"I just keep thinking, 'He's 23, none of this can be easy,'" Gase said Monday, adding that he spoke with Darnold on Sunday night. "He's a guy that did so much good in college and won a lot of football games. Things haven't always gone as smoothly as everybody always hopes when they get to the NFL."
The Jets haven't won any games this season, as Darnold -- expected to make a big jump in the second year under Gase -- has shown signs of regression. The slump has fueled questions about Darnold's future, with speculation the Jets might draft Clemson star Trevor Lawrence if they land the top pick.
In Sunday's 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Darnold passed for only 120 yards with two interceptions for a 31.1 passer rating, the second-lowest of his career. It was a horrible offensive performance by the Jets (0-7), who managed only four yards in the second half -- the team's fewest yards in a half in 40 years.
Gase absolved Darnold of any blame, putting it squarely on the offensive line, which allowed six sacks. Gase said "it was collapsing quick on him" and he "didn't have a lot of time to throw the ball." When he did, the throws were tight-window attempts.
In five starts, Darnold has twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (three). His numbers have declined from last season in all the major statistical categories.
Gase, hired to develop Darnold, insisted his pupil isn't going backward.
"If you look at it statistically, we're not good anywhere statistically," he said. "What I see in practice a lot of times, I see things that were better than last year. When we get to games, we just have to figure out a way to protect him and let him get in rhythm. I saw some really good things the first half [Sunday]. Then it started getting really muddy in the second half."
Darnold said he remains upbeat, although he admitted his interception at the end of the first half was "a terrible mistake, something I truly feel won't happen again." He called it a "dumb decision," a pass into heavy coverage.
He was under duress throughout the game, as the Bills cranked up their safety blitzes in the second half. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, calling plays for the first time, had no answers.
The rebuilt offensive line was supposed to be improved this season, but it has allowed 24 sacks.
"I think everyone is frustrated. I don't think it's unique to Sam," guard Greg Van Roten said. "We need to put him in a position to be successful. If we, as an offensive line, are playing like we did [Sunday], we're not giving him a chance to show what he can do.
"And that's not fair to him. That's not fair to the team."