Jets’ harsh reality: Injury has put dent in Darnold’s development

This Jets season is so much worse than their 3-8 record shows.

The fact Sam Darnold is not getting the kind of quarterback reps the Jets had planned for him makes it even that much more of a wasted season.

On Thursday the Jets would not say one way or another if Darnold would return from his foot injury and play Sunday against the Titans. Darnold has not played since a 13-6 loss at Miami on Nov. 4, a game in which he threw four interceptions.

Darnold was limited again in practice Thursday, and you never get any real clear answers from coach Todd Bowles.

“He’s working his way back in,’’ Bowles said after practice. “Josh [McCown] was limited as well. … We’ll see who is the healthiest. All of them are taking reps right now.’’

During the brief time the media was able to watch the beginning of practice, one of the songs blasting from the loudspeakers was “Baba O’Riley” by The Who — perhaps better known as Teenage Wasteland.

Kind of appropriate for the way the Jets’ season is going once again.

This has been a frustrating experience for offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates. You can be sure Bates hoped to be much further along in Darnold’s development than where Darnold is now.

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“As a rookie quarterback, you don’t want to miss time because every experience, every practice is a moment to learn,’’ Bates said. “I think that hurt him a little bit as far as missing those two weeks.’’

That is the harsh reality of the situation.

Bates tried to make the best of it by adding, “But he has been studying in the film room, and I think he is naturally going to just keep getting better. He is absorbing all of the information, both positive and negative. The future is really bright.’’

The future may be bright, but the present is a dark place, and there is still so much learning for Darnold to do and leadership qualities to establish, and that can only come by playing.

The Jets offense is horrible. The unit is 29th in the league in yards per game (302), 26th in total points (221) and 25th in plays from scrimmage (669).

The running game was quickly abandoned in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots at MetLife Stadium, as McCown threw 45 times while Darnold watched from the sidelines.

Asked what positives Darnold can take away from his time away Bates said, “No. 1, watching Josh play. … It really hasn’t been time off, he has been a student of the game, watching Josh play and prepare.’’

That is true to an extent, but it really comes down to playing, and the Jets need Darnold to get back on the field Sunday and stay on the field the rest of the season.

This is about two things now: Darnold’s development and finding an offensive-minded head coach who can get in the building as quickly as possible once Bowles is fired. That means starting from scratch with a new offensive coordinator as well.

Darnold has started nine games and completed 159-of-289 passes (55 percent) for 1,934 yards, 11 touchdowns and a troubling 14 interceptions.

Each game is so important. Each play is a learning experience.

Cleveland’s rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield has started six games and completed 195-of-311 pass attempts, good for 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Just as importantly he has established himself as the leader of the Browns, who wisely dumped coach Hue Jackson.

And why was the Jets’ running game abandoned Sunday?

“You want to be balanced,’’ Bates said. “We came into the game wanting to establish the run like we always do. I think we had six rushes for 13 yards in the first half. I needed to call more runs. I needed to call better runs. We need to establish the run better.’’
If Darnold had been healthy and threw the ball 45 times, it would not have been so bad, because that is 45 more looks at the Patriots defense. That would have been worth it.

Another opportunity wasted in yet another wasted season.

It seems they’re all wasted.

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