Adam Gase did his best to avoid discussing the latest calamity befalling the Jets, dancing around questions about Le’Veon Bell’s release Tuesday night and trying to remove the distraction as the Jets prepare to face the Dolphins on Sunday.
"For whatever reason, it didn’t work out," Gase told reporters on his Zoom call Wednesday. "Our team is moving forward to Miami. That’s the No. 1 concern right now."
Gase can channel his inner Bill Belichick all he wants, but there’s no getting around the collateral damage from this 0-5 debacle. Belichick famously pushed back at early-season criticism of the Patriots after a 41-14 loss to Kansas City in 2014, using "We’re on to Cincinnati" as his stock answer to all questions. That may work for the most accomplished coach in NFL history, but for Gase, it was a weak and mostly futile attempt to deflect blame.
As Gase gets ready to face his former team on Sunday, he does so against the backdrop of criticism that is all too familiar to Dolphins fans who saw his work from 2016-18. Gase got the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first year, but he went 13-19 the next two years and was shown the door. Along the way, he alienated high-profile Dolphins players, including wide receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Jay Ajayi, both of whom criticized the coach after being sent elsewhere.
Well, it sure seems like the same dynamic is at work with the Jets. He couldn’t deal with star safety Jamal Adams, who was traded to the Seahawks, and it was the same with Bell, who was released after the Jets could find no takers in the trade market.
"For us, we felt like it was best that we part ways," Gase said. "It was a tough decision to make, but we felt like it was the best for where we’re at now, and we have to move on to Miami."
On to Miami . . .
Theirs was an arranged marriage from the start, as Gase bristled when former general manager Mike Maccagnan signed Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million deal. Gase prefers to use a running-backs-by-committee approach, while Bell needed to be a feature back to get the most out of him. Gase never found a way to fold Bell into the offense last year, leaving the former All-Pro running back understandably frustrated.
There was an offseason détente, as Gase and Bell expressed a greater willingness to coexist. But in the Jets’ very first intrasquad scrimmage in training camp, the problems resurfaced. Gase took Bell out because of what the coach called a hamstring issue, and Bell later said on social media there was no such problem. The warning lights went off yet again.
And after a 30-10 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday in Bell’s return from an actual hamstring injury suffered in Week 1, the running back again went to social media and "liked" comments critical of the coach. There was no turning back, and Bell never set foot in the Jets’ building again.
Gase wanted no part of explaining the past. Even the recent past. When asked if he misused Bell, Gase said, "It’s irrelevant at this point." Pressed further on why things didn’t work out, he replied, "It didn’t work out and we’re going to have to focus on this game right now."
On to Miami . . .
Gase isn’t worried about any residual ill effects inside the Jets’ locker room, although it is worth noting that he didn’t feel the need to collectively address the team about Bell’s ouster. "I think our locker room is pretty good right now," he said.
And Gase decided after briefly considering the idea of letting someone else call the offensive plays that he would continue in that role. He asked his assistants what they thought, and they said Gase should continue. Um . . . what else were they supposed to say? "Well, boss, you’re not getting it done, so yeah, someone else should do it."
And here we are, not even halfway through a horrid season that doesn’t figure to get any better any time soon. In fact, it might be in the Jets’ interest at this point to continue losing and secure the No. 1 draft pick in 2021. A pick that could net them Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
It won’t be Gase’s decision to make, because there’s no way he can continue beyond this season. His mishandling of Bell is only the latest evidence that he’s simply not up to the job