EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Put a Falk in them, they’re done.
Their season is only eight days old, but the New York Jets already have lost two games, two quarterbacks and there’s little hope for a turnaround. Third-stringer Luke Falk, who went from the practice squad to the No. 1 job in a span of only a few hours, played the last two-plus quarters in a historically bad offensive performance Monday night against the Cleveland Browns — a 23-3 loss in which the Jets produced only 139 total yards through three quarters.
Falk replaced Trevor Siemian (ankle), who started for the ailing Sam Darnold (mononucleosis). The Jets have endured plenty of quarterback calamities over the years (remember Geno Smith‘s broken jaw, inflicted by a teammate?), but this is an all-time run of rotten luck. And it will get worse because there’s a good chance Falk will be their quarterback Sunday when they face the New England Patriots (2-0) on the road.
Only five teams in the Super Bowl era — excluding the 1987 strike season — have had to use three different starting quarterbacks in their first three games. The past two teams to do it combined for a 3-29 record, but the previous three all actually made the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
That won’t be the Jets.
The quarterback crisis, coupled with a brutal schedule, has put the Jets on the brink of falling out of contention. After New England, which figures to be a rout of epic proportions, they have a bye, followed by the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Patriots again. Oh, my. Not even an early return by Darnold — he’s hoping for the Philly game — can rescue the Jets, who have unraveled under new coach Adam Gase.
Gase became the first Jets’ coach since Rich Kotite (1995) to lose his first two games on the job. Before the season, Gase predicted they’d be playing meaningful games in December. Forget that; they might not make it to Columbus Day — and some of this is on Gase, who has not lived up to his reputation as an offensive mastermind. Their problems go beyond the quarterback position.
Troubling trend: The Jets have a loudmouth for a defensive coordinator — Gregg Williams — and he choked on his words after tweaking Odell Beckham Jr. the other day in a contentious news conference. “Odell, who?” Williams asked, revealing a smug smile. Beckham exacted revenge, ripping the Jets for 161 yards on six catches. That included an 89-yard touchdown in which the Jets played a soft zone behind a four-man rush.
Williams actually did a decent job of confusing Baker Mayfield by mixing up his coverages, but he ended up with egg on his face because of the Beckham explosion. That’s Williams in a nutshell: He’s a smart defensive coach, but he can embarrass your franchise because of his mouth and reputation.
QB breakdown: Give Falk an “A” for effort. The former sixth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans made his NFL debut and didn’t embarrass himself — not bad for someone who began the day on the practice squad. Falk (20-25, 198 yards) didn’t dazzle with his arm strength, but he displayed game-manager qualities and got the ball to Le’Veon Bell (10 catches for 61 yards). Bell ran hard and finished with 31 touches. At this rate, he’ll be out of gas by Thanksgiving.
Biggest hole in the game plan: Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, their $72.5 million free-agent addition in 2018, was benched after a lackluster opener and didn’t make an appearance until garbage time. Think about that for a second: They benched their most accomplished corner against arguably the top receiving corps in the league. This is a bad look for Johnson, whose attitude irked the previous coaching staff. The current staff apparently feels the same way. Nate Hairston replaced Johnson in the lineup, but left the game with an undisclosed injury. Maybe the Jets should jump into the Jalen Ramsey sweepstakes.
Silver lining: Sam Ficken — aka Kicker No. 4 — was perfect. He made a 46-yard field goal. The kicking carousel stops for at least a week.