Why Jets would've been crazy to fire Adam Gase and make him the scapegoat for the season

Ralph Vacchiano

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Christopher Johnson made official what was already pretty obvious, despite the knee-jerk screams to the contrary. He has no plans to fire Jets coach Adam Gase in the middle of his first season, nor will he fire him after the season either.

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And despite the pain and the agony of yet another losing season, that is absolutely the right thing to do.

Consider this a moment of sanity: It simply would've been crazy to fire a coach for the second time in a calendar year. And it would've been insane to make Gase the scapegoat for the mess this season has become.

 

The latter point gets lost by people who constantly insist on change, who want coaches fired as a consequence of every extended losing streak. But they seem to forget, or perhaps discount, that Gase lost his quarterback to mono early in the season and was forced to go with an unprepared third-stringer for 2 1/2 weeks. He also lost perhaps his second-most important defensive player in the first half of the Week 1, too.

And he also lost another starting linebacker (Avery Williamson) in preseason, as well as a starting receiver (Quincy Enunwa). His starting tight end (Chris Herndon) has barely played one game. His offensive line has been an injury-plagued disaster at, literally, every position. His cornerback corps has been a disaster too, albeit a more predictable one. 

But yeah, let's put this all on him.

Certainly, Johnson could have done that. He could have taken the easy way out and fired his head coach. That's what the fans seem to want -- a head on a silver platter. It wouldn't have been easy, considering the Jets basically let Gase hire the new general manager, and that GM has only been on the job for five months. But Johnson still could've done it, and it would've been a very, very popular move.

But what he saw, apparently, is that letting mobs make decisions for owners is what bad franchises do. The Jets have already traveled a bit down that road with three general managers in the last seven seasons. When they hired Joe Douglas, they touted his relationship with Gase -- not to mention his six-year contract -- as a sign of future stability. Reversing course just five months later would have been nuts.

"Seeing him work with Joe, it's a whole new dynamic in this building," Johnson said in his unscheduled remarks on Wednesday, three days after his team's rousing, 34-27 win over the cross-town Giants. "It's a really positive dynamic. They have the same vision for this team going forward."

And it's a vision that wasn't supposed to last only a few months.

Now, all that said, Gase isn't without his flaws. Johnson said that Gase "has the trust" of the team, of quarterback Sam Darnold, of Douglas, and "He has my trust," too. He also added that Gase "is a good coach," which also might turn out to be true.

But even Johnson can't deny that Gase just hasn't done a particularly good job this season. Even if you give him the injuries as a legitimate excuse, the fact is clear. The jury is still out -- way out -- on whether he can be a successful head coach in the NFL, or if he's just another one better suited to being a coordinator. And we don't know the answer yet to the most important question the Jets are facing: Is Gase the right man to help turn Darnold, their franchise quarterback, into a star?

The only clear answer they have right now is this: Nine games just isn't enough for anyone to pass any kind of rational judgment on the Gase Era -- whether you factor in all the injuries or not.

Sometimes that doesn't matter though. It rarely matters to the paying customers, who have to suffer through, unbelievably, a ninth straight season without the playoffs, and a franchise that hasn't played a home playoff game since 2003. And that won't matter to many media members who for their own reasons are lusting for change.

Johnson, though, didn't listen to the outside voices this time. He realized that sports is not a democracy, and the loudest voices can't always win. He listened to his head, not what people were screaming outside of his building.

"You are what your record says you are and that's not very impressive," he said. "Looking forward, I think this is going to be a good team. I have so much faith in Adam and Joe to put together a great future for us.

"There's a lot of work to do. There's a great deal of work to do. Everyone understands that and we're just getting started." 

Yes, they are. They are, remarkably, in the early stages of yet another rebuilding project, facing another offseason that could include a major roster overhaul. That's not a good thing, but it's the reality they're currently facing. And unfortunately, rebuilding takes time.

What they don't need is more upheaval. They don't need to change their minds on a coach they so thoroughly investigated one year ago. They don't need to throw a new playbook, a new scheme, a new coaching staff, a new philosophy, into the pool with all their other upcoming changes.

What they need is stability. What they need is time. And Johnson, to his credit, just gave that to Douglas and Gase and also to his franchise. He gave them a chance because he understands that while patience is definitely a lost art in professional sports, patience remains a virtue nonetheless.

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