Mission impossible: Sam Darnold ready to return to Jets' awful offense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Good news for the New York Jets: Barring a setback in practice, Sam Darnold should be back in the lineup for next Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Bad news: Their prized rookie appears ready to return.

Do they really want to expose Darnold to this mess?

That's a joke, of course. After sitting out three games with a strained foot, the young quarterback needs the work as he prepares to wind up his first season. A strong finish would uplift this downtrodden organization -- kind of -- but it's unrealistic to expect much, considering the dire state of the offense.

The Jets failed to score an offensive touchdown in Sunday's horrific 26-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans, which makes it five straight games in which the offense has scored one or no touchdowns -- a franchise record.

Wrap your brain around this: This franchise has tortured its fan base with some pretty bad offense over the past half-century. In fact, Joe Namath still holds the single-season record for passing yardage (4,007) -- and he did it in a 14-game season in 1967. And now we've got an offense that is setting marks for futility.

Holy, Browning Nagle!

The players have lost confidence in offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. You can read it in their body language and how they dodge questions from reporters. Asked what's wrong with the offense, wide receiver Quincy Enunwa paused a moment as he measured his response.

"I still have a job right now," he said. "I'd love to say what my opinion of that is, but I'll just keep that to myself."

Bates is the third coordinator under coach Todd Bowles, who lost Chan Gailey to retirement after two seasons and fired John Morton after one season. Morton doesn't look so bad now, does he? On Sunday, the defense scored one more touchdown than the offense (a pick-six by Trumaine Johnson), which is rather amazing when you consider the defense had gone five games without a takeaway.

It isn't all Bates' fault because he's saddled with mediocre personnel, but he makes some head-scratching decisions at times. For a change, he committed to the running game, as the Jets cracked the 100-yard mark for the first time in six games (156 yards, to be exact). But, then, why did he abandon the run in the red zone?

The Jets ran nine plays inside the Titans' 22-yard line -- all passes. Josh McCown completed 1-of-6 attempts and was sacked twice; there also was a holding penalty on a pass play. There wasn't a single carry for Isaiah Crowell (98 yards), who had his best game in nearly two months after openly questioning the playcalling last week.

The offense has fallen down, and it can't get up. Bowles was asked if he'd consider lineup changes.

"I'm playing everybody I can," he said, perhaps sending a message to general manager Mike Maccagnan, the man who assembled the Not The Greatest Show on Turf.

Now it's Darnold's turn. He was healthy enough to play Sunday, according to Bowles, but the coach was concerned about his lack of practice reps. After a four-week layoff, counting the bye week, there would've been rust and timing issues. Darnold was limited last week, so Bowles made the right call by not rushing him back to face the Titans.

On Sunday, Darnold will face fellow first-round pick Josh Allen, a close friend who has a 3-3 record and has showed signs of improvement since returning from an elbow injury. Darnold was regressing at the time of his injury, but now he gets a chance to finish on a positive note. After a sensational performance in Week 1, his season -- and that of the Jets -- has gone the wrong way.

"We'll reload this week and see where he is," Bowles said of Darnold.

Good luck, kid. You'll need it.