The architect of one of the greatest offenses of all time believes Adam Gase can build something special with the Jets.
Mike Martz was the offensive coordinator and then the head coach of the St. Louis Rams when they were known as “The Greatest Show on Turf,” reaching two Super Bowls in three years with Kurt Warner at quarterback. Gase wasn’t a part of that team at all, but he might know that Rams offense as well as anyone.
Gase worked with Martz when the latter was the offensive coordinator in Detroit and San Francisco, and Martz is one of the most influential people in Gase’s rise from “office assistant” to head coach of the Jets.
Martz said Gase will be the optimal mentor for quarterback Sam Darnold and that he will expect excellence from everyone. “The bar at the Jets just got raised dramatically,” Martz said during a phone interview. “Trust me on that.”
Some fans may not be happy that the Jets chose Gase as their head coach, but he might have the approach and stubbornness to change the losing mentality and culture that has existed within the team. Gase holds himself and everyone else to higher standards, Martz said.
Gase is taking over a team that has missed the playoffs for the last eight years and needs a jolt. “They do,” Martz said. “That’s why to me it’s a match made in heaven. He just has such great passion for the game, extremely smart, great work ethic. Those things are all just huge to me.”
Gase, 40, comes to the Jets with a reputation of being a creative and innovative offensive mind and a quarterback whisperer. Martz said he is a special person and coach, and that is something Martz learned pretty quickly.
After being fired by the Rams in 2005, Martz was hired as offensive coordinator in Detroit. Gase, a Michigan native, already was there as what Martz called “an office assistant” and an “at-large guy.”
Gase informed Martz that he wanted to be a coach, so Martz gave him a massive project to work on to see how serious Gase was about it and how much he knew about offense.
Martz told Gase that after the Rams dismissed him, they wouldn’t allow him to take the video cut-ups of his offense. He asked Gase to watch each game from 1999-2005 and edit each offensive play and document it.
Gase spent months on the project and completed it. But what Gase never knew and still doesn’t — according to Martz — was that Martz already had the cut-ups. Gase was like a sponge and absorbed so much about Martz’s offense that he knew it cold.
“He busted his butt making these cut-ups,” Martz said with a laugh. “For somebody who doesn’t know the offense to do it is next to impossible. He did that. I said, ‘We probably need to hire this guy. There’s something real special about this guy.’
“Within a few months, he knew the offense as well as any of the quarterbacks would know it and as well as any of the other coaches would know it. He was way past them in just a matter of a few months. Pretty impressive.”
Martz made Gase an offensive assistant and told him to just stick with him and listen to what he said. The following season, Gase was promoted to quarterbacks coach. When Martz left to become the 49ers' offensive coordinator, he brought in Gase as his quarterbacks coach.
“We gave him an opportunity,” Martz said. “Nine out of 10 guys, if they had the same opportunity, they probably would just kind of fumble along through their careers. He took full advantage of this. He is so smart and he retains things so quickly. He’s just able to solve problems and understand the decisions to make at that position.”
Gase told the Miami Herald that “the majority” of what he learned about offense and presenting it to players comes from Martz.
In Gase's first season as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator in 2013, Peyton Manning threw an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes. Manning, who once referred to Gase as “the smartest guy I know,” vouched for and endorsed Gase to Jets CEO Christopher Johnson before his hiring last week.
Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffrey, who was with the Bears for Gase’s only season as their offensive coordinator, told NJ Advance Media this week that “Darnold will excel” and “be a Super Bowl MVP” under Gase.
Of course, Gase wasn’t very successful in three years as the Dolphins' head coach. He went 23-25 in the regular season and lost his only playoff game. They finished 24th or worse in offense all three years, including 31st this season
Injuries to quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the offensive line, as well as a lack of talent, factored into Gase not living up to the hype, but he has to take some responsibility for the personnel. The Dolphins gave him control of the 53-man roster. He won't have that with the Jets.
It’s understandable to question other people’s faith in Gase after his run with the Dolphins. He has a strong personality, which led to conflicts with some of his players. Three former Dolphins — Jarvis Landry, Jay Ajayi and Jordan Phillips — had posts on social media that indicated they were reveling in Gase’s dismissal from Miami on New Year’s Eve.
But Martz, now the head coach of the San Diego Fleet of the newly formed Alliance of American Football league, believes in his protege.
“A young quarterback like Sam could not have a better mentor at this point in terms of getting him to play at the highest level in this league,” Martz said. “Sam’s quarterback rating will go way up. He’ll play smart. He’ll be quick with the ball. He won’t make dumb mistakes. He will be very, very disciplined in everything they do.
“I think this is terrific. I’m excited for New York. I’m excited for the Jets.”
The 1999 Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams:
Off. category Total NFL Rank
Points 526 1
Total yards 6,412 1
Passing yards 4,353 1
Passing TDs 42 1
Rushing yards 2 ,059 5
Rushing TDs 13 10
3rd down conv. 46.9% 1
Red zone conv. 66. 1% 2