FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Adam Gase remained defiant in the face of criticism, assuring his audience that he’s not the Machiavellian-type he has been made out to be. He insisted he’s no backstabber, disputing claims that he’s a power-hungry micromanager who’s eager to pull strings in order to seize control behind the scenes.
And the more questions that were hurled at him, the more the New York Jets head coach denied that he played any role in last week’s unexpected firing of general manager Mike Maccagnan.
“That’s just not true,” Gase said Thursday, in his first media session since the front-office made the surprising announcement. “[Team chairman and CEO] Christopher [Johnson] made the decision.”
Gase’s character has been publicly maligned in the days since Maccagnan’s dismissal, and as a result, the coach-turned-newly-appointed interim GM spent nearly 15 minutes defending his reputation against rumors that a “personal rift” existed between him and Maccagnan, that he didn’t want to sign free agents Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley at their hefty price tags, and that he’s the puppet master behind the Jets’ search for Maccagnan’s replacement.
At best, Gase is a victim of his own team owner’s naiveté — an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire caused by Johnson’s lack of foresight and poor read on his own building.
At worse, Gase is as devious and dishonest as “Bran The Broken” — the paraplegic puppeteer whose underhanded ways led to an entire city of innocents being slaughtered by a dragon and the true protagonist of "Game of Thrones" to be exiled North of the Wall.
For Johnson’s sake — and, more importantly, a fan base that has suffered through decades of disappointment — the latter better not be true. Because if Gase is the manipulative control freak some people presume, that would mean the Jets have doomed themselves to more years of the same: Unnecessary drama.
For argument’s sake, let’s take Gase at his word.
— Kimberley A. Martin (@ByKimberleyA) May 23, 2019
If we are to believe everything he said Thursday — that he did not expressly tell Johnson that he could no longer work with Maccagnan, that he’s “excited” to coach Bell (whenever the ex-Steelers running back, who signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal in March, returns from “whatever part of the United States he’s working out in.”), that he had no issues with the guaranteed $51 million Mosley received, and that he doesn’t want a “yes man” as his next GM — Johnson has put Gase in a terrible position only months into his new gig.
Less than two weeks ago, the Jets seemed to be standing on solid ground with a new offensive-minded head coach, a budding franchise quarterback (Sam Darnold), a game-changing running back (Bell), a vital veteran leader at middle linebacker (Mosley), and arguably the best prospect in the NFL draft (former Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams). Everything seemed stable, with Johnson publicly reinforcing his faith in Maccagnan and his confidence in the Maccagnan and Gase pairing. But the semblance of disarray has raised deserved questions about ownership’s ability to properly vet and evaluate prospective hires.
And now Gase — who, according to Gase, had nothing to do with the timing of Maccagnan’s exit — is left to defend himself. Nevertheless, the coach said he's unfazed by the public’s perception of him.
“I get paid to take all the bullets,” he matter-of-factly said.
Gase also stressed that the speculation hasn’t affected his locker room or eroded the trust he has with his players — a claim backed up by Mosley. Pressed for a reaction to his coach’s reported issues with the Jets overpaying him, the linebacker replied: “It doesn’t matter. I’m here now.”
Mosley then divulged that Gase addressed the rumors with him directly: “He pretty much said, ‘Don’t listen to the media.’”
That’s a convenient strategy for a head coach who now finds himself with the interim GM title and heavy input on who Johnson hires next. But there is one thing Gase said Thursday that can’t be disputed.
“If we win games, nobody’s going to remember this,” he flippantly said.
But here’s the thing: The Jets don’t play a meaningful game for another 4½ months. Johnson did Gase no favors by firing Maccagnan when he did because now, there is no one beneath left to blame. The expectations for 2019 all hinge on Gase’s ability to get Darnold to make a major leap in Year 2 and maximize Bell’s versatility. And if Gase does win in 2019, he’ll do so with players Maccagnan drafted and signed.
And should the Jets disappoint for yet another season, he'll bear the brunt of the blowback.
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