The Jets didn't just hire Adam Gase as their head coach. They gave him all sorts of power when they later fired GM Mike Maccagnan and hired Gase's friend and top choice Joe Douglas as the replacement. He is, in many ways, the leading voice in the organization and perhaps the most trusted and influential one.
And it's all because of this one thing: The Jets believed he was the right guy to shepherd Sam Darnold into the future.
It's just not working out very well right now.
It's too early in their relationship to pass any sweeping judgments, especially since the start of their season was ruined by the quarterback's bout with mononucleosis. But in the three games since Darnold's return to health -- including their ugly, 29-15 loss in Jacksonville on Sunday -- the arrow isn't pointed in the right direction. Two weeks ago, it was pointed way up. Darnold was outstanding in his re-debut, going 23 of 32 for 338 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 24-22 win over the Cowboys.
Since then the quarterback has been a mess. He called the last two games "two of my worst ever," and he's right.
And that's a problem, because a bad regression by Darnold under Gase's direction might be the only thing that could even threaten the first-year Jets coach's job.
That's not to say that Gase is on the hot seat at all, even with his 1-5 record and the offensive failures around him. There are circumstances and injuries that have piled on the 41-year-old Gase and made his debut season a total tire fire so far.
But Darnold remains his key to salvation, or something worse. Gase was heralded as a quarterback whisperer of sorts, and lauded as the right guy for the Jets' 22-year-old franchise quarterback. And Darnold is by far the most important player in the franchise. All of the Jets' future hopes hinge on his right arm.
"I feel like I haven't helped him enough," Gase said. "I haven't put him in a good position."
It feels that way to everyone who is watching, especially since Darnold's alarming performance last Monday night against the Patriots when he went 11 of 32 for 86 yards and threw four interceptions -- terrible even if it was against a defense that is tracking as one of the best of all time.
It was even more alarming on Sunday when he went 21 of 30 for 218 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
That's 32 of 62 over the last two games, for 304 yards with two touchdowns and seven interceptions -- a dismal passer rating of 36.6.
"For some reason I just didn't throw the ball well these last couple of games," Darnold said.
That's for sure. And it's not all Gase's fault.
But it is the coach's responsibility to figure out a solution and get Darnold back on what everyone thought was an elite track. He needs to make adjustments in his offense to get Darnold out of harm's way now that the injury-plagued offensive line is collapsing around him. He needs to figure out a way to spring Le'Veon Bell, who was supposed to be the Jets' top skill position player, but who has 93 rushing yards and 111 total yards over the last two games.
If Gase is really the offensive genius everyone thought he was, that's what Gase has to do. His offense is ranked 32nd in the NFL. It's averaging 209.6 yards per game, including 243 when Darnold is playing. That's a pathetic total, no matter what defense they were lining up against. And that simply isn't nearly good enough.
But while Gase has to figure that out, his more important job is to stop Darnold's regression before it becomes a truly disturbing trend. The quarterback has been off target far too much. He's been far too rattled by opposing defenses. Gase said that on Sunday that Darnold too often skipped his first read to try for a big play, which is a clear sign of a quarterback feeling the pressure to make something happen.
Those are rookie struggles that Darnold was supposed to be beyond by now. But he just doesn't look like the confident quarterback he was way back at the start of Week 1. Gase has to get him back there. And that's not unfair at all.
Gase wanted this situation. He spent the summer telling everyone, publicly and privately, how special Darnold could be, how he's never had a young quarterback like him to grow in his offense. When Darnold bragged that he thought the Jets' offense could be "unstoppable", his coach may not have used the same words publicly, but he sure did agree. There is so much potential there, but at some point they both have to show it.
There is no hope of the playoffs for the Jets. This has become another season about "next year." Their sights have to be set on becoming a contender in 2020.
That means the rest of this season is about Darnold turning into that elite quarterback they expected him to become this year under Gase's direction. There's plenty of time. There are nine games remaining. And the schedule in front of them isn't exactly loaded defenses quite like the '19 Patriots.
So there aren't any real excuses. There needs to be progress. Gase has to prove he's the right guy to get the best out of Darnold. The Jets trusted that he was. They can't afford to be forced to second guess their choice so soon.