The New York Jets are in a tough spot right now as an organization. They were supposed to be competitive this season after their most important offseason in decades. They’ve been almost the complete opposite under head coach Adam Gase. There have been many excuses for their poor start but those excuses often don’t paint the whole picture. Let’s discuss why there may not be much of reason to use the “wait and see” approach this time.
Conversation around the Jets shortcomings with Adam Gase has become increasingly sympathetic amongst those closer to the team. As questions about Gase’s job security have risen, particularly following a toothless defeat in Miami, excuses have begun to arise as well. The excuses tend to center around these three concepts: injuries, inherited roster/offensive line, and outside perception. Let’s take a closer look at these excuses and whether any of them should mean retaining Adam Gase in 2020.
The Jets have gone through a ton of injuries this season. That cannot be refuted, it’s simply a fact. However, they are not the only team in the NFL going through injuries to key players. In fact, often one of the best ways to measure a coach is how they adapt to injuries. The best coaches in the NFL get the most out of what they have.
Let’s start with the most important position. Multiple contenders have lost their starting quarterbacks for multiple games. The Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars all managed to remain competitive without their starting quarterback in place. Some of those teams even reaching a third option (Colts and Steelers) at a point like the Jets had to. Duck Hodges led the Steelers to a win over the Chargers in his only start, finishing with a 75% completion percentage. Brian Hoyer came in for Jacoby Brissett last week after an injury threw for 3 touchdowns in a close loss to the Steelers.
An additional element to this is that the defense is also feeling the effect of these injuries. Yet somehow they’re still statistically an average defense. While the Jets offense is dead last (32nd) in offensive DVOA, the defense is 19th in defensive DVOA. That’s with no inside linebackers, no security at outside corner, missing Quinnen Williams for multiple games at the start of the season. So why are injuries such a loud excuse for the offense? Gase was brought in to revolutionize the Jets offense. They established early on that the offense was Gase’s domain to own and that Gregg Williams would be the head coach of the defense. It seems like Williams is adapting better with more injuries and less talent. The Jets offense remains abysmal despite having Darnold, Crowder, Bell, and Anderson all healthy.
Another common excuse is that Adam Gase inherited a depleted roster from former GM Mike Maccagnan, particularly along the offensive line. That’s typically mixed with a predictable “even Superman can’t play behind this offensive line” type of joke. First of all, that’s completely false. Superman would be an unstoppable quarterback behind any offensive line. But also, the Jets didn’t make too many changes to their offensive line from last year.
Other than center and left guard, the Jets offensive line has been basically the same. Even now with Chuma Edoga in for Kelvin Beachum, Jonotthan Harrison in for Kalil, and Lewis replacing Osemele, there isn’t really this large gulf in talent with those switches. Beachum is more consistent as a veteran but has had long periods of noticeable pass rush struggles the last two seasons. Kalil has been about on par with Spencer Long’s performance last season. Lewis was considered an upgrade from his play and the fact that Osemele had been playing with one arm. So why are they now suddenly a reason we can’t properly evaluate the offense? They are, in fact, part of the offense. Their failure belongs to the offensive coaching staff. Veterans not knowing protections or how to pick up blitzes? That goes back to the coaching staff. But let’s look even further.
Last year, the offensive line had several games the showed they had some glaring issues. However, their deficiencies were decently compensated for by offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who most agree did an overall poor job last season. In the games where Darnold was able to shine late in the season, the Jets were able to scheme around the offensive line issues. Despite being the worst run blocking line in the NFL, the Jets offensive line managed to finish 18th in adjusted sack rate last season and 23rd in scoring offense. This year they’ve already given up as many sacks as they did all of last season and they are last in almost every meaningful offensive stat: DVOA, points scored, yards per play (almost a full yard less than last season), first downs, and 3rd down conversion rate.
Around the NFL
As with injuries, the Jets are not the only team in the NFL with a deficient offensive line. Kansas City are weekly fielding an offensive line full of uncertainty and injury. With injuries to left tackle Eric Fisher, guard Laurent Tardiff-Duvernay, and guard Andrew Wylie, they’ve had to shuffle bodies and sign players off the street. Football outsiders has them as the 31st ranked run blocking team in the NFL, which is worse than the Jets (30th). However, they’re still 4th in scoring offense, and 2nd in yards per play this season. And that’s with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins all missing multiple games this season. They are clearly succeeding as an offense with a deficient offensive line.
The 49ers have been without starting left tackle Joe Staley for the majority of the season. They’ve also lost starting right tackle, Mike McGlinchey to injury for the last two weeks. In Staley’s place they’ve started Justin Skule, a 6th round pick from the 2019 draft. In McGlinchey’s place they’ve started Daniel Brunskill, who was undrafted in 2017 and most recently played in the AAF for the San Diego Fleet. The 49ers are a top 10 offensive line in run blocking and pass protection, and they’re 6th in scoring as an offense. That shouldn’t even be possible given what we’ve used as excuses for the Jets, right?
Most recently there are concerns that if the Jets decide to move on from Adam Gase, they would risk ruining the appeal of the job. The idea is that other coaches would be scared to take the Jets job out of fear that they could be fired before given time to turn things around. That could not be further from the truth. The mere fact that Joe Douglas took the Jets job is enough evidence.
Soon after Adam Gase strategically and shadily got GM Mike Maccagnan fired just months into Gase’s time with the Jets, they hired Joe Douglas, who was widely considered the best available option in the NFL at the time. I don’t care how close people say Gase and Douglas allegedly are, there was enough instability with the Jets at that time of Maccagnan’s firing for him to say no to the job. Instead, Douglas just used that situation to ask for additional assurance with a 6-year contract.
NFL jobs are few and far in between. When there’s a chance to bump your title, executives and coaches are always going to consider those opportunities. You may not get the absolute best option but there’s no doubt at all there will be coaches available in 2020 that will be an upgrade to the current stuff. If Joe Douglas is as respected as he was reported to be, that should also work to the Jets’ benefit in hiring.
When the Cardinals fired Steve Wilks after one season, the same concerns about outside perception were said about them. They ended up convincing one of the more prominent names to leave a secure college job and take on an NFL job with a struggling GM and as much roster uncertainty as possible. How did they convince Kliff Kingsbury? They gave him control. He promptly traded their second year quarterback and drafted one that fit his offense. The Cardinals took big swings. Now, they’ve gone from one of the worst offenses in the NFL, to a middle of the road offense in one offseason. On top of that, they’ve been competitive week after week and their rookie quarterback is developing at an eye opening rate. You think anybody cares about their hasty decision in the offseason anymore?
Bonus: Sam Darnold
This is really where the conversation starts and ends. Adam Gase was hired to expedite the development of Sam Darnold, the most important player on this Jets team. The hope for this season was that we’d see Darnold picking up where he left off at the end of last season with the previous coaching staff. Especially with the new weapons he got in the offseason in Le’veon Bell, and Jamison Crowder. However, what we’ve seen from Darnold in the games he has played this season, is an alarming regression.
His worst pre-draft flaws, some of which that seemed to be coached out last season with the previous coaching staff, have appeared again. His footwork is poor, his decision making is poor, and his ball security is a concern. It’d be one thing if Darnold is just not reaching the next level. The last thing you wanted from this season is for him to take a step back. His interception percentage is up to 5.2% from 3.6% last season. While his completion percentage is up, his yards per attempt is down. Darnold is completing first downs on 30.4% of his pass attempts in 5 starts. That’s well below Kyle Allen’s 37.7% in 6 starts for the Panthers (an undrafted backup quarterback).
You cannot have Darnold struggling as he has and not thinking about moving on from Adam Gase. That’s on top of poor team discipline (top 5 in penalties), lack of second half adjustments, and everything we’ve alluded to earlier. That cannot be acceptable.
The calls to “wait and see” with Adam Gase are somewhat misguided. Yes, fans can be reactionary but sometimes the popular opinion is actually parallel to the right decision. Dragging this coaching staff into the 2020 season because they just discovered Mike Maccagnan was a bad GM and that injuries happen in the NFL would be a complete waste of Darnold’s rookie contract. It shouldn’t be that difficult to dissect multiple failing aspects of the New York Jets organization with clarity. In fact, they should’ve done that more effectively last year and fired both Todd Bowles and Maccagnan at the same time. Who knows where we’d be now if they did.