There have been no bold proclamations, no sweeping predictions of what might lie ahead in the 2020 season. Certainly, nothing like last year, when Adam Gase, before he’d even coached a game with the Jets, predicted a potential playoff run.
“We're going to play meaningful games in the end of November and December," he said before the 2019 season. “That's what we're going to do.”
Of course, that’s not what they did. The Jets got off to a 1-7 start, thanks in no small part to Sam Darnold’s mononucleosis, before going 6-2 once the schedule softened up to complete a 7-9 season.
So, no playoffs-or-else pronouncement this time. Not even a hint of one.
That said, Gase does feel optimistic about what he sees for his team, even if no one around the league – including this writer – gives the Jets much of a chance to be better than mediocre in 2020.
There is a calm that has settled in for the second-year coach, who believes there is more to his roster than meets the eye. But it starts with Gase himself, who said he’s much more comfortable with a year under his belt and with a quarterback he senses is ready for a breakout season.
“Every year you do this, it changes so much as far as what becomes important to you and how you manage your time and how you maneuver around the building,” Gase said Wednesday. “It just seems like the flow is smoother for me. You know what to focus on. The communication with Sam [Darnold] has been outstanding. It’s so much more comfortable. That relationship has grown.”
For any NFL team, the coach-quarterback partnership is at the heart of the operation and is so often determinative of how a season will unfold. The Jets brought Gase in because he had a reputation as a quarterback whisperer who helped even the great Peyton Manning toward the latter part of his career. But last season went sideways early, and by the time the Jets looked up after their 1-7 first half, it was too late to even think about playing meaningful games in late November and December.
The regret still lingers. For both men.
“We’ve both just talked about last year, how we felt like we could have been so much better than we were,” Gase said. “I get it, the mono threw things off for us, and we were battling some changes, some injuries. It was never smooth.”
But now, even without the benefit of an in-person off-season or a single preseason game, Gase believes he sees a chemistry, especially on offense, that will translate into on-field success in the weeks ahead. As the Jets prepare for Sunday’s regular-season opener in Buffalo, Gase believes things will go much better than most are expecting.
“I do think the chemistry we have, the unit up front [on the offensive line] is key, Sam another year in the offense,” Gase said. “I like our running back situation. [Tight end] Chris Herndon back. Having multiple receivers that can create explosive plays … There’s a lot of things I’m excited about that are pointing us in the right direction.”
General manager Joe Douglas talked the other day of having players that may not be household names but are ready to perform in such a way that they will become more widely known if success follows. It’s a hungry team, one that wants to prove itself and beat the odds.
Put Gase in that category, too. After getting the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season in Miami, the coach has struggled to find his footing ever since. And last year’s first-half meltdown has him fighting the perception that he’s in over his head. He may not be on the hot seat, so let’s just call it a warm seat.
Asked about whether a coaching change should take place if he doesn’t produce a winning record this year, Gase demurred.
“Let’s get to Week 1 and see what happens,” he said.
Well, here we are.
Time for the coach to back up his optimism with results.
And make sure his team gets to play those meaningful games in late November and December.