John Fox believes the Jets and Sam Darnold are in good hands with Adam Gase.
When Fox was the head coach in Denver and Chicago, Gase was his offensive coordinator. Fox believes the Jets' new head coach played a “huge” part in Peyton Manning’s historic 2013 season in Denver.
Manning, two years removed from a neck injury that caused him to miss a season, was nearing the end of his career; Gase was just starting his rise. In Gase’s first season as an NFL offensive coordinator, Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdown passes. Both are NFL records that still stand.
“Peyton reinvented himself and I thought Adam kind of invented himself,” Fox said during a phone interview Thursday.
Gase spent three seasons coaching Manning – one as a quarterbacks coach and two as offensive coordinator. In that time, Manning threw 131 touchdown passes and the Broncos were a top-four offense all three seasons.
Manning already was an all-time great quarterback when he got to Denver. But Fox credits Gase for bringing more out of him.
“I think he gave him answers,” said Fox, who spent five years as the Giants' defensive coordinator under Jim Fassel. “I don’t care how good a player you are or what kind of status you’ve reached in your career. At the end of the day a player wants to be coached. They want answers. They want options. They’re the ones out there playing. I think that communication is huge especially at the quarterback position.
“We did a lot at the line of scrimmage. Peyton was brilliant at that. He could handle it. He could see things and get to better plays. A lot of that was due to his experience, but I will say this: Maybe another coach didn’t give Peyton’s those answers. Adam did.”
Now Gase, 40, will be giving those answers to Darnold.
Gase was only 23-25 in three seasons as the Dolphins' coach. Miami’s offense and quarterback play were mostly disappointing. But the Jets apparently believe Gase can help the 21-year-old Darnold become a franchise quarterback. Fox does, too.
“I thought he was a great hire,” Fox said. “Kind of the trend now is going with quarterback guys and I think Adam’s definitely established himself as far as reputation-wise in the National Football League in that area.
“I think Sam’s going to get daily tutelage. Like Peyton, he’s going to want to be coached. He’s going to be wide-eyed, bushy-tailed, ready to roll. Adam will do an outstanding job whether it’s mechanically or decision making, where your eyes are. There’s just a lot of coaching that does into that position.”
It didn’t take Fox long to see something in Gase.
Fox was the head coach for Carolina before taking over Denver in 2011. Gase already was the Broncos’ wide receivers coach. Fox retained him and made Gase the quarterbacks coach. That season he mentored Tim Tebow.
The following season, Fox promoted Gase to offensive coordinator. The Broncos reached the Super Bowl in 2013, but lost to the Seahawks. Fox was fired two seasons later and became the Bears' coach, and hired Gase to be his offensive coordinator.
“I saw a bright young coach,” Fox said. “He knows football. His expertise is offense. But he’s been around some pretty good defensive people, too. You got to have a pretty good working knowledge of both sides of the ball and how to communicate to players. I’ve never been with him as a head coach. All indications are that he’s done fine. He did a good job in front of the room on offense.”
The Jets’ choice hasn’t been popular with their fan base or with some sport radio talk show hosts because of Gase’s struggles in Miami, where Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Jay Cutler and Brock Osweiler were his quarterbacks.
Gase took heat for not winning more. Fox believes that prepared him for what he faces in New York and he will be a better coach for it.
“There’s always tough spots,” Fox said. “There’s always going to be tough moments. I think Adam has been through it enough that he’ll know how to respond. He’s had practice, let me put it that way. There’s no manual for this. For guys that have never done it before I think it’s more difficult. Like anything, the more you do it, the better you get, and you learn.”