FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Jets introduced Adam Gase as their head coach on Monday, and the source of the mutual attraction soon became evident.
For CEO Christopher Johnson, Gase was the right man to develop Sam Darnold. For Gase, the Jets were the right team because they employ Sam Darnold.
“The No. 1 thing for me was a young quarterback,” Gase said.
He also said there are benefits to joining a team in the same division as the Dolphins, whom he coached from 2016-18, that it is “nice” to have a vast amount of salary-cap space and that he likes some of the defensive personnel.
“Having ‘33’ involved in all that stuff, it’s a nightmare,” he said of facing the Jets and safety Jamal Adams. “I’m just glad I’m on his side now.”
But make no mistake: This is mostly about Darnold. He participated in the interview process and has endorsed the hiring of Gase, best known for his work with quarterbacks in general and Peyton Manning in particular.
Gase studied tape of Darnold in preparation for two games against the Jets — in which Darnold threw one touchdown pass and six interceptions in two losses — and has dived into more video research since getting the job late last week.
“I’m excited, because this is really the first time I’ve been able to get with a guy this young, this early in his career,” he said. “We’re going into Year Two. He’s hungry for knowledge. He wants to be coached.”
Gase said he likes Darnold’s quick release, pocket presence and ability to move. Also: “I like his fire. You can see it the way he plays, and just when you talk to him, you can see there’s a love of football.”
To minimize the risk of conflicting messages, Gase is unlikely to hire a quarterbacks coach. He and his coordinator will do most of the talking that Darnold hears.
Johnson said he was impressed with everyone he interviewed to succeed Todd Bowles, including someone with a resume far more impressive than Gase’s in former Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
But he said he and general manager Mike Maccagnan were impressed by Gase’s passion and vision.
“He is intelligent, forward-thinking, aggressive,” Johnson said. “To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky: He’s coaching to where football is going.”
Johnson said he is confident that Gase will win over fans, many of whom were not impressed by his 23-25 record with the Dolphins and would have preferred McCarthy.
“I’m not trying to win Twitter,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to win football games.”
Johnson was aware that some Dolphins players spoke negatively of Gase but said he had researched that and is unconcerned. He denied reports that the Jets had told any candidate that he could not pick his own assistants.
Gase will not have final say on personnel matters, as he did with the Dolphins, but said that was not something that he sought or asked about in the interview process. That power will remain with Maccagnan.
Gase would not comment on Gregg Williams potentially being his defensive coordinator. That is his most critical hire, given the focus Gase will have on Darnold.
Asked what he would say to fans wondering why the team hired a not-quite-.500 career coach, Gase said, “Now we’re 0-0. That’s how we’re going to start the season. It’s a fresh start for everybody.”
Everyone associated with the Jets knows their fans are antsy after a half-century of frustration, but Johnson said Gase will not face a playoff mandate.
Maccagnan noted that Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the team’s only Super Bowl victory (and appearance), and he recalled a moment in October when Joe Namath passed by Darnold while walking off the field after a halftime ceremony honoring the Super Bowl III team.
It was a reminder of the goal they all are after, and of the guy they all are trying to help get them there.