Decisions have consequences, and in the Jets’ case, Christopher Johnson’s decision to hire Adam Gase over other qualified candidates has turned into an unmitigated disaster.
Not since the 1-15 season under Rich Kotite in 1996 have the Jets been this bad. They’re 0-5 and about to get a lot worse, and there will soon be a reckoning with Gase’s future. It would be a shock to see him last the entire season; if things continue to spiral out of control, Johnson will have no other choice than to remove Gase prematurely, appoint defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson or inside linebackers coach Frank Bush as the interim head coach, and hire someone else after the season.
What makes this situation even worse is that Johnson had people in the building during the last hiring cycle who would have been far better choices than Gase. Three of those coaches are now working elsewhere as head coaches, and all three are in early playoff contention.
Kliff Kingsbury is 3-2 after leading the Cardinals to a 30-10 pounding of the Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Cardinals wisely gave up early on Josh Rosen and cast their lot with Kyler Murray, a far superior talent Kingsbury once tried to recruit at Texas Tech. The two now form what could be a long-lasting NFL partnership.
Matt Rhule, the former Baylor head coach, was believed to be a finalist for the Jets’ job, but the Jets’ reported concerns about Rhule’s staff prompted him to remain at Baylor in 2019. Rhule was one of the hottest candidates on the market this year and landed with Carolina, where he has the Panthers at 3-2 with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. Adding insult to injury, he signed former Jets receiver Robby Anderson, who leads Carolina with 489 receiving yards and is having a career year. This after making it clear he’d rather have been re-signed by the Jets, something general managerJoe Douglas declined to do and is paying the price for it now.
Former Packers coach Mike McCarthy has struggled early in Dallas, but Sunday’s thrilling last-second win over the Giants has the Cowboys in first place in the underachieving NFC East.
Don’t forget, too, that the Jets passed on Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who continues to do fine work under Andy Reid but has been passed over way too many times for a head coaching position. You can’t tell me he wouldn’t have done a better job with the Jets and Sam Darnold than Gase, who hasn’t achieved the promised results of turning Darnold into a playoff-caliber quarterback.
The Jets didn’t have Kevin Stefanski on their list last year, but they should have. The former Vikings’ offensive coordinator has the perpetually awful Browns at 4-1 and looking better now than they have in years.
Johnson issued a vote of confidence after a Week 1 loss to the Bills, saying he saw brilliance in Gase. But nothing that has happened before or since suggests that there is anything of the sort with the Jets’ second-year coach. He made it to the playoffs just once in three seasons in Miami before being fired after the 2018 season, and he may never get the chance to get back as a head coach after flaming out with the Jets.
Complicating the situation even further is Johnson’s decision to wait more than a year to fire general manager Mike Maccagnan and hire Douglas. That wait included two draft and free agency cycles, setting the Jets back as Douglas attempts to rebuild. And while Douglas, who signed a six-year contract, has made some good decisions, there is no guarantee he can fully turn this roster around.
Johnson is not about to fire Douglas prematurely, which means the owner and the GM will have to make the right call with the next head coach, and possibly the next quarterback. If the Jets wind up with the No. 1 overall draft pick and have the opportunity to select Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, considered by many to be a generational talent, then Darnold’s tenure will be over.
Teams that get into this perpetual cycle of turnover at key positions like coach, quarterback and general manager invariably fail over the long term – see the Browns, Bengals, and yes, the Jets. Which means that Johnson will be fighting history when he sets the team’s course – again – in the offseason.
The Texans and Falcons already have made changes this season with two far more accomplished coaches than Gase. Bill O’Brien, who led the Texans to the playoffs four times, and Dan Quinn, who was within minutes of winning a Super Bowl in Atlanta before New England’s historic comeback, were shown the door.
It is only a matter of time before Gase joins them and before Johnson embarks on another coaching search to correct the mess left behind by his last one.