FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
The metropolitan area’s only employed NFL head coach met with reporters Monday and immediately was confronted with questions about the Jets’ strangest saga.
That would be Le’Veon Bell, whose fame, rich contract, lackluster performance and curious usage pattern have been a hot topic all season.
The Q&A quickly took a weird turn. Gase has said many nice things about his running back, but when asked directly on the first day of the offseason if he wants him back in 2020, he punted.
“He’s under contract for three more years,” he said, referring to Bell’s four-year, $52.5 million deal. “You can ask Joe [Douglas, the general manager] tomorrow.”
When pressed about whether he wants Bell back, he said, “You can ask Joe tomorrow. I’m not in charge of personnel.”
Bell did not speak to reporters after Gase’s remarks, but he responded on Twitter with a gif of Steve Carell’s character from the show “The Office” reacting with a look of disgust and incredulity.
The notion that Gase does not have powerful input into personnel decisions is laughable, of course. And he certainly sounded unenthused about Bell’s ongoing presence on the roster and drag on the salary cap.
But it is possible that there is nothing realistic that he and Douglas can do about it, given Bell’s contract. So Gase spoke as if he is planning on Bell being around next season.
Gase recounted a recent conversation in which the two discussed “looking at some of the stuff they did in Pittsburgh and talking through some of the things that he was comfortable with in the run game, and especially early in the offseason trying to focus on those types of runs and the passing game.
“When we come back, we can really home in on some of those things that maybe we missed or we did too much of that he wasn’t really comfortable with.”
What did it all mean? Time will tell, but the back-and-forths about Bell both after Sunday’s game against the Bills — when he rushed four times for minus-4 yards in the second half — and Monday were awkward.
There is no denying that Gase has a quirky personality, which fans picked up on quickly. Starting 1-7 did not help, and finishing 6-2 has helped only marginally. CEO Christopher Johnson committed to giving Gase a second season, but fans have not committed to embracing him.
This is not Gase’s first head-coaching gig. It is his first season in the New York area, though, so I asked him what he learned about this experience that he can take into 2020.
“That will be one of the things that I look at this offseason, just kind of reflecting back now, and it’s not over for me yet,” he said. “So I’ll think about that later.”
Gase actually is good at news conferences compared with the low standard set by New York’s three most recently departed football coaches: Ben McAdoo, Todd Bowles and Pat Shurmur.
But far more important is doing something about the fact that the offense he oversees was ranked last in the NFL. The only other time that has happened to the Jets in the past 48 years, according to ESPN,
was in Rich Kotite’s first season in 1995.
Rule of thumb in New York football coaching: Do not be compared to Rich Kotite.
The MVP of the staff was Gase’s defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, whose unit carried the team down the stretch.
So where does that leave Gase, whose offense stinks, whose quarterback remains a work in progress, who has failed to get anything out of a former star back and who claims not to be in charge of personnel?
For today, it leaves him with a job, which is more than can be said for Shurmur.
And there’s this: Like a certain running back, he’s under contract for three more years.
Le’Veon Bell in 2019
Per carry 3.2