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Initial thoughts on the Jets hiring Adam Gase as head coach

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New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It recently occurred to me that an average fan pulled off the street might have done a better job running the Jets through the years than the people who actually have run the team.

It sounds like a ridiculous thing to say at first that an average fan would be better than people who have spent decades in the league, but the Jets have made a staggering number of terrible decisions through the years that most fans hated at the time.

Last night I saw a few people suggest the fanbase is so negative that people would hate the hire even if it was the reincarnation of Vince Lombardi, but that isn’t true. I speak with as many Jets fans as anybody. I know this is a fanbase starved for a winner. If you can provide a plausible path to success for any decision, most of the fans will sign up for it.

When the majority of the fanbase revolts, it tends to be because a decision is so illogical that even the average fan knows it’s a bad idea. The only recent move I can remember where the fanbase overwhelmingly reacted angrily and was proven wrong was the drafting of Sheldon Richardson in 2013.

Just think about the way this decade has gone. Remember the Tebow trade, the drafting of Dexter McDougle and Christian Hackenberg, and not signing any good cornerbacks in free agency in 2014 among others.

These decisions were obviously terrible at the time. Most fans realized it, but somehow the people running the Jets didn’t.

For a time yesterday it felt like the Jets were trending in the direction of Matt Rhule as their new head coach. I wrote an outline of an article with initial thoughts. It was almost split evenly into three parts. I had some positives about the hiring or Rhule, some negatives, and a lengthy list of unknowns. I would have been wait and see on him, but I know most fans eventually would have been optimistic about the hire.

Let’s jump into some other initial takeaways.

This feels like an uninspired hire.

Throughout the process it felt like the fanbase was divided into two camps.

One camp wanted to play it safe and go with the coach who had the best resume. That was Mike McCarthy. Hiring an inexperienced coach is risky. McCarthy has a track record of success in the NFL and understands how to be a head coach. Even if he doesn’t have the highest ceiling of the candidates, you know what you are getting.

The other camp wanted the Jets to take a big swing and look for the next great coach. The thinking was that while McCarthy had the record of past success, there were aspects of his performance that might make it unlikely that he would sustain that level of success going forward. The Jets shouldn’t look for the guy who was a good coach. They should find the guy who will be a great coach and grow with Sam Darnold. There were multiple candidates in this category, including Todd Monken, Matt Rhule, Kris Richard, and Kliff Kingsbury.

To be honest, I thought both sides made valid arguments. I personally went back and forth between the camps during this process.

In the end, I thought the camp that did not get its way would see the wisdom behind the decision and get on board, even if it wasn’t their first choice.

But the Jets chose neither path. Instead, they opted for a retread who was just dumped to the scrap heap by a division rival.

The process stunk to high heaven.

This hire might be easier for me to rationalize if I felt the process behind it was good. Good process usually leads to good results.

I think it’s very difficult to argue this was a good process. The search started with the Jets keeping one of the least effective general managers in the league to help oversee things. The CEO immediately took off the table the option to give his head coach hire control over personnel. This immediately took many options with clout off the table. The coaches who demand this power tend to be proven winners.

The Jets then reportedly passed on Matt Rhule because they were heavy handed in demanding say over Rhule’s assistant coach hires. The front office getting control over the coaching staff hires a surefire way to undermine a head coach.

If you won’t give a proven winner the power they would want or empower an up and coming star to leave his imprint on the team, you likely will end up with a mediocre hire, somebody so desperate to be a head coach that he will agree to any conditions to get the job.

The real kicker in all of this is that in spite of the team’s heavy-handedness with Rhule, the Jets are apparently all right with Gase bringing in Dowell Loggains, a very shaky hire, as his offensive coordinator.

I think Chris Johnson is in over his head.

Jets CEO Chris Johnson spoke to the media on New Year’s Eve after the team fired Todd Bowles. The team did not televise the press conference or stream it live so we were left to rely on media tweets transcribing his comments.

Some stuck out to me.

I thought Johnson came off like a guy who thought he was holding all of the cards.

And he wasn’t totally wrong. There were some attractive aspects of this Jets job. However, Johnson definitely did not hold all of the leverage.

It’s tough to find a good coach to hire in this league. Eight teams were looking for new coaches this year. If three of them find successful long-term guys, I would be surprised.

It isn’t as simple as saying, “If you want control over personnel or your coaching staff, we’ll go onto the next guy.” There are a finite number of quality head coaches, and the next guy might not be as good.

Six years ago the Jets were looking for a general manager. They put a major condition on the job. The general manager had to keep Rex Ryan. The eventual hire was John Idzik, who was ill-equipped to handle the position.

I have always thought the condition to keep Rex prevented potential candidates from pursuing the position. The Jets ended up with a guy nobody else wanted simply because it was the only chance he would ever get to be a general manager.

Finding the right guy is tough enough. It’s a bad idea to further reduce the odds of success by artificially reducing the pool of potential candidates.

The last three years matter a lot.

One of the oddest justifications I have heard for this hiring is that Gase was a hot coordinator three years ago.

Why do the last three years not matter? These years provide us with the most recent body of work. This is also the most relevant body of work because Gase was actually in the head coaching position.

Imagine if another team hired Todd Bowles as its head coach. What would you say if one of their fans justified the move by saying something like, “Just four years ago he was a hot name and viewed as a creative defensive mind. Did that go away overnight? And look at the talent level on the Jets. Could anybody have won with those quarterbacks?”

I don’t think you’d buy it. But that’s close to the story I’m hearing about Bowles.

Adam Gase is not Doug Pederson.

Even weirder was when a few media members tried to play the Doug Pederson card last night to defend the hire.

I tweet very little from the GGN account, but I felt the need to respond.

If you want to say original prognostications are sometimes wrong, it’s one thing. But it’s absurd to drop Doug Pederson’s name in this discussion. Gase and Pederson have both been head coaches for three years. Pederson has won a Super Bowl with his backup quarterback.

If we are going to play the “How people were wrong about coaching hires” game, most observers at the time thought Gase was a stronger hire in Miami in 2016 than Pederson was in Philadelphia. That proved to be incorrect.

Peyton Manning’s opinion doesn’t matter.

It’s great that Peyton Manning apparently called Chris Johnson during the interview to vouch for Gase. Manning was a legendary quarterback.

That doesn’t mean those playing skills are transferable to giving advice on a coaching hire. Manning has never run an NFL coaching search. He might have some insight to offer from the player’s perspective, but a lot more than that goes into finding a good coaching candidate.

Gase seems like a coaching version of Mike Maccagnan.

As you may know, I have been struck by much analysis of Mike Maccagnan’s job performance. It seems to me his failures have been excused, while his successes have been few, modest, and overstated.

I get a lot of the same vibes from Gase’s record.

Gase was Peyton Manning’s coach. His record was bad because his talent was bad. That 7-9 record is actually impressive because of how little talent he had.

None of this really distinguishes Gase. The positives are pretty lame and don’t even stand up to scrutiny. While Miami had a 7-9 record this year, the Dolphins had the third worst point differential in the league (worse than even the Jets), which suggest their actual level of performance was far less impressive than it initially looks on paper.

The Jets should clean house if they don’t make the Playoffs in 2019.

There are no more excuses. Mike Maccagnan has “his” coach. I have heard plenty about how the Jets are set up because they have the quarterback, a top three pick, and a ton of cap space. With all of these resources, a six seed in the AFC seems like a small ask. And now they have an experienced head coach who knows the AFC East. There shouldn’t be any on the job training necessary like there would be with a first time head coach. These guys should be able to hit the ground running. And there should be consequences for failure.

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I have seen some people say it is the fanbase’s job now to only speak positively of this hire and root for Gase.

In September it will be the job of the fans to root for Gase. For now the job is to hold the organization accountable. The Jets as a franchise have been satisfied with mediocrity or worse for years. Fans have a right to expect more and voice their displeasure if they receive it.

Yes, this hire could work well. Anything is theoretically possible. But I think even the biggest fan of this decision would have to admit that it requires some degree of faith that the Jets are seeing more in Gase than initially meets the eye. You have have faith that the Jets know more than everybody else.

As I said at the top, moments like these haven’t turned out very well for this franchise so I think skepticism has been earned.