In the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, the Jets went for it on fourth-and-1 at San Francisco’s 20-yard line. Although the 49ers’ defensive line left a gap between the center and left guard where quarterback Sam Darnold appeared to have space to take the snap and sneak forward for a first down, Darnold instead handed off to running back Josh Adams, who was stopped for no gain.
So why didn’t Darnold just take what the defense was giving him? He and head coach Adam Gase both said that when Gase made the play call, Darnold didn’t have the authority to audible out of it.
“That’s my call,” Gase said, via ESPN.
Darnold said it’s simple: Gase makes the call and the team runs the play Gase called.
“Adam said it best,” Darnold said. “I don’t have the option to do that. We were worried about executing the play. If we execute the play call, we have a first down and no one would be talking about it.”
Given that Gase’s greatest success in coaching came as the offensive coordinator for Peyton Manning’s Broncos, and given how much the Broncos benefited from Manning’s ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage, it’s surprising that Gase is so rigid that he won’t allow his quarterback to audible in a situation like the fourth-and-1 the Jets faced on Sunday. The Jets went with the play Gase called, and that play came up short.