The Adam Gase era lasted two seasons, but the burden left behind creates an uphill battle for the New York Jets.
At what point does a new football regime officially “own” its respective organization’s ledger? The unspoken accords of college football appear to dictate that if his team isn’t performing by his third season at the helm, he’s to seek employment elsewhere. The leash is even shorter in the NFL with patience wearing especially thin in the New York/New Jersey area.
Both the Jets and Giants bid two of their respective head coaches farewell after two seasons of futility. The blue representative, Pat Shurmur, quickly found work as the offensive coordinator in Denver, while Adam Gase’s redemption story has yet to be greenlit.
The January firing of Gase has allowed the tenure of general manager Joe Douglas to officially begin. Douglas wasn’t the one who hired Gase…that general manager, Mike Maccagnan, was let go before Gase ever wore a New York headset. Thus, the former Philadelphia Eagles executive has a bit of a restart button through the hiring of Robert Saleh, a hire that received positive reviews both domestically and abroad. The pair have admitted that it will take some time, but that they are committed to getting the Jets back in contention.
But, through little fault of their own…particularly Saleh and his clean green slate…the new unit remains sidelined by the ghosts of the Gase era.
As star-crossed as the Jets’ fortunes have been, few coaches reached the levels of futility seen during the Gase era. Among those that lasted two full seasons on the Jets’ sidelines, only Rich Kotite’s cursed squads posted a lower win percentage (9-23 vs 4-28). Gase’s group even managed to best Kotite’s dubiousness in some aspects. For example, the 2020 Jets lost their first 13 games…even Kotite’s notorious 1996 team (1-15) managed to secure a win by Halloween.
The Jets have managed to keep busy with the NFL’s legal tampering period well underway. Over the past 48 hours, the Jets have upgraded their defense, their offensive weaponry, and their special teams. Each of their acquisitions makes the Jets a better team. Sure, part of the reason for that is because there’s little room to truly fall further, but a plethora of cap space has created shrewd deals that have yielded a rising talent in the front-seven (Carl Lawson), an affordable audition for a former first-round linebacker with 4-3 experience (Jarrad Davis), a reliable weapon for the quarterback, be it Sam Darnold or otherwise (Corey Davis), and a defender to help pin opponents deep on punt coverage (Justin Hardee).
Yet, it’s not like Jets fans soothed themselves in 2020 with dreams of adding Jarrad Davis. With a plethora of cap space, the time seemed right to make a truly big splash, one that could welcome fans back to MetLife Stadium with open, hopeful arms. Even if it wasn’t the type of addition that tore up box scores, the Jets could’ve used the money to bolster their blocking, a long-gestating and neglected endeavor that got off to a strong start through the drafting of Mekhi Becton. Even Patrick Mahomes was neutralized when key pieces of his protection were lost prior to the Super Bowl.
But that’s when the reminders of the Gase era began to rise and create further losses for the Jets.
Jets fans have no doubt kept track of Joe Thuney’s career over the last two years. The team expressed interest in him when he was up for free agency last season, but the interior blocker was franchise tagged by his New England employers before anyone else could make a move. Thurst onto the open market this time around, Thuney was indeed lured away from the Patriots…through a five-year, $80 million contract from Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Former Green Bay Packer Corey Linsley switching shades of green could’ve helped the Jets resolve a center situation that has been in limbo since Nick Mangold’s retirement. The defending All-Pro, however, will instead hit the west coast and join the Los Angeles Chargers.
These early developments…the operative term being early…should be viewed with a bit of an asterisk. There’s plenty of time for the Jets to recover and earn themselves a stronger grade, all while acknowledging that an instant fix before the offseason lets out probably isn’t going to happen. But the Gase era has left this team in a precarious position.
Name-brand recognition through a city alone isn’t a selling point in this day and age. The NBA’s New York Knicks have spent the past decade learning this lesson the hard way. The Jets were a bit of a tough sell as it was; they’re the current owners of the longest postseason drought in the NFL and social media has amplified every little green mistake into viral disasters.
But it isn’t just the on-field woes from the Gase era that have the Jets reeling. What elite free agent is going to look at the way Gase handled things and declare “I want in on that”?
Every week, Gase had to be armed with two gameplans: one for the opponent and one for whichever superstar was feeling disgruntled. The usual suspects were Le’Veon Bell and Jamal Adams, a talented pair who have long abandoned their Jets equipment. Before the 2020 season began, Bell had to publicly insist that he and Gase “like(d) each other“. Less than a month later, Bell was bound for Kansas City. The lasting effects of the Gase era can well be witnessed through comments by Marcus Maye’s agent. Apparently disgruntled with the way the Adams situation was handled, Burkhart went on a mini-rant that has gotten only a quick passing reference since Maye was franchise tagged earlier this month. The comments showed just showed how a sense of mistrust has risen throughout the organization since Gase arrived in 2019.
The fact of the matter is that Douglas can bestow a big contract and evaluate talent with better resources than anyone in football. But the damage left behind in the wake of the Gase era has put the Jets in an even tougher situation. That might not fully be on Gase, but, as the most public face behind this most recent stretch of struggling, he’ll ultimately be the face behind it…even if he’s not the one who winds up suffering from it.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags