Adam Gase, Sam Darnold
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Reeling and eager for any form of positivity, the timing of the New York Jets’ visit to Hard Rock Stadium couldn’t be better.

Geoff Magliocchetti

In the midst of football chaos, there is, somehow, still a game that needs to be played on Sunday afternoon.

The week of the NFL trade deadline brought much hype, but not a lot of movement. A lot of that hype came from the New York Jets‘ domain. Rumors had already swirled that Robby Anderson was up for consideration, but a controllable kitchen fire became a full-on blaze once Le’Veon Bell and Jamal Adams‘ names became part of the conversation. The emergence of their names could, if Adams’s foreboding words are to be believed, affect the Jets in the long-term, the immediate reality of actual football is somewhat shocking.

With the deadline having come and gone, everyone, with the exception of the blue-clad Leonard Williams, who suited up for the Jets last weekend in Jacksonville, will make the return to the Sunshine State. A date with the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS) awaits at Hard Rock Stadium, a game between two squads with a combined single win. It won’t mean a single thing when it comes to the 2019 NFL playoff picture. But for the Jets (1-6), Sunday means everything.

Trapped in yet another period of chaos on the franchise timeline, the Jets will take normalcy, no matter how little, in any way, shape, or form they could get it. Kickoff on Sunday will be a welcome return to routine, three hours to forget the silliness that has transpired and just focus on playing football against a group wearing a different colored shirt and helmet.

“I think we got to create a rhythm,” Anderson said this week, per Charles McDonald of the New York Daily News. “Take it a play at a time and just stick to the basics. Not over-complicate things and collectively do our jobs. It’s not that complicated, but sometimes I think we make it harder than it needs to be collectively, you know?”

A matchup with the Dolphins (0-7) presents a special case for the modern Jets. Not only are they looking to reverse some bad karma in the dormant rivalry … Miami has won three meetings in a row and five of the past six … but this time, it’s personal.

The Jets are already destined for one reunion with Ryan Fitzpatrick confirmed to be the Dolphins starters on Sunday. Fitzpatrick, a two-year Jets’ starter, is perhaps the author of the Jets’ finest hours since their pair of conference title game visits early in the decade. The irony of the Jets’ potentially leaving this brutal era of football behind by light their spark against an old friend would surely be something.

But the Jets’ head coach knows how important his own Sunday return will be, even if he claims he won’t feel the effects of seeing the familiar shades of aquamarine again.

Adam Gase is at a potential crossroads. Some have erroneously pointed the finger at him for the Adams situation … although, there are probably fans that would blame Gase for the Yankees’ ALCS loss and other local calamities … but there’s no denying his honeymoon is already over. He had the excuse of missing his franchise quarterback in the early stages of the fall. But Sam Darnold‘s subsequent struggles (not to mention Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and New Orleans all enjoying some form of success after losing their starter) and a general lack of competitiveness in their losses have prematurely warmed Gase’s seat. The supposed offensive guru has supervised six sub-300-yard outputs, a mark nearly impossible to achieve in today’s fantasy-friendly NFL.

While the confidence in Gase is shaken, a much-hyped opportunity arrives for him and his squad. The post-deadline slate features six consecutive games against competition far removed from the playoff conversation. This slate is sandwiched by the traditional duo with the Dolphins, while another visit to an actively winless opponent (Cincinnati) opens December. Their remaining interconference slate (the Giants and Redskins) has a combined three wins.

The Oakland Raiders, whom the Jets host on Nov. 24, are easily the best of the group, only a game-and-a-half behind the last wild card but caught in an AFC logjam. That game could be a perfect evaluation, a perfect test against a fringe playoff contender, provided they take care of business beforehand.

Gase, Miami’s head coach from 2016-18, isn’t feeling particularly nostalgic. He rebuffed questions about the trade deadline with a variation of the reply “I’ll talk about Miami” five different times.

The head coach, however, knows a win can instantly change the mood in an increasingly sour locker room. It doesn’t matter.

“It is what it is. We didn’t win enough,” Gase said in his lone recollections of South Beach, per transcripts provided by the Jets. “We’re 1-6 right now. We need to figure out a way to win a game this week.

“I’m worried about us getting better. We’re focused on getting better this week, making sure that we’re prepared for the game, doing everything we need to do to go figure out a way to win a game on Sunday.”

Yes, victories could ruin the draft slot of a team currently slated to pick third next spring. But hypothetically ending a season with 11 consecutive losses is never a healthy way for any team to operate, much less one trying to kickstart a new era.

The notion of tanking is the furthest thing from the Jets’ minds. General manager Joe Douglas didn’t even want to discuss postseasons of football future, opting to focus solely on Miami

“We need to put consecutive plays together, consecutive drives together,” Douglas said in another transcript when prompted as to how long this particular rebuild could take. “Our singular focus right now is beating the Miami Dolphins so I can’t even answer that right now.”

The sights and sounds of Adams declaring his distaste for losing have become an unfortunate Sunday tradition in New York. His situation will be looked at with increased scrutiny after his comments in the deadline aftermath. Even the slightest thing out of place will be looked at this social media-dominated world of the knee jerk reaction will be seen as a foreshadowing of his early exit.

Wins can eliminate those questions and discussions. Adams spoke about that solution before the tensions rose on Sunday, shortly after the Jets’ latest defeat at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“All we can do is continue to work, continue to stay together in this room. It’s really tough, but we’ve got a lot of ball left in the season,” Adams said, per Olivia Landis of NYJets.com. “I don’t even want to get into, as far as the future as far as playoffs. We’re not even focused on that. We’re focused on trying to win a ball game. It’s tough, but we’re going to battle.”

It’s safe to admit that football poison is freely flowing through the Jets’ delicate veins. A winnable challenge over the next few weeks potentially provides the ideal antidote: winning. A win over Miami probably wouldn’t be as fondly remembered as the ones from 1986 or 2000 … but it can be remembered as the spark in what could be the relighting of the green football flame extinguished long ago.

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