Even before Joe Douglas called him “part of the solution”, the New York Jets seemed to be creating a bond with their embattled head coach.
There’s little, if anything, to look forward to over the rest of this New York Jets season. The Jets (0-8) have eight games left on their 2020 ledger, and it’s more than likely they won’t be favored in any of them. Even with colder weather on its way, fans in their metropolitan area are blessed with enough activities, many of the holiday variety, to keep them occupied while they seek to avoid joining the Lions and Browns as the only team to record an imperfect 16-game season.
Silver linings have been few and far in between. Decent first half showings that would passable at best elsewhere…only in modern New York football is a 21-9 halftime deficit considered a step in the right direction…have come over the past two weeks, but they’ve done nothing to trim an average margin of defeat away from three possessions. The only reassurances Jets fans have from a football standpoint is that things have become so dreary that maintaining the status quo would be probable cause to relegate the team to The Spring League. But the inevitable purge has brought forth a light at the end of the green tunnel, one the Jets are scheduled to reach after their Week 17 tilt in New England. Many foresee that light coming in the form of a pink slip to Adam Gase.
It’s easy to see why Jets fans think of Gase in a lame-duck position. The supposed offensive guru currently has the Jets positioned at or near the bottom of almost every major stat ranking. Their closest margin of defeat was a nine-point showing in a Thursday night defeat to Denver…a game that saw the Broncos roll out a third-string, undrafted quarterback for his de facto NFL debut. Gase turned over control of the play calls to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, and the Jets showed progress: they held a 10-0 lead on the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills before reality set in and scored on each of their first three drives against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. The 2020 success of former Gase disciples…Ryan Tannehill, Robby Anderson among them…only serves as further proof that the second-year man might not be the right name for the Jets to advance their perpetual rebuild. Current franchise building blocks have only seemed to regress as well. Sam Darnold’s struggles have the Jets on the path toward an endeavor for Trevor (Lawrence) while fourth-round project La’Mical Perine continues to struggle for carries behind a 37-year-old Frank Gore.
But events over this traumatic first half of football certainly suggest that Gase is part of the Jets’ uncertain future.
Emerging from an understandable seclusion earlier this week, Jets general manager Joe Douglas, provided those calling for Gase’s firing a late Halloween scare by hinting a long-term future for the former Miami Dolphins boss.
“I have to do a better job for all these coaches and players, and the hope is that we can fix these problems together and be here together for a while,” Douglas said of he and Gase’s relationship per video provided by the Jets. “I’m going to say that this is not all on Adam. Again, I have to do a better job of surrounding him with better players and better weapons. We’re in this together. I’m going through and thinking of everything I can do to try to help Sam, or help Adam. The goal is to get this fixed together.”
Douglas’ words, effectively taking a bullet for Gase, are admirable in the sense that he’s not trying to absolve himself of the blame for this disaster of a season, even if his first draft pick with the team (Mekhi Becton) seems to be one of the few silver linings the squad has going for it. But they’ve still got Jets fans buzzing with even more fury and anger. Analysts have used the opportunity to break out the “Same Old Jets” or “Just End The Season” tropes that arise at the slightest hint of Gang green controversy.
But, in reality, Douglas’ words shouldn’t come across as shocking. Through his nearly two years at the helm, Gase has slowly ingrained himself into the Jets’ franchise. That much is evident through the series of moves made in a relative fire sale that ended with the NFL’s trade deadline on Tuesday.
Gase has emerged as the victor in several rumored power battles throughout the organization. Before he even appeared in his first game, he won out over Mike Maccagnan, leaving the Jets to fire the incumbent general manager Mike Maccagnan after their 2019 draft process was completed. Right from the get-go, Gase might’ve provided himself a hidden failsafe, whether it was intentional or not: if the Jets lost immediately, the fallen Maccagnan could serve as a scapegoat of sorts, a built-in excuse of being unable to win a team that wasn’t “his”.
It more or less worked in the first season. The Jets started last season 1-7 before they took advantage of a weak final slate (that included wins over eliminated interconference foes and a playoff-bound Bills team resting starters) to finish 7-9. Even with such a brutal start (including a Monday night shutout against New England, a seemingly impossible task in today’s offense-worshipping NFL) and the quicker trigger fingers of NFL decisionmakers (just ask Steve Wilks about his stay in Arizona), it never felt like Gase was truly in danger. But the strong finish seemed to mask the underlying problems that still linger in the organization.
Anderson lasted a season under Gase’s watch, a season that would become his last in New York green. The receiver now serves as a building block in a more stable rebuild in Carolina. Speaking with Josina Anderson (unrelated) on the latter’s web series Undefined, the current Panther seemed to take a subtle shot at Gase’s offensive game plan, one that seemed to treat him solely as a deep threat.
“I love being in this system because for so long it was, ‘Oh, he’s only a deep threat,’” Anderson said. “It used to eat me up because I’m like, ‘I know what I can do.’ I love that I’m in this offense, where I really get to catch and run and play football.”
The dismissal of Anderson, one where the Jets seemed to make no real effort to retain his services, appeared to be foreshadowing the coming purge of franchise faces that has accompanied this winless start. Douglas was able to soothe the blow of Jamal Adams more or less napalming each and every one of his New York bridges by netting multiple first-rounders, but they wound up releasing Le’Veon Bell outright weeks later. The timing of Bell’s departure was made all the more ironic by the news breaking in the midst of Ryan Tannehill’s four-touchdown performance for a then-unbeaten Titans teams in a blowout win over Buffalo. Defensive veteran Steve McLendon was the next to go, trade to Tampa Bay for third-day draft picks.
If the Jets are willing to give up on such vital names before they give up on Gase…that should tell Jets fans all they need to know about who they see as vital to this team’s future.
Granted, we’ve seen the general manager’s vote of confidence ultimately serve more as a kiss of death rather than any form of extension. But, the fact of the matter is that the possibility of Gase sticking around shouldn’t be so shocking. Even if the Jets do manage to preserve the goose egg in their win column, there’s precedent for the head coach who worked with it to make a return (Hue Jackson was welcomed back after the Browns’ most infamous campaign in 2017).
If this is indeed the case, then Gase must make the most of his opportunities. Though the Jets have relatively little to lose from a team-standpoint (besides the whole triple-zero win percentage things), there’s time to at least provide hope for the future, much like they did last season. The first opportunity to do so comes in a bizarre Monday night game against New England at MetLife Stadium (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN). At least on the surface, Gase appears to be shaking off Douglas’ words and plans to go all out in an attempt to place further egg on the face of the struggling Patriots, who have had the Jets numbers for years on end.
“I never look at waving a white flag, that’s not in my DNA,” Gase said in Jets video. “This is our profession. When things like this happen, guys aren’t ever going to be shocked by this, like we’re in a profession of we got to win games, when we don’t, things change, and younger guys get opportunities to play.”
Gase appears to be sticking around for the long haul, in part thanks to Douglas’ words. It’s time for him to repay the favor.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags