Sam Darnold regresses in return as winless Jets continue to spiral

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With quarterback Sam Darnold back in the lineup, the New York Jets played their worst game in a month -- and that’s saying something. Only one conclusion can be drawn after the latest horror show, a 20-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at MetLife Stadium: The Darnold-Adam Gase marriage, a total failure, soon will be annulled.

Darnold could be traded after the season and Gase almost certainly will be fired. It's only a matter of when. Where's the hope? Whether Gase is calling the plays or letting his sidekick Dowell Loggains do the honors (Sunday was a combo platter) -- the Jets play offense as if the field is 150 yards long and slightly uphill.

Back from a two-game shoulder injury, Darnold got his first chance to play with the starting three wide receivers, but he threw two interceptions and failed to capitalize on great field position in the second half. In short, he didn't look any better with his so-called weapons on the field than he did without them, which is alarming to the organization.

It's fair to wonder if the front office will look to replace Darnold regardless of 2021 NFL draft position. Whether they have the first, second or third pick, the organization must take a hard look at the alternatives because Darnold has regressed in his third season.

Gase had hoped the combination of Darnold and the three receivers would ignite the offense, showing everyone -- including team ownership -- what it could have been like if everyone had been healthy for the first two months.

If Gase is hoping for a reprieve, he's failing. In 27 games, the offense -- his offense -- has shown no improvement. The Jets have been held under 20 points in 18 of those 27 games. That would have been acceptable in the 1940s but not the modern NFL.

"It's frustrating because I feel like we're right there," said Gase, stretching reality. "We've got to make one or two plays, especially this last game. It's right there for us. There's been multiple games like that."

In two games against Miami, Gase's previous team, the Jets were outscored 44-3. Just awful.

Describing the game in two words: Trevor Lawrence. At 0-11, the Jets remain in the pole position for the No. 1 pick in the draft, which projects to be the Clemson quarterback. The Jets became the 18th team in NFL history to start 0-11.

QB breakdown: Give Darnold credit for rushing back to play in a hopeless season, but this is a performance-based business -- and the performance wasn't good. His numbers weren't terrible (16-for-27, 197 yards), but he failed to throw a touchdown pass in his fourth straight game -- the team's longest drought since Geno Smith (five games) in 2013. The Dolphins must be inside Darnold's head. He dropped to 1-5 against them, with four touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Let's be honest: The Jets looked better with Joe Flacco than Darnold, whose 2020 totals are damning: three touchdown passes, eight interceptions.

Troubling trend: Gase's reliance on running back Frank Gore reached new heights -- or lows, depending on your perspective. Without injured backup La'Mical Perine, the 37-year-old Gore became the workhorse and the focal point of the Jets' offense, especially in the first half. What's wrong with that picture? Gore finished with 21 touches, including 18 carries for 74 yards. It's amazing he didn't need oxygen in the second half.

Pivotal play: Early in the fourth quarter, on a fourth-and-1 from the Miami 17, Gore was stuffed on an utterly unimaginative run into the teeth of the Miami defense. Bad playcall, bad execution.

Silver lining: Things look bleak for the Jets, but they do have a couple of young players who can help the rebuild. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (one sack, one forced fumble) continued his strong season, and rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims (four catches for 67 yards) turned in another encouraging performance. Hey, it's something.