FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Adam Gase avoided answering why things went south with Le’Veon Bell and whether he misused him far better than Bell avoided tacklers in his 17 games as a Jet.
Gase, whose relationship with Bell was rocky from the beginning, sidestepped many questions about the former Pro Bowl running back’s brief and disappointing tenure in a Jets uniform.
"For whatever reason, it didn’t work out," Gase said during a Wednesday afternoon Zoom call.
Actually, there were a lot of reasons it didn’t work out, leading to Bell’s stunning release Tuesday night. Reasons that are on both Gase and Bell, who signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets in 2019.
An immensely productive back in Pittsburgh, Bell didn’t have the same burst as he did before sitting out the 2018 season over a contract dispute with the Steelers.
As a Jet, Bell produced 1,363 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns, and will have earned $28 million. But Gase wouldn’t address the perception that he didn’t use Bell properly.
"It’s irrelevant at this point," Gase said.
When pushed further, Gase said, "It didn’t work out. It didn’t work out. We’re going to have to focus on this game right now."
Gase was asked if he thinks Bell could still be a productive player in the NFL.
"I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity somewhere else," he said. "We’ll see what happens."
Rookie La’Mical Perine will be featured more in the backfield with veteran Frank Gore going forward. The 0-5 Jets are in Miami on Sunday.
Gase said the Jets "came to a consensus" Tuesday night that the best thing was to move forward without Bell. Bell was frustrated over his usage, and he met with Gase and general manager Joe Douglas on Monday, according to a league source. They agreed they would try to trade Bell.
Douglas increased his efforts to deal Bell on Tuesday and gave permission to his agent to seek trades. When there were no takers, despite the fact that the Jets were willing pay a portion of the $6 million still owed to him this year, the Jets decided to release Bell.
"For us, we just felt it was best that we parted ways," Gase said. "It gives him an opportunity to go somewhere else. I want nothing but the best for him. Get an opportunity to go somewhere else and have success.
"It’s tough. It’s a tough decision to make. We felt like that was the best for us where we’re at right now. We got to move on to Miami."
Gase wasn’t fully on board when former general manager Mike Maccagnan gave Bell the big contract. Gase believed the money could be better used if spread around at different positions.
During his time as a Jet, Bell often showed frustration over his lack of touches. The situation came to a head after he returned from injured reserve over the weekend.
Playing in just his second game this season, Bell had 14 touches against Arizona last Sunday, but he was targeted only once in the passing game.
Afterward, Bell "liked" tweets that referenced the lack of targets and suggested that the Jets trade him because Gase doesn’t use him properly. Gase expressed his displeasure to reporters on Monday about Bell doing that on social media instead of talking to him directly.
This wasn’t the first time that happened, and it also isn’t the first time Gase has had issues with players, many of them high-profile individuals from both the Jets and the Dolphins when he coached there.
In Miami, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Jay Ajayi were among the Dolphins who had some personal and philosophical differences with Gase. Before the Jets traded Jamal Adams to Seattle, the Pro Bowl safety took shots at Gase. Now he and Bell are the latest to have a messy split.
But the embattled coach, who might be the next big name shown the door by the Jets, said he’s not worried about the locker room.
Gase said he spoke to players individually Tuesday night and Wednesday and that "they’re in a good place."
Overall, the Jets aren’t. Players around the NFL certainly take notice of what’s happened with some of their peers when they come to the Jets. It could make it difficult to lure free agents.
But Gase believes everything is fine, and they’re building the right culture.
"We’re working on creating a culture that we’ve tried to build here in the last year," he said. "I felt like we got some pretty good free agents this offseason."
Bell was their biggest one from two years ago, and the Jets got little out of him and to show for him.