Adam Gase must groom Sam Darnold, defeat ‘same old Jets’ mentality
Adam Gase must groom Sam Darnold, defeat ‘same old Jets’ mentality
Adam Gase has a lot of work to do. He’s taking over one of the worst teams in the league, the New York Jets, who haven’t played in the postseason since 2010. So, no, this isn’t going to be easy, but it doesn’t mean he’s entitled to a long honeymoon.
For one thing, Gase is accustomed to the big chair, so there shouldn’t be a pronounced adjustment period. He dealt with a lot of stuff during his three-year run with the Miami Dolphins, everything from on-the-field adversity (Ryan Tannehill‘s multiple injuries) to bizarre, off-the-field happenings (a cocaine-snorting assistant coach on video). He shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the stress and responsibility of being the head coach.
He also doesn’t get the benefit of the “starting over” alibi that often greets new coaches. The Jets have been starting over for a long time, especially the past two years. The patience of the fan base is exhausted; it doesn’t want to hear “wait till next year” from the organization. Yes, the talent base is below average, but the Jets have the resources to make significant improvement, namely the third pick in the draft and $100 million in cap room.
So, welcome to New York, Adam Gase. Some advice: Win now, stay off Twitter and focus on these five priorities:
Be a quarterback whisperer. Gase got the job in large part because of his work with quarterbacks. One of them, some dude named Peyton Manning, once said Gase is “the smartest guy I know.” No doubt, Manning repeated that line, or something close to it, when he called Jets CEO Christopher Johnson on Tuesday night to recommend his former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator for the job.
Simply put, Gase’s mission is to make Sam Darnold a star. The 21-year-old quarterback is the franchise’s No. 1 asset, which explains why ownership allowed him input into the selection process. Darnold, in a phone interview with ESPN, sounded genuinely excited about Gase after talking with him Monday night via FaceTime.
No quarterback under Gase has ever had a bad season, unless you count Jay Cutler’s out-of-retirement performance in 2017. Gase was Tim Tebow’s position coach when the Broncos made the playoffs in 2011. He was Manning’s playcaller for his record-setting 2013 (55 touchdown passes) and he got Cutler to cut down his interceptions in 2015 (with the Chicago Bears). Tannehill never really improved under Gase, but he missed 24 out of 48 games because of injuries.
Gase’s job is to create an offense that will play to Darnold’s strengths: his ability to improvise and throw on the run.
“There’s a lot to look forward to,” Darnold said. “For him, he just looks at personnel and says, ‘How can we get the most out of our roster, every single guy that’s on our roster?’ When you think like that, there’s a lot of different offenses you can run, based on who you have.”
Create a new level of accountability. One of Gase’s defining early moments with the Dolphins came in 2016, when he cut offensive linemen Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas after two consecutive early losses. He was only five games into his head-coaching career and … bam! Gase, who controlled the 53-man roster in Miami, used his power to send a loud message, one that reverberated for weeks. The Dolphins wound up rallying to make the playoffs.
The Jets need that kind of oomph.
One of Todd Bowles’ shortcomings was that underachieving players never feared for their jobs. There were one or two disciplinary benchings per year (hello, Trumaine Johnson), but he rarely sat down a player because of performance. As a result, they got comfortable, and complacency has no place in an NFL locker room.
Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan did a good job of clearing out most of the bad apples, so Gase won’t inherit many problems. It’ll be fascinating to see how he handles Johnson, a big-money free agent who disappointed on the field and blew off a Week 17 practice. The Jets are stuck with him for another year because of his contract. People who worked with Gase say he won’t tolerate disruptive players, which brings us to another issue:
Eradicate the losing culture. After a crushing November loss to the Dolphins, of all teams, safety Jamal Adams stood in front of his locker and declared, “I’m sick of losing.” Yeah, it can eat away at a player’s spirit, even a strong-minded player such as Adams.
This could be Gase’s biggest challenge. Most of his predecessors have tried and failed to change the culture, because it’s not easy to overturn decades of also-ran status. Bill Parcells did it when he walked in the door in 1997, but he was a larger-than-life presence with Super Bowl rings on his fingers. Gase can be fiery, former colleagues say, but he doesn’t have the pelts. He was 23-25 in Miami, plus 0-1 in the playoffs — hardly the résumé that commands the attention of a team room.
Gase has to convince the players he can make them better. When players sense that in a coach, they will follow him. If they believe he’s feeding them B.S. … well, then he has a problem. The Jets hierarchy believes has a strong enough personality to flip the culture, one of the reasons they hired him over former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
Rebuild the offense. Gase, known as an offensive mastermind, needs to figure out a way to get the Jets back into the land of the living. In the past 20 years they’ve had only one top-10 offense (2015). At times last season, they were an embarrassment, setting marks for futility. When it was over, wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse publicly complained about their roles in Jeremy Bates’ scheme.
Like the rest of the league, the Jets went offense with their coaching hire, hoping to catch up with the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs. Gase is sharp when it comes to X’s and O’s, but the results in Miami were spotty — 31st in total yards from 2016 to 2018, only one 1,000-yard rusher (Jay Ajayi, 2016) and only one 1,000-yard receiver (Landry, 2016).
Look for Gase to make sweeping changes. There are no untouchables on New York’s offense other than Darnold, Enunwa, wide receiver Robby Anderson and tight end Chris Herndon. It’ll be interesting to see if he uses Enunwa in the “Landry” role — possession receiver — which wouldn’t make him happy. He chafed under Bates because he felt restricted to certain pass routes.
Build a staff. Gase’s most important hire will be that of defensive coordinator. A few names have been floated — Gregg Williams, Vance Joseph and Chuck Pagano. The Jets have played a 3-4 base defense since 2006, so it would be fairly radical if they switch to a 4-3. Williams, for instance, prefers a 4-3. If he’s smart, Gase will retain special-teams coordinator Brant Boyer, who revitalized the kicking game last season.
As for Gase, he will run the offense and likely call the plays, as he did in Miami. Under the Jets’ power structure, he won’t have control of the roster, which will allow him to focus on coaching. That’s a good thing. He had too much power in Miami, and that obviously didn’t work out.
January 11, 2019 at 06:00AM