“Where the hell has this been all year?’’
This is what Jets 23, Browns 16 at MetLife Stadium must have had all Jets fans screaming at their television screens on Sunday.
Only a week ago, the Jets were 0-13 and on a collision course toward 0-16 and the No. 1 overall draft pick. They were fresh off a 40-3 road loss in Seattle entering a game against a 9-4 Rams team that was ranked first in the league in defense.
The Jets beat the Rams, 23-20, in Los Angeles to put an end to the 0-16 talk and in the process ceded control of the No. 1-overall draft pick and the chance to land Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
And then there was Sunday, the Jets controlling a Browns team that entered the day 10-4 with its eyes set on winning the AFC North next Sunday with a divisional showdown looming against the Steelers.
But, just as the Jets did to the Rams last week, they landed an early uppercut to the chin of the Browns, took a stunning 20-3 lead to start the second half and hung on in the end with some defensive guile.
So, to review: On the past two Sundays, the Jets have beaten two teams with a collective record of 19-8, both likely bound for the playoffs.
What does it all mean?
What did the 6-2 fools-gold finish last season after the 1-7 start mean to this season?
This is the question Jets CEO Christopher Johnson must ask himself and answer with a cold, truthful response regardless of whatever warm feelings he might have for his head coach.
Because the answer is this: Too little too late.
Johnson, in good conscience, cannot sell another year of Adam Gase (9-22) to his fan base.
Johnson, in fact, should have been at the front of the line the past two weeks wondering: “Where the hell has this been all year?’’
To the dynamic trickeration 43-yard TD pass from receiver Jamison Crowder to receiver Braxton Berrios, Johnson should have wondered: “Where the hell has this been all year?’’
To the 11-yard Sam Darnold TD pass to tight end Chris Herndon, arguably the team’s biggest disappointment this season, another: “Where the hell has this been all year?’’
To the 30-yard Darnold TD pass to Crowder on a third down to open the second half and give the Jets that 20-3 lead, another: “Where the hell has this been all year?’’
To the fourth-quarter strip-sack of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield by linebacker Tarell Basham, another: “Where the hell has this been all year?’’
To the Basham forced fumble of Mayfield on a fourth-and-one keeper at the Jets 16-yard line to ice the game with 1:16 remaining, a final: “Where the hell has this been all year?’’
“You’re always going to wonder,’’ Gase conceded after the game.
What does this mean in the big picture?
There was a report late Saturday that the Jets were prepared to fire Gase pending the outcome of Sunday’s game against the Browns.
How and why any ownership decision on Gase’s future should have depended on a Week 16 result against the Browns is utterly preposterous. If the decision on Gase has not already been made and is pending the results of a couple of garbage-time games, that’s ownership malpractice.
“I haven’t thought about it,’’ Gase insisted after the game when asked about his future. “I haven’t had any discussions with Christopher about any of this. My job is to get us ready for the next game, so that’s what I’m going to worry about.’’
Asked if he’s “hopeful’’ the results of these past two games will have an “impact’’ on ownership’s decision, Gase said, “It’s something I can’t worry about.’’
Asked if he “believes’’ he’s the coach to lead this team forward, Gase went into a soliloquy about his players, saying, “I can’t say how much I appreciate what these guys have done to battle week in and week out. It’s hard to put into words.’’
Not as hard as wondering: “Where the hell has this been all season?’’
“Obviously, it’s too late,’’ Darnold said. “But it’s coming together nicely.’’
Crowder, who had himself a day, catching seven passes for 92 yards and a TD and throwing the TD pass to Berrios, conceded that it’s “kind of human nature’’ to wonder where this has been all season.
“We’re moving forward,’’ center Connor McGovern said. “We’re looking at what we can be, what we will be. We’re learning valuable lessons for the future.’’
But what exactly is that future?
Surely, Gase cannot be a part of it. What about Darnold?
“I think we have a great foundation,’’ McGovern said. “Whoever is leading us next year — whether it’s coach Gase or anyone else — it starts with getting that losing culture out of the facility and getting a new one put in. That’s what we’re trying to build right now.’’