The first four weeks of the season were disastrous for the Jets. Losing their starting quarterback to mono and a backup quarterback to an ankle injury undermined everything they were hoping to do.
That didn't stop the drumbeat, though, of people unhappy with Adam Gase's performance, wondering if this might be his only season with the franchise.
That's a storyline that seems pretty ridiculous now.
One victory doesn't validate the Gase Era by any stretch, but the Jets' 24-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys sure did make one thing perfectly clear. The first-year Jets coach was in an absolutely unwinnable position during the first four weeks of the season.
If anyone wants to judge him, judge him by what happens starting now.
Because now he's got the quarterback he's always dreamed of back to run his offense - and Sam Darnold ran a clinic on it for most of the game on Sunday afternoon. He completed 23 of 32 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns, and was one terrible interception in the third quarter away from winning this game in a rout. He had 218 yards by halftime. By then the Jets already had more offensive touchdowns (three) than they had in the first four games of the year.
Now consider that in the previous two weeks, Luke Falk totaled 130 passing yards and the Jets had 233 total yards in his two starts.
Yes, Gase hardly distinguished himself in those weeks. He didn't do nearly enough to help Falk out. Maybe a better coach would've figured out some way to win with a practice squad quarterback being forced to start before he was really ready to play in the NFL.
But probably not. Because it's hard to stretch the imagination far enough to see Falk making the kind of quick reads and fast throws that Darnold did on Sunday. There's no way Falk would've escaped trouble as much and created plays on the run. Falk was sacked 10 times by the Philadelphia Eagles a week ago, and most of those were on him. Darnold was sacked only --- by a superior Cowboys defense, and handled their pressure with ease.
So Gase, with his top weapon back, could call the offense he wanted to call. He found creative ways to get Robby Anderson open (five catches, 125 yards), including behind the defense for a 92-yard touchdown pass. He rediscovered slot receiver Jamison Crowder (6-98) who is slated to be a huge part of Gase attack. He even briefly found ways to use tight end Ryan Griffin (3-28-1) and even got newcomer Demaryius Thomas involved (4-62).
Not bad, considering this is just the second game together for Gase and Darnold - and the first with Darnold really feeling well. It's hard not to think that their best is yet to come.
Was any of that going to happen with Falk? No way. Maybe there was a chance if veteran Trevor Siemian hadn't gotten hurt, but even then the offense probably would have suffered something of a setback. Darnold is special, and Gase has known that since the moment he started really studying him on film. Darnold is the engine that will make all of Gase's plans go.
Could he have done better with Falk? Well, it would've been hard to do worse. And while it's true that other NFL coaches have succeeded with backup quarterbacks, it's rare that anyone thrives with a third-stringer, especially one as overmatched as Falk seemed to be.
So give Gase a break. He was a better coach on Sunday because he had his best player back, and that made all the difference in the world. Who knows how his Jets tenure will turn out? Who knows if he's the right guy to turn Darnold into the superstar the Jets are hoping he will be? And who knows if he's the right man to lead the Jets to their long-awaited Super Bowl berth
But at the very least, Gase deserves time to see what he can do with Darnold. The snap judgments about him when Darnold was out were completely unfair. Without his franchise quarterback he was in a no-win situation.
He deserves a fair chance to see how much he can win now that Darnold is back.