Two weeks ago, the owner of the New York Jets called coach Adam Gase a “brilliant offensive mind.”
The bad news: Evidently, there are 31 more brilliant ones in the NFL.
Yes, the winless Jets are ranked last in total offense, and their only solace is the New York Giants haven’t won, either. It’s the first time since 1996 that both teams are 0-3.
The Jets are particularly hopeless, and if they embarrass themselves in Thursday night’s home game against 0-3 Denver, it’s conceivable they could make a coaching change this week. After all, this is one of the few games they actually could win.
It’s been rough going for former USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who has started 29 games and is making some of the same mistakes he made early in his career. In Sunday’s 36-7 loss at Indianapolis, two of his three interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
That marked the first time since the Geno Smith era that a Jets quarterback had two pick-sixes in the same game. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini noted, when it comes to assessing quarterback play, you never want to be in the same sentence as Smith.
But the Jets have failed Darnold. They can’t adequately protect him, and they have no real weapons around him. The team’s top three receivers were out Sunday, as was running back Le’Veon Bell and, for most of the game, both starting tackles.
Injuries are a reality of football and can cripple the best of teams. The Jets haven’t built the necessary depth to weather that storm. For instance, Darnold’s first two interceptions were passes thrown for Lawrence Cager, an undrafted rookie playing in his first NFL game. They weren’t good throws, but the inexperience doesn’t help.
Darnold is under so much pressure to do everything, it looks as if he’s pressing. By the end of the season, the Jets will need to make a decision on him. If they have the first or second pick, do they try to find a new quarterback in the draft — say, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields — or do they trade down for more picks and try to stock the shelves for Darnold?
The Jets did make a good choice in drafting Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton, this year’s 11th pick. So far, he has been excellent but he suffered a shoulder injury in the first half against the Colts and didn’t return.
The franchise let receiver Robbie Anderson go and replaced him with Breshad Perriman, who’s brittle (sidelined with a sprained ankle) and one-dimensional. And the Jets used a second-round pick on Baylor receiver Denzel Mims, who missed training camp with a hamstring injury. When finally able to practice two weeks ago, he suffered a hamstring pull in his other leg. Bell and receiver Jamison Crowder also have hamstring pulls.
What’s left for Darnold is a group of receivers as green as their jerseys, and a 37-year-old running back in Frank Gore.
Those players eventually will be healthy enough to play, but there’s no guarantee the Jets will be significantly better when they do. The franchise finished last in the league in offense last season too.
Through the first three games, the team’s points differential is minus-57. That’s the worst since 2002, when it was minus-58.
It was that season when coach Herm Edwards gave his impassioned and now-famous “You play to win the game …” answer in a press conference. That team went on to whip a U-turn and make the playoffs, so anything is possible. But don’t bet on it this year.
An interesting offensive trend to watch is motion at the snap, as opposed to players going in motion in the seconds before the snap and then re-setting. That gives defenses even less time to adjust and react. Former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, now an ESPN analyst, said teams such as the Rams, Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens are doing an especially good job with it.
“A lot of times motion was, hey, you cross the formation from the right side to the left side, and then you get set,” Orlovsky said. “The guys used to not do it at full speed, and it would allow the defense to communicate: 'All right, you got outside, I got inside …’
“Now, the speed of the motion is different. Guys are running at full speed. And the ball’s getting snapped while guys are still in motion. … Defenses always have rules. You’re changing their rules at the snap.”
West is best
Even though Seattle is the NFC West’s only undefeated team after three weeks, the division is a very respectable 9-3. By contrast, the NFC East is 2-9-1, and the 0-2-1 Philadelphia Eagles are only a half-game out of a tie for first.
Burrow armed, dangerous
No. 1 pick Joe Burrow has yet to collect his first NFL victory, but the Cincinnati rookie already has a league record to his name. He has 91 completions, surpassing the top pick in 2019, Arizona’s Kyler Murray (84), for the most by a rookie in his first three games.
Gostkowski back on track
Another game, another game-winning kick for Tennessee’s Stephen Gostkowski. He is the only player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to kick a game-winning field goal in the final two minutes of regulation in each of his team’s first three games.
Almost brushes aside the memory of his abysmal performance in the Titans’ Monday night opener at Denver, when he missed four kicks before finally connecting on the deciding field goal.
The Raiders, who lost at New England on Sunday, haven’t won a road game against the Patriots since 1994. As Red Zone Channel host Andrew Siciliano notes, the Silver & Black moved from Los Angeles to Oakland to Las Vegas during that span.
Then again, Cincinnati has not won its last 15 road games, regardless of opponent, so …