out with much better tackling today, or else the 49ers will run wild on this Jets team.

New York Jets RB Frank Gore ready for one more San Francisco memory

Frank Gore’s first chance in an expanded role with the New York Jets comes against original employers from the Bay Area.

September has been a delightful throwback to the late 2000s/early 2010s for Miami sports fans. The Heat are taking on the Boston Celtics in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Marlins are aiming for their first winning season since 2009. On Sunday, Hurricanes legend Frank Gore will partake in an NFL football game involving the San Francisco 49ers.

Gore isn’t donning San Francisco’s red and gold this time around, rather the green and white of the New York Jets (1 p.m. ET, Fox). The Jets’ 2020 MetLife Stadium debut comes against the team that hosted Gore’s heyday. After three seasons in Coral Gables, the Magic City native Gore entered the league as the 65th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He has gone from third-round pick to third all-time in rushing in the ensuing 15 seasons, standing at 15,371 yards entering Sunday. Only Emmitt Smith (18,355) and Walter Payton (16,726) remain ahead of him.

The first 11,073 of Gore’s yards came with the 49ers, while the most recent 24 came with the Jets (0-1) in their Week 1 loss to Buffalo. New York is the fourth stop Gore has made on his football tour since departing San Francisco after the 2014 campaign. This will be the second time that Gore faces the team that gave him NFL life, earning 86 yards as a member of the Colts in an October 2017 win.

If these truly are the final NFL days for the 37-year-old Gore, his career may be coming full circle in an undesirable fashion. Gore was a rare silver lining of consistency during the 49ers’ mid-2000s rebuild kickstarted by the departures of Terrell Owens, Garrison Hearst, and Jeff Garcia after the 2003 campaign. A streak of eight consecutive non-winning seasons went by a little faster thanks to Gore’s prowess. One such occasion was a 214-yard single-game output in just his second season, earned during a 20-14 win over Seattle in 2006.

San Francisco eventually got it together in 2011, upon the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. Three consecutive playoff trips followed, all of which ended no earlier than the NFC title game. Nowadays, Gore has eschewed ring chasing for latching on to budding football projects. He previously worked with the late rebuild projects in Miami and Buffalo, making a playoff appearance in the latter. Now he’s working with a Jets squad that’s eager to make a trying season of transition move a little more smoothly.

So far, it appears the transition is going well.

“Everything that comes out of his mouth is kind of like wisdom,” fellow Jets rusher Le’Veon Bell said in training camp report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “”The fact that he’s been playing so long is because of his training and the things he does in the offseason.” He tells me, ‘You have the same trainer I have and you’re doing the same things I am, so you can do it, Le’Veon.’ That’s why I feel like I’m going in the right direction, and I feel like I’m doing the right things correctly because I’m hearing it from guys who have done it already.”

Gore was likely added for depth and inspiration, but the San Francisco reunion coincides with Gore taking on increased duties in the Jets’ offense. With Bell on short-term injured reserve (hamstring) with other offensive weapons and depth relatively short behind him (Josh Adams, newcomer Kalen Ballege, injured rookie La’Mical Perine), Gore will be likely be heavily relied upon when the Jets welcome in the defending NFC champions. San Francisco (0-1) allowed 180 yards on the ground in their narrow opening weekend loss to Arizona.

True to form, it’s a challenge Gore is ready to take. He was familiarity with Adam Gase’s offense during the 2018 season with Miami’s other football squad, the Dolphins. Gase and Gore also collaborated in 2008, when the former was an offensive assistant in the Bay Area.

“I know that’s a big load, Le’Veon not playing this week and being out for a couple weeks,” Gore said to team reporter Randy Lange. “But even when Le’Veon was here, I was always preparing like I was the guy just because you never know what happens. That’s why every day I go out on the practice field and prepare like I do.”

“He looks the same as he did 12 years ago,” Gase said in Cimini’s report. “I can’t explain it. It’s unbelievable how, when I watch him, I flash back to 2008. He looks the same. I don’t know how. It doesn’t make sense, but Frank has been one who refuses to listen to what anybody else says. He goes out there and he’s an old-school football player. He looks good. His burst looks good. His vision is never going to change. It’s going to be like that when he’s 60. Frank is special. There’s a reason why he’s third all-time in rushing yards.”

Having never earned more than 1,000 yards with the Hurricanes, it might be a little shocking to some to see Gore rank among the most illustrious rushers in NFL history. But Gore knows to cherish every moment, every play he has left….because he knows how it nearly never happened.

Gore partook in Miami’s legendary championship trek as a true freshman in 2001, backing up fellow future NFL back Clinton Portis en route to their Rose Bowl blowout over Nebraska. But prior to his sophomore campaign, a torn ACL ended affairs before they ever truly began.

After watching Miami return to the national title game (their controversial Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State) and his successor Willis McGahee break Coral Gables records left and right, Gore returned to the backfield in 2003…ironically sharing duties with the late Walter Payton’s son Jarrett (who made a name for himself in NFL Europe). Gore began his season with three straight triple-digit games in yardage (including 127 yards and the finishing touchdown in a 23-point comeback win over Florida). But another torn ACL ended his year early, along with, some felt, his football career entirely.

Instead, Gore returned to play a full 12-game season, featuring a collegiate-career-best 191 yards in an upset win over Virginia. San Francisco took him in the third-round that spring.

“Me going through all the injuries, and then when I get to the league just hearing all the negative stuff, I set my goals and said I’ll never let a man judge me,” Gore said of his injuries to Jim Trotter of NFL.com back in May. “The only man I’ll let judge me is that man up above. But I was determined to be the best in my class.”

Irony continues to reign in the fact that Gore’s new duties coincide with the 49ers’ visit. His former stomping grounds of Candlestick Park having been torn down, time will tell if Gore is able to visit Levi’s Stadium as a player, where fans of the ovaled SF can pay give him a proper send-off.

If such a reunion doesn’t come to pass, Gore has nonetheless ensured his career will end where it began. The rusher confirmed to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area that he and the team have an agreement in place that will allow him to retire as a member of the 49ers. His No. 21, one he currently bears with the Jets, will likely be retired alongside the San Francisco greats like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott. Despite the Niners’ illustrious history, no rusher has earned red and gold immortality since High McElhenny and Joe Perry were invited in 1971.

“That’s the team that gave me the opportunity to do something I always wanted to do when I was a kid, play NFL ball,” Gore said in Maiocco’s report. “I was there for 10 great years. Been on bad teams and been on great teams. I love it out there.”

For now, though, the 49ers are only a challenger in Gore’s path. He may not be ring chasing from a traditional standpoint, but that doesn’t mean he’s not looking to earn a few wins on his potential way out.

“”I want to win, especially coming off a loss last week,” Gore said, per Lange. “I want us to look a lot better as an offensive team, and that’s doing whatever it takes to win.

“It could be the 49ers, it could be Seattle, whoever. I just want to get a win.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags