Adam Gase, Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt

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Lichtenstein: Can They All Get Along? Gase’s Jets Staff Heavy On Experience And Potential For Drama 

Steve Lichtenstein
February 11, 2019 - 12:00 pm
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The Jets sent out a release Friday to announce their coaching staff.

They seem to have left one newly created position unfilled: conflict counselor.

Adam Gase was hired as head coach Jan. 9 to replace Todd Bowles after a bizarre search and then was introduced to the New York media three days later in a bizarre press conference.

There’s apparently no stopping him now.

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Gase, who coached the Dolphins the past three seasons, has been characterized as a combative fellow. His staff selections seem to indicate he wants people who will follow his lead.

Make no mistake, there is plenty of solid experience on this staff, promising a breath of fresh air at the Florham Park office in contrast to the stench from Bowles’ incompetent sidekicks, none of whom earned a promotion after their Jets’ days were over.

However, how is defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the offensive-minded Gase’s right-hand man who has a similar fiery reputation, going to be able to manage on a day-to-day basis working next to Joe Vitt, the Jets' new senior defensive assistant/outside linebackers coach?

Vitt, who has 40 years of NFL coaching experience and was twice named as an interim head coach, has a history with Williams from their time together in New Orleans from 2009-2011.

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You might remember that era as Bountygate, when Williams was found to have, um, encouraged his Saints defensive players with cash to take extracurricular liberties on certain opponents.

Vitt testified against Williams at the subsequent hearing. At the end of a recent article in The Athletic, which procured Vitt's testimony with league officials, Vitt said, “I want to show you here the situations where Gregg Williams is a liar, where Gregg Williams is narcissistic, where Greg Williams lost his mind in situations.”

Williams was suspended indefinitely in 2012 (and reinstated a year later) while Vitt was suspended for six months.

It’s been a while, but was that enough time to heal all the wounds? The proximity here might prove to be an irritant.

Bear in mind that it was reported that Williams initially wanted his son, Blake, to join the staff as the linebackers coach. Gase reportedly balked before naming him as a defensive assistant. Vitt, by the way, happens to be Gase’s father-in-law.

You can’t find juicier subplots on TV reality shows.

The biggest worry here is that this environment could be ripe for a fractured team, in which the offense under Gase and the defense under Williams become insular and cause disruptions. To a lesser extent, will the defensive players treat Vitt differently because they think he’ll be a mole for Gase?

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has a lot on his plate right now, with only around 29 players under contract and free agency and the NFL draft right around the corner.

Was Maccagnan asleep at the wheel while all this unnecessary mine-laying was going down, or was he watching with amusement from above the fray?

Both are plausible.

Maccagnan and CEO Christopher Johnson were rumored to have demanded input into subordinate staff hires when they were interviewing head coach candidates. They both emphatically denied it at Gase's press conference, but maybe it wouldn't have been such a bad idea given what's transpired.

I give Gase credit for packing his staff with guys with lengthy résumés. Williams, who will have free reign over the defense, has had prior success in this league, including in Cleveland last season. Dowell Loggains follows Gase from Miami to serve as both offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, though Gase will be calling the plays. Gase has another coach with coordinator experience on his offensive staff in Jim Bob Cooter, who ran the Lions' attack the last four seasons and is now entrusted with the Jets' running backs. The new offensive line coach is Frank Pollack, who has over a decade of NFL experience. And, as was reported previously, Brant Boyer is one of a few who survived the Bowles Error. His excellent work last season with the Jets' special teams ensured that he will return as coordinator.

A huge part of being an NFL head coach is managing people. There are diverging opinions as to how Gase handled that aspect during his Miami tenure. 

It’s one thing to hire a quality staff and another to get the group functioning to maximize the team’s performance. The last thing Jets fans want is for the must-see portion of the season to play out behind closed doors instead of on the field.    

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