With week one of Free Agency off to hot start around the league, Jets GM Joe Douglas has taken a simple, understated, and intelligent approach to put his stamp on the team. His best move thus far is undoubtedly Connor McGovern, the versatile interior offensive lineman from Denver – smart, durable, and penalty free – I like the sound of that! Douglas has taken other measures (George Fant, Josh Andrews, Greg Van Roten, re-signing Alex Lewis) as well to stick to his promise of bolstering a struggling offensive line unit from 2019. The bottom line is that he has placed focus in arguably the most important area of a team, when his predecessors spent years neglecting it. Now, will these moves pan out? Time will tell. But there is nowhere to go but up for this unit.
As Jets fans know all too well, the NFL season isn’t won in March. While blind faith has been put in Douglas to build this team the right way (finally!), they still have to compete come September. Although it seems nearly 100% of the Jets fans out there have all put our eggs in the Joe Douglas basket, it’s fair to say that the jury is still out on the man who will be leading Douglas’ assembled roster as we kickoff the 2020 season: Adam Gase.
Now we’ve had nearly three months to ponder the 2019 season, so allow me to assess the fearless leader of the New York Jets with a 3-up and 3-down on the good and the bad with Adam Gase…
1. His relationship with Sam Darnold is hard to discount. Yes, Darnold is 22 years old. Yes, he has had only two head coaches in his short NFL career. And yes, despite Darnold’s apparent maturity for such a young person, it’s hard to believe that he really knows what’s best for him. However, despite all that, we can’t simply disregard how highly Darnold speaks of Gase and how strong their relationship appears to be. Gase was brought in for one primary reason: to work with Sam Darnold and build him into the Quarterback we all think he can be. This has to start with a solid relationship between the two, and that foundation has clearly been built. If you don’t believe it, I’d encourage you to listen to Sam Darnold’s appearance on the “4th & Forever” podcast with our old friend, Mark Sanchez.
2. His outlook on discipline. I have to tread carefully with this one, as I know what this can look like. However, before we make judgments, I would caution us all to remember where we came from. Between Rex Ryan (the ultimate player’s coach) and Todd Bowles, the term “accountability” seemed foreign. Toward the end of their tenures, it appeared as though Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson had carte blanche over their schedules and which meetings they’d like to attend. So, I’d ask you to relate this back to your own personal lives… if you inherited a (enter your occupation choice here) team where any sort of discipline was non-existent, wouldn’t that be one of the first things you tackled? This is the same situation for Gase. He inherited a team where accountability was completely forgotten, and while I may disagree with some of his tactics (posting Quincy Enunwa’s fine on a TV screen), at least he has recognized that there is an issue and he is drawing a line in the sand that no one should cross. Players need to be held accountable and to a standard, and Gase is doing just that.
3. The 2019 Finish. In all three positives that I have dug for to see the bright side of Adam Gase, there are certainly caveats. In this one, he clearly capitalized on a soft schedule down the stretch to go 6-2 in his final 8 games to finish the season 7-9. However, it shouldn’t be discredited simply because of the level of teams they played. Every Jets’ fan would be singing a different tune if they started 3-5 (instead of 1-7) and that 6-2 finish got the team to a wild card spot. You can only play who is in front of you, and despite how they did it, the Jets won 6 of their final 8 games. For every reason we blame Gase for the 1-7 start, credit should be given for the finish. Winning close games has been something that this Jets team has failed to do during this nine-year drought, and Gase managed to prove that he has the ability to do it.
1. System Trumps Talent. This was a fear of mine when Gase was hired, and it was quickly proven true in the 2019 season. Gase has a belief that his system is more important than the talent that you put into it, evidenced by his misuse of Le’Veon Bell, inability to get Sam Darnold on the move, and a myriad of questionable roster decisions. Let’s start with Bell. Bell has a unique running style and was forced to run behind a subpar offensive line. However, is it coincidence that Bell’s undoubted worst year as a professional was his first year in Gase’s system? I don’t think so. Bell was rarely used in the slot or in any other creative way, and somehow still amassed 66 catches primarily on checkdowns.
Darnold’s sneaky mobility was barely utilized in Gase’s offense by design. Some of his best plays were by improvisation (see Robby Anderson vs. Oakland or Daniel Brown TD vs. Washington) but Gase still decided to try to make Darnold a statue in the pocket. Hey, Peyton Manning did it.
All signs point to Gase being less concerned about how to build an offense tailored to his playmakers, and more concerned with finding players that fit his style. The history of successful NFL franchises suggest that the former is the way to go.
2. Stubbornness. This goes hand in hand with number one, but Adam Gase has proven to be stubborn in more ways than one. First example is his coaching staff. Does anyone believe that the best people to have in the head of a franchise quarterback are Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains and their stellar history of success (are you picking up my sarcasm?)? The answer is unequivocally no. What they should do is surround themselves with as much knowledge as possible to challenge their thinking to make Darnold the best quarterback he can be. The best leaders surround themselves with smart people and collaborate. The worst leaders always think they’re the smartest person in the room. Which one does Gase sound like?
Gase’s stubborn side also showed in his gameplans. Game after game, the Jets would come screaming out of the gates but continuously falter after the first drive and show an inability to make adjustments. That’s coaching. The best coaches (Andy Reid, Bill Belichick) alter their plans of attack based on what they are seeing from the competition, not continue to be the same one-trick pony who fails to adjust. Gase’s game plans are similar to Papa Doc’s freestyles in “8 Mile.” They’re good when planned but he can’t respond when B-Rabbit claps back with a “This guy ain’t no MC, I know everything he’s got to say against me…” (how’s that for a reference?)
3. Offensive Production. This one is easy. Gase was brought in because he was, according to Christopher Johnson, “coaching where football is going.” Many Jets fans despised the hire because they knew too well what they were getting into, but found some solace in the fact that he was an offensive minded coach. Au contraire, my friends. Despite riding Peyton Manning’s coat tails to two head coaching jobs, Gase’s offensive production doesn’t seem to jive with his offensive “genius” status. A quick look at the numbers:
• 2016 – 17th in points, 24th in yards
• 2017 – 28th in points, 25th in yards
• 2018 – 26th in points, 27th in yards
• 2019 – 31st in points, 32nd in yards
Yikes. Need I say more?
Overall, Gase has qualities (if you dig deep) that make you believe he has the chance to be successful. The question becomes whether or not he is self-reflective enough to recognize his shortcomings and adjust. Is he the guy to lead the Jets to the promised land? My gut says no. But in reality, Joe Douglas and Sam Darnold are more important pieces. And if both perform, it could be enough to overcome Adam Gase’s inefficiencies.