Amid speculation that Sunday could be the final game in green and white for both Adam Gase and Sam Darnold, the Jets head coach was adamant in defense of his quarterback on Thursday.
“As a quarterback, you take a huge chunk of the blame for things that happen,” Gase said of Darnold. “And a lot of the time, it's not all on them. Do I think we need to get better in certain spots with him? Absolutely. Do I think he's been to the point where it's all on him? No, I don't.”
In 37 games as the Jets’ starting quarterback, Darnold has compiled a 13-24 record, obviously not befitting a player who was taken third overall in 2018, and of whom so much was expected.
But there was reason for optimism heading into this season after the quarterback led his team to wins in six of the last eight games in which he started before sitting out in Week 17.
“I feel like last year, that's where we want to be in terms of consistency over his last eight games,” Gase said. “There was good chemistry between the wide receivers, the skill guys and the offensive line, and he was able to be consistent week in and week out. When you play eight games and there was one where you didn't play so good, that's a good stretch.”
That same consistency hasn’t been there in 2020, but Gase says a rotating cast of characters throughout the offense is a big part of the reason why.
“When you're a young player, you need to have guys around you that you can grow with that can help you grow as a player. At the quarterback spot, if you don't have that, it's really tough to make the strides you need to make. Some of the guys that we were playing with early in the season aren't even here anymore.”
“Unless you're here day in and day out watching him work, I think it's hard to criticize the guy,” Gase continued. “You can go off the body of work of what's happened this season, but every game has its own story.”
Part of that body of work includes the last three games, in which he’s combined to throw for 514 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
“I love the fact that he can say that he's gone three games and hasn't turned the ball over,” Gase said. “I think that's a big stride. Would I love to see him have some more three or four touchdown games? Absolutely. But that's not something he can necessarily control.
While there are spots in which Darnold can certainly improve, Gase continued to hammer home the point that the offense’s struggles go far beyond the player under center.
“If we can get some things cleaned up, I think it will really help him,” Gase said. “Things like decision-making, accuracy, some footwork things that can help with his timing. But we need to have consistency for the guys that are with him too.”