Adam Gase

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Lichtenstein: Volatile Gase Has Potential To Be As Wacky As Jets’ Process That Hired Him

Steve Lichtenstein
January 10, 2019 - 1:19 pm
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If the Adam Gase era plunges the Jets into another search for a head coach in a couple of years, as some are predicting, will Peyton Manning call Jets owner Christopher Johnson and say, “My bad.”

No one but Johnson knows for sure how much of an impact, if any, the future Hall of Fame quarterback’s reported telephone call weighed on the Jets’ decision on Wednesday to hire Gase to replace fired head coach Todd Bowles.

On the other hand, considering how odd this process developed, why would anyone expect that the Jets knew what they were doing on their own?

Gase was allegedly not Gang Green’s first choice. It wasn’t Mike McCarthy, the ex-Packers coach who garnered the majority (though it was far from unanimous) of the unofficial fan vote, either.

No, Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan supposedly tried talking Baylor University coach Matt Rhule into jumping into the turbulent NFL waters for the first time in a head coaching role. Rhule was an assistant offensive line coach for the Giants in 2012.

The stumbling block, per various media reports, was that Rhule’s lack of NFL experience and connections led to Maccagnan demanding some level of oversight into Rhule’s staff selections. That’s typically a nonstarter for any coach, especially one that needed to be swayed to move out of his comfort zone.

I noted yesterday that choosing a college coach for this job would have been outrageously negligent, so on one hand, the Gase hire could have been worse.

But it wasn’t the best choice, either. That would have been McCarthy.

LISTEN: Joe Benigno, Evan Roberts Fume Over Jets Hiring Adam Gase

Gase, who was let go by Miami on Black Monday, owns a mediocre 23-25 career head coaching record after a dismal 7-9 2018 campaign. He has a solid offensive background from prior gigs as an assistant with Denver and Chicago, but none of those clubs had a quarterback anywhere near as young as the Jets Sam Darnold, 21. Manning threw 55 and 39 touchdowns with Gase calling the Broncos’ plays from 2013-14, but that’s not exactly an example of Gase’s player development skills.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, however, never really made much of a leap in his three seasons playing for Gase. Injuries played a significant part with that, but it’s also true that the team functioned best when its running game was the engine in 2016. Last season, Miami was 31st in total yards, 30th in passing yards, and 26th in points. Tannehill was 20th in quarterback rating but 32nd among 33 qualifying signal-callers in QBR. The Athletic.com reported that Darnold spoke with Gase over the phone several times in advance of the final decision and was said to be thrilled. Since Darnold never had a bad word to say about Bowles or his incompetent offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, I wouldn’t vouch for Darnold’s honesty here. Darnold is probably a little excited, because Gase, who is expected to bring along offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains from Miami, will give the franchise its first coach with an offensive bent since the depressing end of Rich Kotite’s reign in 1996. Gase is also the first with prior NFL head coaching experience since Bill Parcells departed after the 1999 season (not counting Bill Belichick’s subsequent one-day tenure).

The bigger issue with Gase, as I noted in a prior post, is with his interpersonal skills. I mentioned the turmoil in Miami from Gase’s battles with owner Stephen Ross over personnel and the reported friction in the Dolphins’ locker room. He is a straight shooter in a business where sometimes subtlety is the better form of communication. Gase has a reputation of being thin-skinned when dealing with the media, which can get coaches in all kinds of trouble in this market.

This is just speculation, but I think Gase’s personality might have been deemed a plus by the Jets’ search committee. I can see how they may have grown tired of watching the media roll over Bowles and his short, stock responses to criticisms. They may have been looking for someone to stand up and fight for the organization. Rhule is not known to be as cantankerous, but he also must have made quite an impression on the Jets’ brass with his fiery demeanor to get as far as he did in the process. McCarthy, meanwhile, has a history of being much more even-keeled.

The only other reason I could see the Jets choosing Gase over McCarthy is money. I have not seen reports that detailed the compensation in Gase’s deal or what McCarthy would have asked for, but I would guess that McCarthy would have cost far more, since Forbes.com listed him as the league’s ninth-highest paid coach last season at $6 million and ESPN reported that he will now earn $8 million to hang around his family in 2019. While I also did not see a report of Gase’s 2018 salary, to get a sense of the area code, Bowles reportedly made $4 million for going 4-12 with the Jets.

So much of what the Johnson brothers have done through the years has screamed “Cheapskates!”, from their fleecing of their customers with worthless personal seat licenses to all the seasons where the Jets spent nowhere close to the salary cap.

All I’m suggesting is that I wouldn’t put it past Johnson to make cost a consideration in this hiring process.

Now, the Jets are stuck with a guy who has the potential to fill the airwaves with controversy. A guy who did not perform very well in his last job, the only one at this position on his resume.

Why wouldn’t it be surprising if it was cemented by a Peyton Manning phone call?

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.