His fate was sealed somewhere during a season-opening, 13-game losing streak – the kind of stretch no head coach could possibly survive. But the Jets waited until Sunday, shortly after their miserable season ended, to make it official.
Adam Gase is out of a job.
The Jets parted ways with their embattled head coach at the end of his second season, following a season-ending 28-14 loss in New England that left New York with a 2-14 record – their worst season since 1996. It was a move that’s been expected for months, and even the 42-year-old Gase clearly knew it was coming over the last few weeks.
“This evening, I informed Adam Gase he will no longer serve as the Head Coach of the Jets,” Jets Chairman & CEO Christopher Johnson said in a statement. “During his time here, I had the pleasure to get to know Adam and his wonderful family and wish them nothing but the best moving forward. While my sincere intentions are to have stability in our organization – especially in our leadership positions – it is clear the best decision for the Jets is to move in a different direction. We knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done when Adam joined us in 2019. Our strong finish last year was encouraging, but unfortunately, we did not sustain that positive momentum or see the progress we all expected this season.
“To our fans, it is obvious we have not been good enough. We are committed to building a strong organization, on and off the field, and will continue to provide the necessary resources to field a team that you can be proud of.”
In two years with the Jets, Gase was a dismal 9-23. His six-season record as an NFL head coach now stands at 32-48, with a remarkable 35 of those 48 losses coming by 10 points or more. His only winning season as a head coach was his first, when he went 10-6 with the Miami Dolphins in 2016. He also had the shortest tenure as a Jets head coach since Al Groh lasted just one season in 2000, and the worst record for any head coach since Rich Kotite went 4-28 in 1995-96.
As horrible as that record is, though, the real failure for Gase was his inability to live up to his billing as “a brilliant offensive mind,” as he was called by Johnson. Gase was hired in large part because of Johnson’s belief that he could be the coach who could turn quarterback Sam Darnold into a true franchise quarterback. Instead, Darnold regressed in his two seasons under Gase’s guidance, and in each year the Jets finished with the worst offense in the league.
The Jets will now begin their search for their fourth head coach in the last eight years. A source said the Jets will let general manager Joe Douglas lead the search, and many around the league expect him to look strongly at current college coaches. A priority again will be placed on finding a coach who can get the most out of Darnold, or develop the Jets’ next franchise quarterback if they choose to take one in the draft.
Gase was hired by the Jets in January 2019, just 11 days after he was fired by the Dolphins, to be that guy. The Jets nearly hired then-Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, now the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, but then-GM Mike Maccagnan had issues with the make-up of his proposed staff. The Jets also flirted with Mike McCarthy, now the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, before hiring Gase.
Gase’s candidacy got a late boost from Peyton Manning, who called Johnson to sell him on his former Broncos offensive coordinator. And Johnson not only hired Gase, but his faith in him was so strong that just four months later he fired his GM, letting Maccagnan go in what many perceived as a power struggle in the organization that Gase won. Gase was even named the interim GM and had a strong role in hiring his successor – Douglas, Gase’s long-time friend.
But that power and that friendship couldn’t protect Gase from his record, the team’s monumental struggles on offense, or Darnold’s regression. The Jets got off to a disastrous 1-7 start in his first season. And while much of that had to do with Darnold’s early-season battle with mononucleosis, Gase never turned the offense around even after Darnold came back. The Jets did have a 6-2 finish to end up with a 7-9 record, but the offense finished dead last in the NFL rankings.
That’s where the offense sits this season, too, and Darnold appeared to be getting worse in the view of several NFL scouts, even before he suffered a sprained shoulder that kept him out for several games. Overall this season, Darnold completed 217 of 364 pass attempts for 2,208 yards, with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions, ranking him as one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league.
Fixing the offense will be important as the Jets search for a new head coach, but they also figure to be searching for a leader who isn’t obsessed with one side of the ball. That was a major issue with Gase, who essentially was the head coach of the offense while defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was the head coach of the defense until he was fired last month. That issue famously surfaced in the Jets’ heart-breaking, last-second loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in early December on Williams’ ill-advised “blitz zero” call on the Raiders’ game-winning Hail Mary – a call Gase didn’t like, but also didn’t know was being made.
Though it’s not yet clear whom the Jets will interview, there are several intriguing candidates in the college ranks, including Iowa State’s Matt Campbell and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. If the Jets choose to make a bigger splash then Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh could be a factor, or perhaps even former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who is reportedly thinking about coaching in the NFL.
If they stick to NFL coaches, Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale figures to be a leading candidate, given Douglas’ ties to the Ravens organization. They could also revisit Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, perhaps the hottest assistant on the current market, whom the Jets’ interviewed for their job two years ago.
Despite the fact the Jets have missed the playoffs in 10 straight years – the longest current streak in the league – and that they’ve had only one winning season in that stretch, their job should be attractive for any candidate with options. While they have few offensive weapons and no reliable pass rush, Douglas has loaded up on draft picks and salary cap space to jumpstart the rebuilding. And whether they stick with the 23-year-old Darnold or select a quarterback with the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, at least they’ll have a quarterback to build around.
But the Jets simply can’t afford to miss on another coach. The fan base is understandably restless. They need a coach who can make the fans and players believe in a way that Gase never did.
As for Gase, he is almost certainly done as an NFL head coach, even if Manning is still in his corner – though he could resurface as an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach, possibly even in New England with Bill Belichick, who was effusive in his praise of Gase last week.