As a Jets fan for the past 10 years, I have seen a lot of bad coaching and quarterbacking. I have seen scant few examples of great coaching. But Adam Gase presents something that is unique to me: Mediocre coaching. What is it?
Adam Gase is a 30–34 career head coach. His claim to fame is Peyton Manning and somehow bringing Tannehill and Matt Moore to the playoffs. The Dolphins were mediocre under him. The Jets are mediocre under him. Throughout the 2019 season, the Jets hovered in the 30s in terms of offense under Gase. Even with Darnold, the offense was in the mid to late 20s. Point differential has never cracked the top 20 as a head coach. Offensive yards per game has never cracked top 20. Passing yards per game has never cracked top 15. So why does he still remain employed? Stay tuned…
He’s employed because of two reasons: His record in close games and his mediocre overall record. Gase’s record in close games (8 points or less) in Miami was 20–6. With the Jets, it was 5–2. So he’s 25–8 in close games. That is absolutely astounding that it hasn’t regressed in 4 years, but it also speaks to the fact that his situational awareness during these games is off the charts. Gase strikes me as somewhat of an over-thinker who insists on being prepared. He ignores his family, was barely around for the birth of his child, what have you…to devise gameplans. This worked great with Manning who is essentially his own coach. This doesn’t work with younger QBs like what he had in NY and Miami. When you are that rigid, when the game goes right you can coast due to your preparation. When the game gets/is tight late, you have scenarios in your head regarding what to do and how to get out of a hole. When he gets punched in the mouth, he doesn’t have an ability to adjust. If a team goes up two possessions on him, you can pretty much pack the game up. A lot of this is mitigated if he gives up playcalling and focuses on the big picture, but so far that hasn’t happened yet.
Another factor that leads to continued employment is that he doesn’t do bad enough that he is an obvious detriment. Miami is the perfect example. They finished 2018 7–9 with a lot of injuries. It took Stephen Ross an almost force of will to decide to fire him. There was a decent case that he should have stayed for 2019 due to the playoff appearance in 2016, but Ross correctly decided to move on. You look at Tannehill’s performance under Gase, it’s not bad but it’s not conventionally good. Despite mediocre offense, the QB under Gase will make minimal improvements or regressions. The same is happening with Darnold. The offense itself was horrific (some of it due to factors outside of Gase’s control), but Darnold himself is just alright with massive swings in both directions on some occasions. If the same holds true for 2020, he will likely make minimal improvements but fans will wonder if he’s actually the long term future. It would take Christopher or Woody a force of will (again) to fire Gase and move with someone who can deliver more positively drastic results.
A coach like Gase works when you have an established veteran quarterback. If you gave him someone like Stafford or Matt Ryan, they have enough pull to where they can disregard the many crappy plays Gase calls and run the better ones. They’re established enough in the league where minimal improvements in their already good careers combined with his scary good record in close games can actually make them a fringe playoff-divisional round contender year in and year out. With a young quarterback, you need to see that massive leap because you only have a finite amount of time to evaluate him before you’re forced to pay and commit to them. If the Jets paid Kirk Cousins in 2018, I think Gase would have actually been a good fit here exactly because of Cousins’ vet status. I don’t think Darnold will be here in 2022 because assuming Gase is fired and he takes a while to learn new playbook, he won’t have the opportunity to show he’s a bona fide franchise QB. And that will be a shame that the Jets salvation will ultimately be pushed out due to mediocrity.