Sports | August 7, 2020 2:54 pm

Why Is Adam Gase Still Coaching the New York Jets?

Gase's problems in New York began at his introductory press conference last January

Head coach Adam Gase of the New York Jets looks on during the first quarter of a game. (Bryan M. Bennett/Getty)
Head coach Adam Gase of the New York Jets looks on during the first quarter of a game. (Bryan M. Bennett/Getty)
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Over the next six weeks or so, we’ll be preparing for the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season on September 10 by attempting to answer the most important question facing all 32 of the league’s franchises in order of finish from worst to first. Today’s team, the Jets.

No. 22: New York Jets
2019 Record: 7-9

Points For: 276 – Points Against: 359
Projected 2020 Over/Under Win Total: 7

With all eyes on him during his introductory press conference with the Jets last January, Adam Gase became a sports meme in a New York minute.

Though reporters were there to hear how the former Dolphins head coach planned to turn around a Jets team that had finished at 4-12 after back-to-back 5-12 seasons, no one was listening to what was coming out of Gase’s mouth because they were too fixated on his eyes. As it often does, the internet also took notice, and Gase went viral.

“I’m not trying to win Twitter. I’m trying to win football games,” Jets CEO Christopher Johnson ironically said during Gase’s press conference. “To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, he’s coaching to where football is going.”

With Gase at the helm following his memorable introduction, the Jets partially fulfilled Johnson’s desire and won seven football games, an improvement from the three years prior, when Todd Bowles was in charge. But despite the step up, the air of dysfunction and confusion that presented itself at Gase’s first press conference seemed to hang like a cloud over the team throughout the season, and this offseason and the main storyline to come out of Jets nation has done nothing to dissipate it.

Instead of the focus being on the Jets making big improvements to a leaky offensive line that surrendered 52 sacks last season and bolstering their running game by bringing in Frank Gore to spell workhorse Le’Veon Bell, the main story of Gang Green’s offseason was star safety Jamal Adams. In the midst of a prolonged contract dispute with the team, Adams tore into his coach while speaking to Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News late last month.

“I don’t feel like he’s the right leader for this organization to reach the Promised Land,” Adams said of 42-year-old Gase. “As a leader, what really bothers me is that he doesn’t have a relationship with everybody in the building. At the end of the day, he doesn’t address the team. If there’s a problem in the locker room, he lets another coach address the team. If we’re playing shitty and we’re losing, he doesn’t address the entire team as a group at halftime. He’ll walk out of the locker room and let another coach handle it.”

Days after Adams made the comments about his coach, the Jets traded the only player on their roster to make the Pro Bowl in 2019 (along with a fourth-round pick in 2022) to the Seattle Seahawks for safety Bradley McDougald, first-round picks in 2021 and 2022 and a third-round pick in 2021.

While there’s no denying the Jets got back quite a haul for Adams, ownership agreeing to make that trade will not help the team in the upcoming season, and won’t make it any easier for an organization that hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2010 to reverse that trend a decade later.

Whether the two got along personally or not, getting rid of Adams makes Gase’s job harder, as does the subsequent news that four-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley has opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns. Would Mosley have ignored those concerns if Adams was still in New York and it was Gase who was gone? There’s no way to know, but it’s fair to ask.

Gase does still have the support of a player who won’t be going anywhere, franchise quarterback Sam Darnold, who praised his coach following the trade of Adams and refuted the departed superstar’s claim that Gase was not the right man to lead the Jets.

“He’s helped me grow a ton as a quarterback and learning this offense,” Darnold said. “I just think throughout the weeks leading up to games, he does everything that he possibly can to put us in the best position to win on Sundays and that’s from my experience with coach Gase. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with him, so far.” 

The key phrase there? “So far.”

As Darnold, who just turned 23 this summer, is probably aware, this is not a make-or-break season for him. He’s flashed enough talent for an offense that’s been otherwise devoid of it in his first two seasons that a down year in 2020 won’t be enough for the Jets to give up on him.

The same cannot be said of his coach.

A down year from Darnold will almost certainly spell the end for Gase, as it will mean he has failed at the primary job he was brought in to do outside of winning games: bring out the best in his young quarterback.

He certainly didn’t do that last season: even though the Jets were over .500 in the games Darnold started in 2019 (7-6), Gase’s offense finished 31st or 32nd in scoring (31st), total yards (32nd), rushing (31st), Football Outsiders’ rushing efficiency (31st), Football Outsiders’ passing efficiency (32nd), Football Outsiders’ overall efficiency (31st), first downs (31st) and third-down conversion rate (31st).

It’s amazing that an epic offensive outage like that — coupled with justified concerns about his ability to connect with an important player like Adams — didn’t get Gase fired after last season.

Should that happen again and further delay Darnold’s development, it will.