New York Jets head coach Adam Gase and quarterback Sam...

New York Jets head coach Adam Gase and quarterback Sam Darnold. Credit: AP/Gail Burton

Most football coaches can’t go more than a few sentences without rattling off a cliché that makes your eyes roll. But in this case, lets cut Adam Gase a little slack. When he talks about his approach requiring a one-day-at-a-time mentality, that truly is the reality he now faces.  

“It’s a little bit of the unknown and every day, you’re legitimately one day at a time,” he said Wednesday. “When we talk to the players about taking it one day at a time, that’s the whole building. Things can change very quickly. It takes one person to … if they would have (the coronavirus) right now, it can spread so fast. It’s about everybody doing the right thing day-in and day-out.”

Welcome to coaching an NFL team in a pandemic, where nothing is normal and tomorrow truly is not promised.

“Every day has been a little different for us,” he said. “It’s about making sure we’re being smart with everything we do and then just trying to balance what’s going on with our schedules.”

But as challenging as things have been conducting football practice in a socially distanced world, the Jets are actually at somewhat of an advantage compared to other teams. With stability at the key positions within the organization, the familiarity factor can help them better deal with a chaotic situation.

Gase is back for his second season. Quarterback Sam Darnold returns for his third year – and second in Gase’s offensive system. Running back Le’Veon Bell, who missed nearly two years before returning to the NFL last season, is in terrific shape in Year 2 with the Jets. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains are back, too.

“It’s just another year where we’re all on the same page,” Gase said. “The majority of our staff is coming back. We’ve added a couple of (players) that have already been in Gregg’s system before. That helps a lot. There’s a continuity in the coaching staff, and the majority of players that are back are helping with the new guys. They’re doing a good job of communicating.”

Of course, there has been significant turnover at key positions on offense and defense, with four new starters on the offensive line, nearly an entirely new receiving corps, the COVID-19 opt-out of linebacker C.J Mosley and, of course, the trade of Jamal Adams. Yet there is something to be said for continuity, especially among the coaches. Compare that to the Giants, where Joe Judge makes his NFL head coaching debut amidst the coronavirus pandemic and goes in without the institutional knowledge of his players or recently assembled coaching staff. Mike McCarthy’s first year in Dallas comes after a two-year hiatus and little to no contact with his team throughout the offseason. Ron Rivera’s first year in Washington comes with similar limitations.

“I think every team that has their returning staff has a little advantage, but that won’t be the difference for us,” Loggains said.

The biggest difference?

“Having our quarterback in the second year, more than anything,” Loggains said of Darnold. “There’s going to be excuses for every team, whether it be COVID, no preseason games, practice regulations, and no one really cares about that. Everyone has the same set of rules.”

The bottom line is simple.

“It’s how fast we can get 14 playing up to his potential,” Loggains said, referring to Darnold’s number.

No argument there. Darnold will be a key – actually THE key – to how well this offense functions and whether the Jets can be a contending team after rallying to a 6-2 record in the last half of the 2019 season. Even if no one is predicting much of an improvement from this year’s team, especially in a division with the Patriots and Bills, Darnold remains confident. In himself and his teammates.

“If people want to sleep on us, they can sleep on us,” he said. “We’re fine. We’re worried about what we’ve got to do here.”

There is plenty to be done. But at least the Jets have the advantage of stability at the top, which can only help in this one-day-at-a-time world.


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