NEW YORK — The coach who helped turn Le’Veon Bell into a superstar had some choice words for the coach who derailed his career.
Former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley unloaded on Adam Gase for failing to have a clue on how to properly use the multi-talented player.
“I was very frustrated for him in New York,” Haley said on The Albert Breer Show MMQB podcast. “I felt like that was a bad spot for him to go. Because he is a unique talent… When you have players with the special ability that they have, you got to make them feel and trust that you’re giving them an opportunity to be the best they can be.
“So, the frustration for me watching him in New York is … I’m cringing saying, ‘They’re just lining this guy in the I (-formation) and they’re not utilizing’ — and I’m not trying to be overly critical — but you’re not using the ability that this kid has. Because he’s not just a running back.”
The final straw before the Jets cut Bell a couple weeks ago was another broken promise by Gase, who insisted this summer he would better utilize the player’s pass-catching skills and ability to win one-on-one matchups and do damage in space.
“Players can see through the fraudulent talk, you know,” Haley said. “You better be talking to them straight and you better back it up.”
Bell, whose Chiefs are 19.5-point favorites against the Jets on Sunday, saw through Gase’s prevarications. Many past and current Jets players do, too.
“Your best players … they better believe and trust that you’re maximizing their abilities,” Haley said. “In Kansas City, what I’ve seen from those coaches is that they do that. They got a lot of mouths to feed, but they’ve been one of the better teams that utilize the different talents that they have. Andy Reid and the staff will understand and see what they have in Le’Veon and do the things necessary to let him help you.”
Gase never did any of that.
Bell grew increasingly agitated at the mercurial coach who never wanted him in the first place. Gase asked influencers through back channels to convince Jets brass not to sign Bell in free agency in 2019 because he had success in the past with a running back rotation.
When that failed — and the Jets signed Bell — Gase used back channels again to spin that he only didn’t want Bell because he didn’t want to spent a lot of money for a running back. Time has proven that was a red herring. The truth is Gase didn’t want to adapt. He wanted Bell to conform to his scheme rather than tailoring a plan to accentuate Bell’s prodigious talents.
Bell’s experience in Pittsburgh was the polar opposite when Haley made sure to devise creative ways to get the most out of a special player he described this way: “Great teammate. Very smart. Loves football.”
“Loved him,” said Haley, who coached Bell to three Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro teams. “We were so excited to get him drafted. … We had a package where he was a wide receiver. So, he’s split out as a Z receiver. In the run game, DeAngelo Williams, we’re handing it off to him. (Bell’s) blocking for D-Will. But we also had (him catching passes). He’s running comebacks and ins … like receiver routes. He’s got that kind of ability.”
Bell’s new coach will surely utilize those talents, too.
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