Before taking his first question from reporters in his first extensive remarks since the blockbuster trade that sent disgruntled safety Jamal Adams to the Seahawks, Jets general manager Joe Douglas offered an unsolicited yet very purposeful defense of coach Adam Gase, whose leadership was questioned very publicly and very loudly by Adams on his way out the door.
“I believe in Coach Gase, having watched him work and seeing his staff overcome a 1-7 start [in 2019],” Douglas said in a prepared statement that opened a Monday afternoon conference call. “I feel good about where we are with his leadership.”
It was a preemptive strike that Douglas felt was required after the scathing critique put forth by Adams in Friday’s Daily News. Speaking of Gase, Adams said he didn’t “feel like he’s the right leader for this organization to reach the Promised Land. As a leader, what really bothers me is that he doesn’t have a relationship with everybody in the building. At the end of the day, he doesn’t address the team.”
Douglas did as good a job as imaginable in securing two first-round picks and starting safety Bradley McDougald as part of the deal, especially when other teams knew Adams’ discontent with his current contract might have limited the Jets’ leverage in trade talks. The fact that Douglas struck a deal that fruitful was as good an outcome as possible given the situation, especially given that Adams would have been positively miserable had he been forced to play under his current contract in 2020.
But there’s also no question that Adams’ flame-throwing diatribe, as well as several social media posts in which he took shots — some veiled and some obvious — at the team in an effort to force a trade have left Gase in an unenviable position. When the best player on your roster rips you, it can’t help but create a more difficult environment for the coach.
Which is why Douglas did his best to defend Gase and try to head off any resentment that might be simmering in the Jets’ locker room. Amplifying his remarks about Gase later in the conference call, Douglas made it clear that he has faith in his second-year coach.
“I’ve seen Adam go through a 1-7 start and a coach who never lost patience, who never wavered from his beliefs, and a guy who would get up and have the tough conversations he had to with players,” Douglas said. He added that Gase had “great communication with the players in teem meetings. Everything I’ve seen in my year with Adam I’ve been impressed by. I can’t speak for other people, but everything I’ve seen has been outstanding.”
Gase undoubtedly will be the subject of scrutiny moving forward — as well he should. He was fired by the Dolphins after three seasons, with some of his former players questioning his ability as a coach. And while he is to be commended for not letting the Jets fracture after the dreadful first half of last season, when they were rocked by Sam Darnold’s absence because of mononucleosis, it was mostly the improved defense that led the way in the resurgence down the stretch. It also helped that the Jets’ schedule softened considerably in the second half of the season.
Even so, Douglas remains enthusiastic about what he has in this year’s team — even though it will be without its best player after Saturday’s trade. In fact, he clapped back at the notion that the Adams trade is a signal that the team is punting on this season and concerned more about building for the future.
“I think when you see this team practice, you’re going to see a team that’s very hungry and has a lot of desire to prove that a 6-2 finish was not a fluke,” Douglas said. “I think you’ll see a team that has a lot of fire and motivation. I would disagree that we’re punting on 2020.”
If there is a season — a big if, considering the unsettled world in the COVID-19 pandemic — Douglas is convinced that this will be a team worth watching. And that he’s putting the pieces in place for what ultimately will be a playoff contender, perhaps a Super Bowl contender.
That idea seems completely far-fetched right now, given how much better this team needs to get. But Douglas is convinced that he can build this team the right way and that he has the proper coach.
He’ll eventually find out whether he’s right to put his faith in Gase.
Or whether Adams had it right.