There is a classic episode of the TV show Happy Days in which cooler-than-cool Fonzie advises downtrodden friend Ralph Malph to join the French Foreign Legion after being dumped by his girlfriend. When Fonzie finally becomes convinced that he has given Ralph bad advice, he cannot bring himself to admit it, stammering “I was wwwwwrrrrrrr” instead of speaking the truth that he was wrong.
Which brings us to New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson, who reaffirmed publicly Wednesday his commitment to embattled head coach Adam Gase. In his first media session since June, Johnson told reporters that Gase’s job is safe “even after the season,” via nj.com.
Johnson said, “I want to assure you, there will be no changes in coaches. … I feel confident in Adam as our coach going forward.”
There are plenty of flaws with Johnson’s reasoning, not the least of which is the fact that even though the 2-7 Jets have had numerous injuries, Gase has not done a good job of playing a bad hand.
Consider that after starting quarterback Sam Darnold contracted mononucleosis and veteran backup Trevor Siemian then suffered a season-ending foot injury, Gase was left with the convenient excuse of being stuck with third-stringer Luke Falk. Falk played creditably in relief in a loss to Cleveland after Siemian was hurt, but was disastrously bad on the road against New England and Philadelphia.
Gase and general manager Joe Douglas could have brought in another QB during the bye week between those games, but chose to roll with Falk because he knew Gase’s system. However, Gase undermined Falk and the offense’s ability to stay competitive against the Eagles by giving Darnold all the first-team reps during the first two days of practice that week, even though he had yet to be cleared. So it partly was Gase’s fault that Falk looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights in Philly.
Falk seemingly was scapegoated by being waived before the next game. It marked the third time he had been waived in his brief career. The first two times, he was claimed immediately—-by none other than alleged “quarterback whisperer” Adam Gase.
If that whole affair didn’t reflect negatively on Gase with Johnson, it should have. But it illustrated a larger part of the problem, that is Gase giving Darnold special treatment over Falk that week. Johnson reiterated Wednesday that Gase’s one-on-one work with Darnold is very important to him, although he kept saying Gase also is well-respected by the other 53 players on the roster.
Again, Gase is supposed to be the head coach of the entire team, not just the offense or the quarterback.
“Adam has the trust of this team, he has the trust of Sam, he has Joe’s trust, he has my trust. He’s a good man, he’s a good coach,” Johnson said.
That could be Johnson’s naivete showing through. Publicly saying you don’t like or don’t respect your head coach is the surest ticket to a trade or worse, the NFL unemployment line. And Gase had no problems in Miami trading away players whom he clashed with, such as running back Jay Ajayi and wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Of course, Gase had the final say on personnel matters in Miami, something he does not have in New York. But it is clear he has plenty of influence in bringing in players, even though Douglas is in charge of personnel.
But in Johnson’s dysfunctional system of management, Gase and Douglas are equals who report to the owner. This system, also used by Woody Johnson, has not produced a playoff appearance for New York since the 2010 season. Yet the Johnsons remain steadfast in believing it is not a problem, just as Christopher Johnson remains steadfast in his belief that Adam Gase is the coach Peyton Manning says he is.
The Johnsons should empower someone (Douglas, maybe?) to make these decisions, because their current run of futility demonstrates that they do not have the football savvy to make them. (Remember, Christopher extended the contracts of Bowles and then-GM Mike Maccagnan after a 4-12 season in 2017.) The Jets desperately need a football czar, if you will.
Let’s face it, Johnson does not want to pay three head coaches at the same time (he already is on the hook for Todd Bowles’ 2019 and 2020 paychecks, minus whatever Tampa Bay is paying Bowles as its defensive coordinator). And, much like the fictional Arthur Fonzarelli, he doesn’t want to admit he was wrong.
And, yes, it is quite possible that he isn’t wrong. Maybe, if Gase changes his ways, he can find a way to coach the entire team, and not be fixated on his play sheet and his quarterback. Although it is rather alarming that not once Wednesday did Johnson say that Gase needs to improve in any facet of coaching the team, even though that seems quite obvious to most people.
Adam Gase will be employed by the Jets in 2020, thanks to Christopher Johnson’s pride and his wallet. But is it also because of misguided beliefs and blind faith? We eventually will find out.