By Steve Silverman
Reality was going to hit the New York Jets at some point in the season, but did it have to show up in the second week of the season?
The Jets were unable to sustain any of the good feelings they had after last Monday’s season-opening road win against the Detroit Lions. They were two steps ahead of the Lions throughout that game, but when they came home to host the Miami Dolphins Sunday, they were two steps behind at the start.
The Jets made a decent comeback in the second half to make the score a respectable 20-12, but the problem was that they couldn’t keep up with the Dolphins as the game started.
Why is that? Here’s the bottom line: Dolphins head coach Adam Gase had his team prepared to play as the game kicked off, while the Jets looked slow and confused.
Yes, mistakes were made by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, but that’s not why they fell behind. The onus for this is largely on Todd Bowles and the coaching staff, as the team was ill-prepared for its divisional opponent.
The first mistake that Darnold made was the interception that he threw in the first quarter to T.J. McDonald, which the defensive back returned 31 yards. Three plays later, Kenyan Drake ran six yards into the end zone and the Dolphins were dictating the pace of the game.
The Jets were stunned and failed to react until the third quarter, by which point, they were down 20-0.
While the coaching staff couldn’t figure things out fast enough, Darnold’s reaction was impressive. He took the blame for the interception to McDonald, and also said that he should have seen Quincy Enunwa late in the first half when he was open in the end zone.
That’s the kind of young quarterback the Jets have for themselves. He is not making excuses when there are problems. He is taking a leadership role that is going to pay dividends for years to come, if management and the coaching staff are up to the job at hand by surrounding him with a winning supporting cast.
He may not have had the same kind of game he did in Week One, but he completed 25-of-41 passes for 334 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Miami did a good job of keeping the Jets running game from giving Darnold enough support. Isaiah Crowell rushed 12 times for 35 yards and as a team, the Jets gained just 42 yards on the ground. While the Jets were struggling to move the ball on the ground, the Dolphins gained 135 yards and averaged 4.4 yards a carry.
That was not a substantial amount, but it was enough to take the pressure off of Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, completed 17 of 23 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns and he did not throw an interception.
He was not greedy and he did not have a completed pass longer than 29 yards, but he was sharp, confident and patient. There’s a lesson in there for Darnold.
It’s one he will likely learn in due time. He is open to learning the nuances of the game, and he clearly has the talent and skills to go along way.
He also has the leadership inclinations to win over the locker room. He clearly wants to get better, and he wants the team to improve.
“You look at all the plays that you wish you could have back,” Darnold said. “Every loss I have as an individual, I’m going to take that as a lesson that I can learn from.”
His goal is to figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and figure out a way to fix it. The learning should go quickly, but to really make it work, general manager Mike Maccagnan needs to surround him with the right teammates and Bowles and his coaches must get them all on the same page.
Darnold should be up for his part of the job, but will management and the coaching staff be up for their part of the job?