If Trevor Lawrence paid any attention to latest Jets mess, the team may have to immediately fire Adam Gase

Charles Robinson
·NFL columnist
·7 min read
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase watches play against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Jets head coach Adam Gase can't hide from his winless record this season as New York fell to 0-11. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Even with a history that has seen virtually every New York Jets coach joust with reporters covering the team, Sunday was a new low for the franchise and Adam Gase. So much so, you have to start wondering how much of this is being absorbed by presumptive No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence — and whether the circus around Gase might be leaving a deeply troubled impression of the franchise on the Clemson quarterback.

It’s hard to get around Sunday’s mess without wondering how much longer general manager Joe Douglas can ride it out with Gase. Regardless of whether it’s the right tactical move for the long-term gain of Lawrence, Gase’s performance is bordering on doing long-term damage to everyone associated with him. That includes the general manager who didn’t choose him in the first place.

If there were any doubt about that, Sunday’s 20-3 home loss to the Miami Dolphins erased it. Not only did the Jets slam headfirst into a wall after some productive games under the play-calling of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, Gase appeared to get caught in a weirdly deceptive explanation about his hand in it. And it happened in one of the more cringeworthy exchanges with media covering the team, with reporters essentially insinuating during a Zoom news conference that Gase was lying to them.

For those who haven’t been following along with this relentless 0-11 soap opera, Gase allegedly surrendered play-calling duties in October. The hope was that a change could spark an offense that had bottomed out. And while the results weren’t always ideal, the past two games with Loggains calling plays and Joe Flacco at quarterback appeared to punch the Jets through a competitive wall. That is, until Sunday, when starter Sam Darnold returned and Gase suddenly looked like he was calling plays again on the sideline.

So what did the reporters see? Well, they saw Loggains without an offensive play sheet and observed him essentially doing nothing at key moments in the game, all while it appeared Gase was calling plays into his headset. It appeared to be a stakeout of the head coach and offensive coordinator that sure seemed to prove that Gase was indeed calling some of the offense.

This is where it gets weird: Gase initially denied that Sunday – but then sort of admitted it.

Did reporters catch Adam Gase in a lie?

Without going into the whole awkward exchange, Gase said nothing had changed from the previous four games and that Loggains was still calling the offense. When he was confronted with portions of the game it appeared the offensive coordinator was doing nothing but standing around on the sideline, Gase said that was because Loggains had been previously telling him three pre-determined plays, and then Gase was handling the third-down calls. Pressed further, Gase eventually admitted that he had called the team’s two-minute offense in the third quarter, once the Jets were trailing in the game.

Here’s the exchange:

It’s important to note that this isn’t a garden-variety exchange between reporters covering an NFL team and a head coach. Even in the worst of times, it’s rare for two reporters to essentially accuse a coach of outright deception. What makes this instance even more baffling is that Gase fumbled his explanation and essentially ended up admitting that he indeed took back at least parts of the team’s play calling. And he did it in a game when the offense seemed to revert back to the rancid mess from earlier in the season.

It’s bad enough that Gase handled that moment so poorly and appeared to be obstructing at least part of his involvement in another inept offensive performance. It’s worse that Douglas is basically painted into a corner with Gase and can’t seem to do what he logically would have done by now, which is fire Gase and elevate an interim until the offseason search can begin.

But he can’t — or won’t — largely because the long payoff necessitates running over landmines like this to get the franchise where it needs to be. And that’s with the No. 1 overall pick and the first offseason where Douglas can build the team precisely the way he sees fit, including both the quarterback and head coach of his choosing.

Jets’ instability presents Trevor Lawrence with serious questions

There is a heavy cost to that route. Gase is illustrating part of it right now, both on the field and in exchanges with media that is no longer willing to assume the coach is telling the truth about his involvement in the scheme. Every week he remains employed is another week that he’s an albatross to the credibility of everyone above him. If only because it’s obvious that he should be fired and there’s a chance that this season’s failures could infect this franchise long after he’s gone.

The impact on Lawrence is one prime example. While the Jets could land the No. 1 overall pick and there’s little doubt they’d take the Clemson star, it wouldn’t be a shocking reality if the people around Lawrence advised him to stay away from the franchise, particularly if exchanges like the one Gase just took part in become more prominent as the season goes on. It’s a bad look that leads to even worse questions.

Does a star really want to play for a franchise that appears to be tacitly endorsing failure by keeping Gase employed? Is it the general manager or ownership deciding Gase’s fate? Is there something fundamentally flawed about the roster? Did they wreck Darnold’s career? And is this the media market where a player wants to risk going through a long rebuild?

Nov 28, 2020; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney pats Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) on the shoulder following their 52-17 win over Pittsburgh at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the favorite to the be the top pick in the 2021 NFL draft. (Ken Ruinard/USA TODAY Sports)

These are going to be very real questions that Lawrence is confronted with if the Jets are holding the top pick. And it’s not unprecedented for generational quarterbacks to get strong advice to stay away, particularly when the franchise in question appears to have a history of compounding mistakes rather than resolving them. That’s how you got John Elway refusing to play for the Baltimore Colts. And it’s largely why Eli Manning demanded a trade on draft day from the San Diego Chargers. More recently, it happened on a broader scale with the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL draft, when every marquee quarterback was asked to contemplate playing for a career-killing franchise.

The Jets can’t afford that after this kind of season. And Douglas definitely can’t afford it, with team owner Woody Johnson slated to return from his ambassadorship and the lingering possibility that another change in direction could occur. Without question, Douglas shouldn’t be tethered to Gase or saddled with the responsibility of a roster that he has just started to remake. But the NFL isn’t always fair, either. There’s a chance that ownership, especially this ownership, screws up the next few months. Maybe Douglas doesn’t get credit for a first draft that has been impressive. And maybe there isn’t a line of credit for the reality that Gase wasn’t his choice and Darnold wasn’t his draft pick. Maybe the continuity that Douglas was promised regardless of Johnson’s role simply doesn’t materialize.

It’s hard to believe the franchise would hold Douglas responsible for anything Gase is doing or saying at this point. But there are five weeks left in this season and it can always get worse. Three head coaches have been fired to date and Adam Gase isn’t one of them. That’s cause enough for concern because even the wrong choice for the right reasons can carry unintended consequences. And if there is even a possibility of Lawrence developing a distrust of the Jets, moving on from Gase might have to happen immediately.

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