Adam Gase didn't have much of a choice this week once the doctors gave him a glimmer of hope that Sam Darnold might be ready to play on Sunday. At 0-3, he desperately needed his franchise quarterback back. He had to do everything he could to get him ready to play, just in case.
But that gamble failed on Thursday night when the doctors decided that Darnold and his famously enlarged spleen would need at least another week to recover from mono. Darnold had gotten most of the first-team reps all week in practice, but now former third-stringer Luke Falk is going to be the one who has to salvage the season for the Jets.
Really, though, it's up to Gase, hired in part for his offensive brilliance, to figure out a way to make that work.
It didn't work at all, of course, in Falk's first start, two weeks ago in New England. In fact, it failed in spectacular fashion. Falk was a dismal 12 of 22 for just 98 yards and an interception against the Patriots. In all, the Jets offense only mustered 105 yards.
Considering they still have Le'Veon Bell, their $52.5 million running back, and a coach known for his offensive mind, that was a complete embarrassment. And Gase knows it.
"We need to be more competitive," Gase said on Friday. "It wasn't. It was hard to watch. It was hard to call. None of us did a good job that day."
Falk deserves plenty of the blame for that - as much as it's fair to blame someone who began his second NFL season as a third-stringer until Darnold came down with mono and backup Trevor Siemian tore ligaments in his ankle. It certainly didn't help that the Jets had also just lost Quincy Enunwa for the season and his replacement, Demaryius Thomas, missed that game with a hamstring injury.
That left Gase struggling to figure out what to do with two slot receivers (Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios) while trying to get something going with Bell (35 yards on 18 carries) behind a struggling offensive line (5 sacks).
"That was not a good day for us," Gase said. "Nothing worked out the way we wanted."
This is where Gase will earn his money, though, because he has to find a way to make things work better against the Eagles. Philly's defense isn't in the same class as New England's. They rank 23rd overall and dead last against the pass. Yes, Gase still has Falk running his offense, but there are plenty of examples in recent years of teams surviving and sometimes even thriving when young, untested quarterbacks are thrust into the lineup. Just look at what Kyle Allen is doing in Carolina right now.
The Jets currently rank dead last in offense, dead last in passing offense, third-to-last in rushing offense, and sit in the bottom two or three in nearly every offensive category in the league. Losing Darnold was a huge blow in every conceivable way. Having to roll with a third-stringer is a reasonable excuse for the struggles.
But it's not one the Jets can use if they want to still have a season after Sunday afternoon.
"For us to play against this group, we have to do a lot of things right," Gase said. "We have to be great up front. That's where it's all going to start We have to be able to run the football. I mean, our best player is back there. We've got to do a great job of getting him some running lanes and getting him the ball in the passing game."
That's the perfect place to start - by leaning on Bell. It will help that Thomas should return too, so Gase won't be saddled with too many slot receivers. But there can be no excuses, otherwise there will be no more season. There's no doubt they were counting on Darnold, and that they needed their young star.
But they have a coach who is considered an offensive genius, who still has Bell, not to mention a $28.5 million receiver (Crowder). His task is hard, but because of the weapons he has at his disposal, it's not impossible - at least not if Gase is the coach the Jets always expected him to be.