Consider the trolley problem, a famous philosophical dilemma covered perfectly by The Good Place and probably also in books. You, the conductor of a broken trolley, will hit and kill five people; you’re able to avert this disaster, but changing course ensures that you’ll instead hit one person. One option, you’re accidentally killing five. The other, you kill one intentionally. You’re also Jets head coach Adam Gase.
What do you do?
I’ll tell you what Adam Gase does. He waits, looks at a chart, skips a meal with his family, and calls for the trolley to run up the middle.
The Jets hired Adam Gase for reasons unknown
After a decade of losing and organizational malpractice, the Jets hired Adam Gase, the former Miami Dolphins head coach and offensive coordinator to Peyton Manning in his record-setting Denver Broncos 2013 season. Being Manning’s offensive coordinator should have produced the same resume boost as putting Microsoft Excel and Word under special skills. Yet, the Jets are and will forever be, rubes until the end of time.
The hire represented a safe, boring, and uninspiring decision from Christopher Johnson, brother to former Jets owner and current United Kingdom ambassador Woody Johnson (a sentence that becomes even more implausible each word). Run out by a Miami franchise left so barren they’re intentionally losing to restock the talent base, Gase aimed to rebuild a Jets team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2011 and posted one winning season since.
He started his tenure by successfully ousting long-struggling general manager Mike Maccagnan. The ouster came only after Maccaggnan made all the important decisions in the draft and free agency.
Now? He leads the team that brought us this graphic.
I understand that some of my fellow masochistic Jets fans defend the coach, pointing out that Gase initially lost his starting quarterback to excessive smooching and did not build this roster himself, but I ask; why? What do you see schematically, emotionally, or spiritually that inspires you to defend the organization? Where in that green-clad body do you find a remaining well of hope to pull from?
trying anything for some hope
Let’s tug at that thread. I pulled the records of several coaches with at least four years of head coaching experience since 2000, filtering out any interim or partial season results. Gase is in his fourth season as a head coach, getting us a sample large enough to track against his peers. Per Pro Football Reference, thirty-two coaches qualify with that filter. Only ten of them posted a losing record through their first three seasons, broken out below.
Gase tied the seventh-worst record of the group, ending his tenure in Miami with a 23-25 record; he posted the same win-loss totals as Jeff Fisher and Joe Philbin, less than ideal company. One of these names is not like the other, and I of course mean current Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, proud owner of the worst record of this cohort at 14-34.
Nothing but quality football in the Big Apple. MetLife Stadium sees less wins per year than the London stadium they force the Jaguars to play in.
I was shocked to see Bill Belichick among the struggling coaches, even knowing that he spent the beginning of his career in less than ideal circumstances in Cleveland. However, he then posted an 11-5 record in his fourth year and went on to own the world in New England. This fourth season appears to be a bit of a tipping point for coaching careers. A good year here buys you job security and often leads to future success; another failure, and you’re likely doomed.
the pivotal fourth season
Only thirteen coaches in our group posted a losing record in their fourth season,. Five of them also failed to hit a winning record in their first three. The infamous five includes Todd Bowles, Pat Shurmur, Joe Philbin, Jay Gruden, and Adam Gase.
The Jets are the only franchise to hire two of these coaches.
Bowles was fired after three straight losing seasons. Gruden and Philbin both lost their jobs midseason. While the jury’s out on Gruden getting another shot, Philbin’s still unemployed. Among the ten coaches in the table above, only Bill Belichick and Gary Kubiak won Super Bowls later in their career, while Jeff Fisher made it to one but lost.
Few coaches with Gase’s losing resume turn things around. Unless you’re convinced he’s a secret Belichick, or Peyton Manning is walking through that door to gift you a Super Bowl like Kubiak, the history of his peers makes me doubt he’ll be the one to fix Gang Green.
None of us want the 7-9 purgatory of a Jeff Fisher era.
How does this track back to the Jets and Adam Gase?
With the loss to the winless Bengals, Gase will produce his third straight season without a winning record. The loss in Cincinnati had all the tenants of a poorly coached and ill-prepared team. The Jets no-showed a trap game to the league’s worst team for the second time this season. Offensively, the team showed no creativity or preparation, evidenced by this dreary insight by Michael Nania.
His offense ranks 26th in Football Outsider’s DVOA, and, broken out neatly in this great visual by Ben Baldwin, his franchise quarterback ranks 26th in total QBR for the year, trailing players like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Jones, Josh Allen, and Gardner Minshew.
Despite some promising moments, there’s been little to suggest a second-year leap for Darnold under Gase; that alone should be grounds for dismissal in a league where a productive quarterback on a rookie contract can be a Super Bowl cheat code.
Also, the man’s just weird in the worst ways.
Skipping Thanksgiving dinner with your family to highlight your work ethic, only to collapse entirely and lose to a 0-11 team? Nothing better represents the unique Jets flavor of performative, ineffectual nonsense.
what are the stakes here?
Keeping Gase for another season commits the cardinal sin as an owner; it demonstrates a culture that ignores accountability and has no issue with multiple embarrassing, blowout losses. No coach who loses to two different 0-7 or worse teams in the same season can claim a modicum of success, and this stat below captures the failure in stark detail.
The key data point there? Adam Gase gets blown out 41% of the time. Every season you let him coach, you’re signing up for nearly seven double-digit losses. They’ve been thoroughly embarrassed in primetime games twice times this season, scoring three total points, and face the Ravens later this year in what will likely be a third blowout on national television.
Ultimately, the Jets need to decide what they want out of the franchise. One winning season in a decade makes you a laughingstock, and as they enter yet another offseason with a high draft pick and endless question marks, the streak doesn’t appear in any danger of ending. Gase in his best season produced a thoroughly mediocre Miami team that lost by three scores in the playoffs, and he’s offered little to no signs of optimism in this disaster of a Jets year.
What does the franchise want to stand for?
If he’s still the coach in 2020, an already-empty apathetic fanbase might turn in their allegiances for good. Life’s too short to watch another 5-11 season go up in flames. The Jets need to move on from Adam Gase.