Guest Column: Darker Gase Ahead ... by Brian Bassett

Welp, it's official!

While I've not written about it in-depth before this about Adam Gase, I've certainly spent too much time ranting on Twitter and you can also find my vitriol frozen in time from last week in these two podcasts. First the night of the deal with John B. on Locked On, then again the next morning with Travis and Josh on T.A.N.Y..

With some time, I still have a tough time stomaching the hire, but maybe it is as much about Adam Gase as much as the process by which he was hired. The concerns about candidates' staffs, the unwillingness to change the reporting structure ... it is those things coupled with Gase that make the situation in January seem all the more worrisome.

Still, what's done is done.

Below in this article I will sketch out some reasoning on why Gase is a serious concern, then thereafter I'll make some arguments against myself. Feel free to skip ahead to the positives section if you don't want to see some new-ish takes on old stuff that's already been kicked around for days.

Adam Gase hasn't proven anything.
To date, Gase had his best results when he worked with Peyton Manning at the absolute height of his powers — a time in Manning's career where the quarterback needed an offensive coordinator as much as he needed another debilitating neck injury.

Since working with Manning it's been all downhill. Gase followed John Fox to Chicago and coordinated a top ten offense that had more to do with Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and a half season of Alshon Jeffrey. Then with the opportunity to become a head coach and knowing a major part of his charter in Miami would be to level up Ryan Tannehill, Gase proved unequipped to the task. In 2019, Ryan Tannehill being bad at football is self-evident, but if Gase is so smart and excellent at football as those around him have said, how did he not see Tannehill's fatal flaws going in?

There is also the problem that Sean McVay is the next great NFL copycatting craze. And if the focus is on exteriors, then Adam Gase makes a passable low-fidelity analog. But what makes Sean McVay great is not his youth or his offensive focus.

What's worse? It seems like Gase needed Peyton Manning's help to get him both his head coaching jobs. Last Friday, former Dolphin linebacker and WQAM host Channing Crowder told WFAN's CMB Show that Peyton Manning did this same thing with the Dolphins three years ago. Manning used his influence to stump for Gase. And now we have another reason for Peyton Manning to get more credit for Adam Gase's career than Gase himself.

Adam Gase appears to be painfully strongheaded ...
While people praise Gase's pivoting the focus of his 2016 offense from (the terrible) Ryan Tannehill to RB Jay Ajayi, flexibility isn't a hallmark of his career. Just a year later Ajayi was shipped to Philadelphia on a sub-optimal trade deadline deal. Ajayi's alleged crimes can be found in this PR sales job to fans by Armando Salguero from 2017.

Over the last three years, there's been a lot of bad apple talk in Miami. During that time, the Dolphins have scapegoated Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas, Dallas Thomas, Jay Ajayi, Byron Maxwell, Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and at the end of the 2018 season, Reshad Jones. Add in that Gase wound up having a fraught relationship with Dophins owner Stephen Ross and now we're at least able to have a conversation about self sabotage. While I don't really care about coaches "getting along" with players, Gase's list of contentious relationships with players only grew the longer the more time he spent in Miami.

To quote Raylan Givens:

Salary cap can be blamed for some of these moves, but bad apple talk like Ajayi's is still easy to find for those cap concern players. It is clear that Gase struggled keeping even his "star" players focused and motivated and he did so in a way that adversely effected the ability to field their best team and therefore win football games. It is fair to argue that Adam Gase has been willfully inefficient with his resources.

That is never a good thing when one play or player could mean the difference.

Could Gase learn his lessons and play nice? Maybe for a while. But losses, player issues and time only increase the likelihood of the same antics from Miami repeating themselves. Gase won't have the same latitude in New York, but in Miami he proved unfit for the task of holding coaching and personnel decisions. Lacking that personnel authority might prove too restrictive for Gase ... and that's when the real fun could start between him and Maccagnan.

Hoo boy.

... and painfully thirsty
With only 32 head coaching positions, it is hard to blame Gase for taking no time between head coaching stints. The other edge of that sword is that if he fails in New York he might never get another head coaching opportunity. That impatience smacks of thirstiness, or at least a lack of belief in himself that he'll have another opportunity in the next five years. And as the memory of Manning fades, he may have a point.

Gase is going from a situation where he had strong influence in personnel (any coach's dream) to one in which he might not even have had final say on his coaching staff. From Jason LaCanfora on why McCarthy (at least the Jets dodged that bullet for Darnold) didn't get the job:

Talks broke down essentially over the issue of staffing, sources said, before it reached the stage where the job was outright offered to McCarthy.


Adam Gase, who accepted the position, will have a staff of experienced NFL coaches coming in with him, which could include ...

Gregg. Fucking ... Williams???
Yes yes, Gregggggg Fucking Williams, but first, let's talk about Vance Joseph. Vance Joseph worked with Gase as his DC in Miami in 2016 and there were plenty of reports that Joseph was in the mix for the Jets DC gig. So why did Joseph go work with Arizona's Kliff Kingsbury — a coach he's never worked with instead of Gase? Did Joseph refuse to work with Gase again? Did Jets ownership stump for Williams?

As of now, Williams has not signed on officially. Maybe he's perusing those zillion head coaching offers he received. Whatever the reason, if was Adam Gase and I had another shot as an NFL head coach and I had no interest in running the defense, I still wouldn't delegate half of my team to Gregg Williams. Bounty scandal aside, Gregg Williams recent successes with the Rams and Browns had more to do with the talent on the field than Williams himself.

Regardless, we also saw Williams grossly misuse safeties like Jabrill Peppers ... it's actually a thing on Twitter.

How is this going to work out for Jamal Adams? I sure as hell hope it's not going to be like this.

OK ... that was far too long ... onto the reasons for Gase ... whether I believe them or not ...

Argument #1: We put more stock in coaching than we should.

Over the past few years, I have become a firm believer that coaching matters less than many think. The point is, good coaching helps on the margins. As Todd Bowles proved, bad coaching actively works against a team in innovation, aggressiveness and game management.

Like ... say putting your safety 30 fucking yards from the line of scrimmage on a 2nd & 1.

This means that we often like and hate coaches for all the wrong reasons. Coaching and talent tend to get jumbled together for fans and (clutch your pearls, Jets beat reporters!) media alike.

Let's hope coaching matters less than we believe it does. As much as I am worried about Gregg Williams scheme, he does admit that when it comes to it, it is up to his playcaller on the field. And hey, maybe Jamal Adams is good enough that lining him up 30 yards off the ball won't matter. :pray:

In the end, it is always more about the level of talent on the field. Depending on how you feel about Mike Maccagnan? That could be a warm blanket or an emotional prison for the next three years.

When it comes to Gase, the hope is he should know enough to get coaching out of the fucking way for players like Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold.

Argument #2: Sammy Likes It

Darnold broke out early in college and is one of the youngest players to make a start at QB in the NFL and his NFL breakout at the end of the 2018 season was fun to watch. Best comparable? Not too shabby.

I am always wary of anointing anyone after one season, but Darnold's profile coming out of school has been confirmed in what we saw from him in his first year. I've already seen more talent from Sam Darnold in one season than I saw from Mark Sanchez in all his time with the Jets. Darnold's talent, arm-strength, tenacity and mastery of the offense indicate good things in his future.

Gase has to know a great quarterback is his meal ticket. If Gase can actually enhance Darnold's play rather than meddle with it as Todd Bowles and Jeremy Bates did, then we might be off to a solid start.

Argument #3: One Weird Trick to Finding High-Caliber NFL Head Coaches

While it is easy to blame Ryan Tannehill's injuries and terribleness for Gase's demise in Miami, there is data that might prove Gase might actually be a coach who can in fact help on the margins. From Danny Heifertz on The Ringer

Gase has also been a strong in-game coach, and not just because of the Miami Miracle. As ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe noted earlier this month, Miami leads the league in winning percentage in one-score games since Gase was hired in 2016, ahead of second-place New England. While one-score games can be coin flips over the long run, the teams who are at extreme ends of the spectrum over a certain period often can point to coaches who are either quite good (Bill Belichick) or quite bad (Hue Jackson) late in games as a reason. Who knows what Gase could have accomplished had he been given the chance to groom a young quarterback in Miami ...? The Dolphins will join the laundry list of teams looking for the next Sean McVay, but they may have just let an earlier version go.

The venerable Bill Barnwell is a proponent of using this method as a way to determine how much a team might have overachieved or underachieved. But to Heifertz's point, the larger the sample size, the more likely it might be a heuristic to whether a coach is actually good or not.

The Jets were 1-6 in one score games in 2018 and the Dolphins were 5-1. This is a statistic that I will be watching closely in Gase's time with the Jets. It might be the bellweather for me eating crow on my assessment of Adam Gase.

That said, Evan Silva had a pretty good tweet about those close wins by Adam Gase.

Argument #4: Gase has a knack for finding marginal talent (he just has no clue how to properly value it)

During Gase's time in Miami, it must be noted that the Dolphins found some interesting wide receivers that were compelling from an analytics perspective. Thanks to his college dominator rating, Leonte Carroo seemed like a diamond in the Rutgers rough. Similarly, Jakeem Grant's athleticism and prolific special teams work made him a compelling priority UDFA. Instead, the Dolphins traded up for Carroo and drafted Grant in the sixth round. In a vacuum, I love taking shots on those types of players. It is that I hate the value the Dolphins assigned in acquiring them.

This trouble with identifying -> valuation can also be seen at running back with Gase. During his time in Miami, Gase cut Damien Williams and shipped Jay Ajayi out the door. Both have proved extremely valuable since leaving Miami and actually fit that three-down profile.

In Gase's quest for the coveted three down back, he's had two in-hand, but overcompensated for pass-catching skills in both Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage. Both are solid receivers, but don't have the Body-Mass Index or college dominance rushing the ball to make them effective bangers no matter how much Gase wanted them to be.

With lots of deficiencies to address, some high-priced free agents at running back and an expected weak 2016 draft class of running backs, the Jets have two choices:

  • Pay up for a star running back.
  • Go cheap route — let Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon battle out third down duties and find an early-down grinder (like Isaiah Crowell for instance!) to pair with one of them.

Wrap it up, Bassett

Who knows? Maybe Gase is a super deep sleeper agent for Nick Saban and Bill Belichick.

The truth is here that my gut reaction seems grounded and I'm comfortable playing the odds:

  • Mike Maccagnan has been more wrong than right about anything beyond first round draft picks.
  • The internet has basically no memory of Chris Johnson or his business activities, which makes a leap to running a multibillion dollar enterprise all the less likely.
  • Adam Gase has proven little beyond an enduring respect from Peyton Manning, a good record in closely contested games and a history of spotty relationships with players

I am hoping and praying that my initial assessment of this coaching hire by the New York Jets is completely wrong. In fact I've never wanted to be wrong about something so much in a long time. Whatever happens, know that I'll be around on JetsFix elated and laughing at my stupid self or suffering and waiting for whatever comes next.

With free agency and the draft process already starting up, I'll be back here soon enough to share my hopes for how the Jets build the right team around Sam Darnold and Jamal Adams. Until then!

BRIAN BASSETT is the "blogfather" of the Jets fanbase as he has been blogging about the Jets for almost 15 years. You can follow Brian on twitter here.