NFL parity means even bad teams are good at something. Unless they're the Jets

Oliver Connolly
·7-min read
<span>Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP</span>
Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP

Just when you think things can’t get any worse, you hire Adam Gase.

Coaches are rarely as good or bad as they appear in the moment. Except for Gase. Gase is bad. His career record as a head coach is now 30-40, with 31 of those 40 losses coming by double digits.

At the Jets, he is 7-15. Eight of those losses have come by double digits. Five have come by 20 or points more. Put simply: GaseBall isn’t just about being bad, it’s about being in over-your-head, unable-to-compete, embarrassingly bad. It’s about tailoring a roster in your image and then the team falling from a so-so, disappointing side into a laughing stock. A team that looks like it’s trying to lose just a couple of years after it drafted a quarterback in the top-10 and hired Gase as a purported offensive guru.

Somehow, the limp and lifeless performance against the Dolphins in Miami last Sunday represents the nadir of Gase’s Jets tenure, and perhaps his career as a whole. The 24-to-zip loss dropped the Jets to 0-6 on the season. Worse: the Jets have a negative-110 point-differential, which is around 50-points worse off than the team ranked second-bottom in the NFL.

You will by now no doubt have seen a graphic doing the rounds of Gase’s output ever since Peyton Manning left his side when he was the offensive coordinator at the Denver Broncos. For those who haven’t:

That CBS graphic uses the NFL’s traditional ranking metrics. DVOA, a metric from Football Outsiders, is a smarter way to evaluate the effectiveness of a unit than total yardage, which makes up the NFL’s rankings. DVOA measures the down-to-down efficiency rather than the overall yardage, and it removes garbage time. Here is how Gase’s groups rank post-Manning:

2015, Chicago Bears offensive coordinator: 16th out of 32 teams

2016, Miami Dolphins head coach: 23rd

2017, Miami Dolphins head coach: 27th

2018, Miami Dolphins head coach: 26th

2019, New York Jets head coach: 32nd

2020 so far, New York Jets head coach: 31st

Oh, and the steady decline just so happens to correlate with the power Gase has been given each season. Yep, more Gase equals worse offense. The same Gase hired by the Jets precisely because he was supposed to make them a touchdown-scoring juggernaut.

From a coordinator in Chicago to the head coach/interim general manager in New York, Gase is the dictionary definition of “failing upwards”. After flaming out in Miami as an embattled, belligerent coach with a losing record and an alienated lockerroom, the Johnsons, the family that owns the Jets, thought it was a wise idea to entrust him to handpick the long-term architect of the franchise. Gase picked Joe Douglas to serve as the team’s general manager, essentially picking his boss.

Related: Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading the happiest march to obsolescence in NFL history

Things have been bad – schematically and culturally – with Gase at multiple teams and multiple roles, but this season represents a new low. The Jets are the only team in the league to have failed to score 100 or more points this season, and some teams have only played five games to the Jets’ six. With just 75 points on the board so far, it could take the Jets another month to hit the century mark.

It’s not all on the offense either, Gase’s supposed calling card. The Jets are bad at everything. Even abject teams are usually good at something – anything, even if it’s punting such is the way with a sport that mandates parity.

Not the Jets. Gase’s team rank 32nd in overall DVOA (and for the nerds at home: they sit at a whopping score of minus-25%; the team in the 31st spot, the Eagles, are on minus-9%): 31st on offense, 24th on defense, and 30th on special teams.

But the numbers can only tell you so much. It’s the look and the feel with the Jets that gets you every time. The passivity. The lack of imagination. The lack of speed. The absence of any kind of oomph on either side of the ball.

That’s on the field. Off it, the situation is just as bad. Earlier this month, Le’Veon Bell refused to speak to reporters after a blowout loss to Arizona. Later, he torched Gase online. The Jets had no choice but to move on. After whiffing on any trade options, they cut Bell, who immediately scuttled over to Kansas City and the welcoming arms of Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, authors of the league’s most productive offense and the reigning Super Bowl champs – because of course.

The Jets were not finished there. Gase got into it in public with his defensive coordinator, the ever-tone-deaf Gregg Williams. Williams, the architect of the 24th most efficient defense in the league said that losing games was, “not his fault.” “That’s not what we need,” replied Gase, as soon as he’d yanked himself from under the bus. “Everyone needs to shut up and play.”

And this is all after the battle of wills with Jamal Adams, a back-and-forth that forced the franchise to trade its best player, siding with a coach who is now an obvious lame-duck.

The situation is about to get even uglier. The Jets’ schedule the rest of the way is brutal with games against the likes of the Chiefs, Bills, Seahawks and Patriots (twice) to come.

Yikes. This being the NFL – and this being the NFL in a pandemic riddled 2020 – the Jets will probably fluke their way to a victory. But 0-16 is not an impossibility. The roster is bad, the GM is selling off anything of value, and the team’s two most powerful coaches have seemingly had enough of each other.

And yet, despite all that, keeping Gase until the end of the season would be the smart move. The head coach setting himself and the rest of franchise on fire will help in the long-term. By waiting until the end of the season to let Gase go, by leaning into the embarrassing levels of suckitude that they have reached, the Jets have the best possible odds to secure the No1 overall pick and a shot at Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the prohibitive favourite to be the top pick in next year’s draft.

Heading down the Quarterback-Saviour path doesn’t always work — there is a reason bad teams pick first overall: their culture stinks, and they lack talent. A quarterback alone seldom saves that; a young, talented player getting swallowed up by the incompetence of an organisation is more the norm than the reverse. But that is still a shot worth taking when a player who’s drawing comparisons to Andrew Luck, John Elway and Manning will be the first pick in the draft.

Lawrence cannot – will not – fix everything alone. There needs to be a better culture. And not in vapid, rah-rah, preaching accountability definition. In practical terms. In drafting good linemen to protect him. In finding inefficiencies in the market place. In putting together a coaching staff that focuses on development (of the players and staff) rather than hired guns who will move on to the next job at the first sign of trouble.

Such a plan is harsh on Sam Darnold, who the Jets selected third overall in the 2018 draft. Moving on from a top-five pick so soon would take some cojones, but the new Jets GM Douglas did not pick Darnold. Plotting for a Lawrence-led future would allow Douglas to reset the Jets timeline around another young quarterback and another hotshot head coaching candidate.

The best time for the Jets to have moved on from the Gase experience was any time after his bizarre opening day press conference. Now, in a twist, the best thing the franchise can do for its future is to keep Gase until the end-of the-season, bask in the short-term embarrassment and hope it pays off with a long-term, Lawrence-sized reward.