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Sam Darnold Has Mono and This Jets Season Has Already Been Derailed

It’s only Week 2, and Gang Green’s outlook has already taken a strange and stunning turn

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Some NFL franchises just can’t have nice things. You know which ones I’m talking about. The Browns laid an egg in Week 1 after an offseason spent accumulating talent and generating hype. The Lions called an inexplicable timeout that eventually resulted in them tying with the Cardinals. And now the Jets will be without quarterback Sam Darnold for multiple weeks due to mono, head coach Adam Gase told reporters Thursday.

While Darnold’s diagnosis is obvious fodder for jokes, it’s actually not that uncommon for athletes to get mono. Jordan Spieth had it last year, as did Petra Kvitova. Then–Seattle Mariners shortstop Ketel Marte had it in 2017. Jimmy Walker, Andy Roddick, and Roger Federer have all had it. So yeah—the kissing disease. Who among us?

This diagnosis could have a ripple effect on Darnold’s career. The second-year quarterback showed flashes of his potential last season, but he’s already changed coaches and offensive systems once, and it’s not hard to envision a future in which New York struggles without him and the team experiences more turnover this offseason. The Jets play the Browns on Monday night, then travel to New England before a bye week. Then it’s off to Philadelphia before hosting the Cowboys and then playing the Patriots again. Gang Green could conceivably be 0-6 by the time Darnold returns.

Couple that with the fact that Gase’s tenure is already off to a rocky start, with the head coach criticizing his players after Sunday’s stunning 17-16 loss to the Bills, and Gase has not been in the best of moods:

Gase reportedly did not want the Jets to sign Le’Veon Bell as a free agent and preferred Baker Mayfield to Darnold in the 2018 draft (back when Gase was with the Dolphins). There were reports that the coach was involved in the organization’s May decision to fire general manager Mike Maccagnan. Don’t forget that the team spent a third-round pick on Jachai Polite only to cut him before the season. This is not a franchise that’s a model of stability.

The Jets hired new GM Joe Douglas in June, and while he has reportedly gotten along with Gase so far, most of the recent headlines surrounding the franchise have ranged from concerning to bizarre. The last thing the team needs is for Darnold to miss a substantial amount of time. Darnold could quickly become one of those quarterbacks—think Alex Smith—who changes offenses so often early in his career that he never properly develops. Darnold missed three games last year (with a foot sprain) as well.

The good news for Darnold is that he’s only 22 and still one of the youngest quarterbacks in the league. He has plenty of time to figure this all out. The bad news for the Jets is that their problems don’t end with Darnold’s diagnosis. On the same day that Gase announced Darnold’s mono, he also revealed that Bell is feeling soreness in his shoulder and will undergo an MRI. And on Wednesday, wideout Quincy Enunwa went down with a season-ending neck injury. The bad injury luck doesn’t stop there:

The Jets came into this fall brimming with hope. Just one week into the season, that hope has been replaced by whatever feeling accompanies trying to get excited about an offense led by Trevor Siemian and Bilal Powell. Classic Jets.