One coach led his team to the Super Bowl after the 2016 season. Another got his team to the playoffs four of the last five years. Another was an assistant to Bill Belichick in a Super Bowl run before taking over as the top guy in 2018.
Today, they are all gone, fired before the regular season concluded. Dan Quinn is out in Atlanta, Bill O’Brien got the gate in Houston and Matt Patricia received his pink slip over the weekend in Detroit.
Adam Gase? He’s 0-11. Despite producing one embarrassing performance after another, he’s still the Jets’ coach.
Gase’s latest calamity: a 20-3 home loss to the Dolphins team that fired him less than two years ago, the second straight game against Miami in which the supposed offensive guru didn’t orchestrate a single touchdown drive.
Gase was back on the job Monday, trying to explain the unexplainable when asked if he — and not offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains — indeed was calling the plays, given that it looked obvious that Gase was the one telling Sam Darnold what to run. (He grudgingly conceded it’s now a collaborative effort.)
He tried to dance around the question of whether he had a verbal altercation with veteran guard Alex Lewis, who was a healthy scratch on Sunday. (He grudgingly conceded that words were exchanged but declined to call it an altercation.)
And he reiterated his support for Darnold. ("Sam’s the starter and we need Sam to play as many snaps as possible.")
And on we go . . .
There will be five more weeks of this mess — or perhaps less, if team owner Christopher Johnson decides to end the misery sooner — before Jets fans can devote all of their attention to what comes next. There will be a new coach. There will be a new quarterback. And if general manager Joe Douglas can continue to pick the right players, maybe there will be a chance.
But with this franchise, there are no guarantees. The Jets have perfected the art of failure to a degree not seen by most sports fans — although Lions fans have suffered their fair share of disappointment, up to and including the abysmal tenure of Patricia, who was whacked after going 13-29-1.
Since Weeb Ewbank and Joe Namath won the first and only Super Bowl championship in franchise history, it has been mostly heartache for Jets fans. And that was 52 seasons ago.
Charley Winner. Lou Holtz. Joe Walton. Bruce Coslet. Pete Carroll’s one-and-done before he turned into a Hall of Famer in Seattle. Rich Kotite. Eric Mangini. Todd Bowles.
And now Gase, who is 7-20 with the Jets, with all of his victories coming last season, most of them in the second half as the schedule softened up.
Gase may be about to take Kotite off the hook as the worst ever, and 0-16 certainly would trump Kotite’s 1-15 debacle of 1996. The Jets would become just the third team in NFL history to lose all 16 games, joining the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns in that ignominious feat.
At this point, it would be best for the Jets to do just that to put themselves in position to take their quarterback of choice next year — most likely Trevor Lawrence of Clemson. And keeping Gase — as opposed to firing him and risking a spark from an interim coach who might coax a win or two in the remaining five weeks — might be the safer choice for future considerations.
Who cares about a meaningless win over the Raiders, Seahawks, Rams, Browns or Patriots when the ultimate prize will be awarded next April? Five more weeks of humiliation is a small price to pay.
But at least there is one silver lining to the Gase tenure, one that actually can benefit the team greatly moving forward. It was Gase who lobbied Johnson to bring in Douglas to replace Mike Maccagnan, who left the cupboard bare upon leaving the organization in May 2019.
Douglas already has shown encouraging signs of being competent at his job by securing two first-round picks for disgruntled safety Jamal Adams, drafting left tackle Mekhi Becton (who looks as if he will be a star) and taking promising wide receiver Denzel Mims in the second round and safety Ashtyn Davis in the third.
Douglas also wisely resisted the suggestion that he trade second-year defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who has blossomed into a stud defender.
If Douglas truly is the kind of roster-builder who can turn around a team the way George Young did with the Giants in the 1980s, Ron Wolf did with the Packers in the 1990s and Kevin Colbert did with the Steelers in the 2000s and continues to do today, the Jets can emerge from their Gase-induced funk with a bright future.
And it will be worth the despair from this latest nightmare.