FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - When the doctors came to Jets head coach Adam Gase on Wednesday night to talk about Sam Darnold, he said he had a feeling that his quarterback had mono. Somehow he just knew in his "gut" that the news was going to be bad.
Unfortunately for Gase, he was right.
And it's likely going to get much, much worse.
Losing their promising franchise quarterback for possibly up to a month or more is obviously an enormous hit for a franchise that really thought this was the year it would finally arrive as a true playoff contender. But that wasn't the only body blow their hopes and dreams took, either.
The Jets will also be sweating out an MRI on Le'Veon Bell's shoulder for the next 24 hours. Linebacker C.J. Mosley and prized rookie DT Quinnen Williams are still not practicing and uncertain when it comes to playing in Week 2. And Demaryius Thomas, the receiver they acquired after losing Quincy Enunwa for the season, has a hamstring injury.
A cynic, or perhaps a long-suffering Jets fan, can't help but wonder if this franchise is cursed.
Gase, for what it's worth, is neither of those things. He took the Monty Python approach of always looking on the bright side of life.
"I look at it like this: It starts with me with my attitude," said Gase, after delivering the scroll of bad news to the media. "Same thing with Joe (Douglas), Christopher (Johnson). Everybody at the top. What's our attitude going to be? Is it going to be woe is me, the sky is falling? Or this is a challenge we're going to embrace?"
Well, it certainly is a challenge the Jets are facing. Everyone can hold off on panicking about Bell for now (even Gase seemed to think Bell's issue was going to turn out to be little more than "soreness"). But the loss of Darnold, even for a short period of time, is a devastating blow.
Because, let's face it, the Jets were going to be in a bit of trouble even with Darnold at full strength. The offense looked terrible in the their opening-day loss to the Bills, and was suddenly forced to search for answers about how to replace Enunwa. And they were doing that while facing a daunting schedule that includes the Browns on Monday night, followed by a trip to New England on a short week, followed by games against the Eagles, Cowboys and Patriots again after the bye.
A fast start against that murderer's row already seemed unlikely. Now, putting aside the emotional blow of losing their leader, how in the world is backup quarterback Trevor Siemian supposed to guide them through that? Even if Darnold returns after the bye -- which at this point seems like the best-case scenario -- and can regain his strength quickly enough to start in Philadelphia on Oct. 6, he might be trying to dig the Jets out of an 0-3 hole at that point.
And that would be a death knell to the Jets' season of hope.
But Gase prefers not to see the Jets' glass as half-empty -- or perhaps cracked and unable to hold any water at all. He loved Siemian and was insistent on adding him as the Jets' backup this offseason. And this, by the way, is exactly why teams should always have a veteran quarterback on the team. The 27-year-old Siemian spent two years as the starter in Denver and won more than he lost (13-11).
He may not be Darnold, but he can definitely play.
And maybe, just maybe, the team will rally around him and have enough talent not stuck in the trainers' room to pull a surprise win or two out. The Browns certainly looked overrated in their humiliating, 43-13 loss to the Titans in Week 1. And Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams probably knows more about the Browns' offense than anyone, since he coached there last year.
Beating the Browns without Darnold (and maybe Bell, Mosley, Williams, et. al.) may not be completely out of the realm of possibility, even if winning in New England the following week probably is.
"We're going to look back at this and this is going to be a good thing for us," Gase said defiantly, and with a completely straight face. "I think it's going to bring that locker room even tighter."
In fact, he said, when he spoke to the team on Thursday morning and broke the news to them about Darnold, "The reaction I got," Gase said, "and the way guys looked, was 'Let's go.'
"There's confidence there."
That's great news for the Jets -- about the only positive news they had on a dreary Thursday morning. But confidence tends to be a very fragile thing. They are officially now holding their season together with duct tape and Band-Aids. The reality is that if they can't find a way to survive the next few weeks, their playoff hopes won't survive at all.