NEW YORK JETS
Dan Pompei of The Athletic with a long takeout piece on Jets coach Adam Gase. Excerpts below:
In the aftermath of the press conference to introduce the head coach of the New York Jets, Adam Gase’s eyes were more scrutinized than his words.
They seemed as big as golf balls, and there wasn’t a lot of blinking going on. He sometimes moved his stare without moving his head.
Many found humor in this.
Gase and almost everyone close to him did not.
Only two people had the gumption to tease him about it.
A.J. Gase, 7, and Wyatt Gase, 5, prompted by a family elder who will provide outrageous servings of ice cream even if they don’t finish dinner, approached their father with wide, crossed eyes.
“Hey, Dad,” they said. “Now we’re just like you.”
Now that was funny.
“Nothing’s sacred,” says grinning Joe Vitt, the naughty grandfather who put the boys up to the stunt.
Vitt, a salty 40-year coaching veteran and current Jets outside linebackers coach, is also Gase’s father-in-law and one of his most trusted advisors. Vitt and his grandsons can get away with it. But nobody else can.
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To Le’Veon Bell, he’s a “mastermind.” Peyton Manning called him the smartest guy he knows. John Elway, Frank Gore and Albert Wilson used the word “genius” to describe him.
“I call him the evil genius,” says quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who played for Gase in Miami and is now with the Titans. “He’s always searching for the perfect play, the perfect scheme, a hole in the defense’s game plan. You should see him work the computer and crunch the numbers on a scouting report. It’s insane how fast he clicks around and does these quickie stats and sorts things. He’s always trying to find patterns that give the offense an advantage.”
While studying tape of the Titans last year, Gase picked up on a trend: After achieving a first down on their side of the field, the Titans usually played quarters coverage. He subsequently called for a quarters beater, and the result was a 75-yard touchdown in a Dolphins victory. “There was always something he’d come up with like that, every game,” says Tannehill, who threw the pass.
In a game against the Jets, the Dolphins had success with a passing play. “Early the following week after the Jets game, I get a text,” says Dowell Loggains, Gase’s offensive coordinator with the Dolphins and now the Jets. “He had a play drawn up on the board that played off the other play. He said to remind him to call it as soon as we got past the 50. During the game, as soon as I started to remind him, the play was in.”
It was a double pass from Gore to Wilson to Jakeem Grant, and it went for a 52-yard touchdown that changed the game against the Raiders.
“He’s not afraid to go outside the box,” Loggains says. “He will try things that haven’t been done before.”
Gase is not about ceilings or brakes. As a young apprentice to Mike Martz in Detroit and San Francisco, he learned to think without limits and to coach without fear. He was Tim Tebow’s position coach when Tebow led four consecutive come-from-behind victories, then beat the Steelers in the playoffs. Manning hit career highs in passing yards and touchdown passes when Gase was his offensive coordinator. Jay Cutler had the highest passer rating of his career when Gase was his offensive coordinator. Tannehill had his best NFL season in his first year with Gase as head coach, leading the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016 for the first time in eight seasons.
By the time he was 24, Gase had been around Nick Saban for six years at Michigan State and LSU. Gase watched him carefully, and more than anything, he admired the way Saban was able to bring out the best in people around him. Gase’s mission, subsequently has been to make the people around him better.
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In those eyes is something you don’t always find in football coaches — benevolence.
On the night of July 3 of last year, Jeremiah Washburn, an assistant on Gase’s Miami staff, was riding his bike on Federal Highway in South Florida when he was run over by a truck. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors told him he might lose his leg.
Gase found out and called Washburn’s wife, Susan. He stayed on the phone with her from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m. as Jeremiah underwent emergency surgery.
“The guy is something else,” says Washburn, whose leg was saved.
In the first period of a training camp practice in 2017, Tannehill took an awkward step and his knee gave out. He was taken for an MRI as the Dolphins finished practice.
As soon as practice ended, Gase left the team and rushed to be with Tannehill and his wife, Lauren, as Ryan had his MRI. “In all my career, I had never seen that before,” says Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins’ executive vice president of football operations at the time.
Tannehill, who tore his ACL that day, says Gase cared about him like a mother would. “He wanted me to take care of myself and not take hits,” he says. “He’s always trying to build relationships and relate to the players. He does it a lot better than any other coach or coordinator I’ve ever been around going back to high school.”
This helps explain why, after Gase was fired, there was a long line of Dolphins employees outside his office. Gase spent the better part of that day saying goodbyes.
“Coach (Bill) Parcells, if you knew him through what you saw in the media, you would have one perception of him,” says Tannenbaum, who once worked with Parcells. “But he has an incredibly endearing, nurturing side that he would never let you know about. In that way, he and Adam are similar. Players go through things like breaking up with girlfriends, deaths in the family, having kids, parents getting older. That stuff comes up all the time. Adam was always exceptionally good dealing with those types of things.”
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Behind those eyes is, yes, a maniac.
Gase learned to work by watching his father, Art, put in 14-hour days as a foreman for a manufacturing company. Adam has become so much like his dad that he can open Art’s iPhone with Face ID.
Gase is most comfortable when he is working. “At night, this is what I do,” he says, pointing to the video monitor in his office. “It’s my hobby, what I love. Game planning, watching film, getting things organized. There’s always something to learn. Fourteen or 16 hours doesn’t seem that long. It goes fast.”
Gase is friendly with Lions coach Matt Patricia. When Patricia was in New England and Gase was in Miami, Gase would text him in the middle of the night the week before their teams played. “Still working?” the text would say. “I’m still in the office.”
During his years with the Dolphins, Gase lived across the street from Loggains. Sometimes, Loggains would be jostled awake after midnight by his wife, Beth. “Adam’s at the door,” she would say.
Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills told Gase to stop texting him post-midnight because he kept waking him up.
“You would get these texts from him until 4 in the morning on a regular basis,” says Tannenbaum, now an ESPN analyst. “I don’t think he sleeps a lot.”
Fueled by five or six 20-ounce cups a day from the Kuerig coffee maker that is an arm’s length from his desk, and maybe a Red Bull here or there, Gase has energy like a power plant. And it doesn’t wane in the wee hours.
There is no window in his office to make him aware of the black of the night or the first light of day.
His wife, Jennifer, says he typically gets home at 2 a.m. and goes back to work at 6. When she travels with him to road games, she gets a separate room because he’s up most of the night watching tape.
He often resists taking days off even when nothing is happening, but when he does, he catches up on sleep. Jennifer says he sometimes sleeps 24 straight hours.
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Gase is not likely to prepare a meal on his own. When Jennifer recently left him home alone to dog sit for a day, he texted and asked her to order him lunch from Uber Eats.
Jennifer is an ideal fit for him — the daughter of a football coach whose perception of normal may be slightly askew. “I love that he loves what he does,” she says. “He coaches, and I take care of everything else.”
He says he’s like her fourth kid. But no kid is as organized.
His office has a back closet full of binders with handwritten notes — one for every game he’s coached. He also has taken over three closets in his new house for binders.
Says Jennifer: “Thank God this new house has more space. In Fort Lauderdale, we had no basement and limited closet space, so we had the notebooks in storage. He has everything lined up in perfect order. He’s kind of OCD.”
On his computer, he has a file for every day he has been a coach. In each file is what he did that day and how it worked out. There also is a file for every opponent for every year. And then he has a master folder for each year, which keeps track of needed adjustments.
The file for Oct. 1, 2013, is particularly interesting. Every Tuesday when he was in Denver, Gase met with Manning at 2 p.m. Except this Tuesday, when Jennifer was delivering Wyatt by caesarean section.
Gase told his wife to schedule the operation for 10 a.m. “So they pulled the baby out of me and said, ‘It’s a boy,’” Jennifer says. “They didn’t even put my organs back and sew me up before he’s like, ‘You good?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’” He said, ‘All right then, I’m out.’ They said, ‘You want to cut the umbilical cord?’ He said, ‘No, I’m good.’”
At 2 p.m., Manning was stunned to find Gase waiting for him in the meeting room.
Manning: “You’ve got to be kidding me. Didn’t your wife just have a baby two hours ago?”
Gase: “Yeah, but did you really think I was going to let you win this one?”
Those eyes have a vision for these Jets.
The vision is shared with Johnson, with whom Gase interacts nearly daily, even if it’s through FaceTime. “He is a great guy to talk to,” Gase says. “I love his passion to win, and he loves this organization and our players. He wants to win for the Jets fan base, the city and his family. Everybody in the building loves him.”
Mike Maccagnan apparently had a different vision. He was fired by Johnson in May. Many assumed Gase played a role in the general manager’s May dismissal, but Gase consistently has denied this.
“You want to be with somebody you have similar visions with,” Gase says. “I think our owners saw that wasn’t the case. We had plenty of meetings where Chris sat in and it was an open conversation. And I think there was more to it before I was here.”
Johnson didn’t give Gase authority over personnel — which Gase says he never sought — but did give him the general manager he endorsed in Joe Douglas. Gase and Douglas met when both worked for the Bears in 2015, and their relationship played out, unsurprisingly, with many late-night conversations and texts.
Gase says Douglas sees things as a coach would. Douglas says Gase sees things as a scout would.
“We have similar view points on roster building and what it takes to be successful,” Douglas says. “We have talked a lot about the whys, what makes great players great, and what makes great teams great. Those are the types of conversations we had.”
Gase has the organization set up the way he wants it, including the coaching staff. Coordinating the defense is Gregg Williams, who typically raises the intensity of practices to “Hunger Games” levels.
Williams and Gase go at it on the practice fields, but Gase says there is no tension between them. “Nobody sees how many times Gregg Williams and I walk into each other’s offices and just bullshit,” he says. “Gregg’s been awesome for me because I don’t have to worry about the defense. Nothing gets to me, because he handles it. I love it.”
Gase believes Williams will help second-year quarterback Sam Darnold develop because he presents so many looks and challenges to Darnold during practices.
Gase never has worked with a young quarterback with Darnold’s pedigree. He never thought he’d be working with Darnold, either. Even though the Dolphins needed a quarterback last season, Gase didn’t study Darnold because he believed he would be long gone by the Dolphins’ 11th pick. He was right — Darnold went third to the Jets.
Now Gase understands why.
“I don’t see a limit right now,” he says. “His arm is phenomenal, especially with his ability to throw from very unusual platforms, where he’s not aligned. I love the way he works out on the field, in the classroom. He goes out with a purpose every day to get better. Every time you can be around a guy like that as a coach, you just savor it.”