A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. TD drought: If quarterback Sam Darnold doesn't throw a touchdown within his first eight attempts Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m. ET, CBS), he will become the only player in the past five seasons to go 150 attempts without a scoring pass, according to Elias Sports Bureau data. While a quarterback shouldn't be evaluated based on TD passes -- this isn't fantasy football -- the mind-boggling slump epitomizes the kind of season it has been for him.
"Obviously, when you're a quarterback and you're not throwing touchdown passes in consecutive games, that's not a good thing," Darnold said.
By every objective measure, Darnold has performed poorly in his third season, leaving Jets general manager Joe Douglas little choice but to explore all options in the offseason. Even if Darnold shows improvement over the final five games, the Jets almost certainly will draft a quarterback -- whether they're picking No. 1 or No. 2. So get ready for Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) or Justin Fields (Ohio State), folks.
It would take a leap of faith by Douglas to ride with Darnold in 2021, considering the QB has yet to demonstrate any consistency in 20 starts under this regime. Then there's his contract situation. Darnold has one year left on his rookie deal; there's no way the Jets can exercise his fifth-year option (2022), because the cost will be an estimated $25 million guaranteed.
Do you bet the future of the franchise on a prove-it year (2021) for Darnold, who would be one year from free agency, or do you restart the QB clock with a talented rookie to pair with a new coach? If you're playing the percentages, it's an easy call. The Jets could always trade the pick for a king's ransom, building around Darnold, but you're staring into the abyss in 2022 if things don't work out.
Darnold is well-liked in the organization because he's a hard worker and a good person, but his decision-making and field vision have raised concerns. He appears gun-shy at times. He doesn't always find the open wide receiver. He struggles with accuracy, especially on throws to his right. Consider these trends:
Darnold is the first Jets quarterback since Boomer Esiason in 1993 to throw at least 20 passes in four straight games without a touchdown. All told, he has three touchdown passes, two of which came on broken plays.
He has led six touchdown drives in 75 possessions, including only one touchdown in the past 41.
The most damning piece of evidence is that Darnold (64.0 passer rating) has been outplayed by backup Joe Flacco (80.6), who has led eight touchdown drives in 42 possessions with the same supporting cast and same playcalls.
There's a belief around the league that Darnold will be better once he gets away from coach Adam Gase, and that he could be the next Ryan Tannehill. For his sake, you hope it happens, but it probably won't be with the Jets.
2. A Philly special in N.Y.? When the Jets start their head-coaching search, which appears inevitable, one name to watch is Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson. You can already hear the rumblings in league circles. His stock is down because the Eagles (3-7-1) are struggling and quarterback Carson Wentz is regressing, but he's a Super Bowl-winning coach with an important connection to the Jets.
Pederson and Jets GM Joe Douglas arrived the same year (2016) in Philadelphia, where Douglas served as the vice president of player personnel. They worked together for three years, highlighted by the Super Bowl championship in the 2017 season. Right now, things are so bad in Philly that Pederson's job security has become an issue. If he gets fired, he'd be free to talk to any team. There's some thought the Eagles might look to "trade" him, extracting compensation from another team.
Three years ago, Pederson was a Philly hero. Since the parade down Broad Street, he's 21-21-1. But relationships matter in the NFL, and that's why you should pay attention when the firing/hiring season starts.
3. PlaycallerGate: I called around to get feedback from experts on the Jets' rather unusual playcalling dynamic between Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, which became a story last Sunday with Gase's postgame spinning. Let's just say there was a healthy amount of skepticism regarding his claim that he wasn't the primary playcaller in the 20-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. (That Gase held the giant play sheet throughout the game might have been the giveaway.) He insisted it was Loggains, later changing his tune to say it was "collaborative."
"That's a cover-your-ass answer," one of the offensive experts said.
Can a two-man operation succeed? Well, that, too, caused eyebrows to rise. They said it's difficult for two coaches to be in sync if they're going back and forth, depending on the situation -- i.e., Loggains calling first and second down, Gase third down. A good playcaller, like a chess master, thinks ahead, using one call to set up another, based on how the defense matches up with personnel groups and formations. It's hard to develop a flow with two coaches, especially under extreme time constraints.
We could break out the "too many cooks in the kitchen" cliché, but I think the broth already is spoiled.
4. 0-16 in the house: There have been two 0-16 teams in NFL history -- the 2008 Detroit Lions and the 2017 Cleveland Browns. Prominent coaches from those teams will be at MetLife Stadium on Sunday -- former Lions coach Rod Marinelli (Raiders defensive line) and, of course, former Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (Jets defensive coordinator). It could happen to Williams twice in a four-year span; no coach or player should have to endure that. This reunion seems like a bad karma thing, no?
5. Did you know? The Jets have won their past six home games against the Raiders, including a 34-3 win in Week 12 last season. The last time the Jets lost a home game against the Raiders was in 1996. The Raiders (0-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (0-3) are the only two teams that have yet to win a game at MetLife Stadium (opened in 2010). Those who are on the "Tank for Trevor" train should be worried by this.
6. Inspiration: Jets linebacker Harvey Langi has been capitalizing on his opportunity as a replacement starter. Since replacing the traded Avery Williamson, he has averaged close to 10 tackles per game in three starts. He feels blessed every time he takes the field.
On Oct. 13, 2017, while playing for the New England Patriots, Langi and his wife, Cassidy, were rear-ended by a driver who was charged with negligence, drug possession, an open-container violation and more. Cassidy broke both hips and several other bones. Langi suffered multiple injuries and required knee surgery. All things considered, they were lucky -- and he never forgets it.
"Once I knew I was OK and I was alive and I could move my body and move my feet, I'm like, 'You know what? No matter what anybody says, I'm going to overcome this. I'm going to work hard to get back on the field,'" Langi said. "Now, being back on the field, before the game or before practice, I take a deep breath and go back to, 'Man, I can't believe I'm playing this game again.'"
He plays with the energy and passion of a man relishing his second chance.
7. Invisible man: Remember that monster start by wide receiver Jamison Crowder? He had 22 catches for 335 yards in his first three games; he was the only positive on offense. Now? He has faded in recent weeks -- six catches for 73 yards in the past three games.
Some of the decline could be attributed to the change in quarterbacks; Crowder and Flacco didn't click (except for that brilliant touchdown hookup in Week 9). Gase explained it by saying Crowder is drawing extra coverage. Last week, Crowder was doubled on 16 pass plays against the Dolphins, according to Gase.
Prediction: Crowder will have a bounce-back game against the Raiders, who struggle against slot receivers.
8. The last word: "His splash plays are amazing for an offensive lineman. You just don't see tackles in the NFL making splash plays that are SportsCenter-worthy." -- Loggains on rookie Mekhi Becton