The Adam Gase era finally is over.
Gase was fired by the New York Jets tonight as head coach shortly after a 28-14 season-ending loss at New England. The Jets, who lost their first 13 games this season, finished 2-14. They have not made the post-season for 10 consecutive seasons.
In a statement, acting owner Christopher Johnson said, “This evening, I informed Adam Gase he will no longer serve as the head coach of the Jets. During his time here, I had the pleasure to get to know Adam and his wonderful family and wish them nothing but the best moving forward. While my sincere intentions are to have stability in our organization – especially in our leadership positions – it is clear the best decision for the Jets is to move in a different direction.
“We knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done when Adam joined us in 2019,” the statement continued. “Our strong finish last year was encouraging, but unfortunately, we did not sustain that positive momentum or see the progress we all expected this season. To our fans, it is obvious we have not been good enough. We are committed to building a strong organization, on and off the field, and will continue to provide the necessary resources to field a team that you can be proud of.”
Gase finished with a 9-23 record as head coach of the Jets. It was an ill-advised move from the start, as the Jets reached an agreement with Gase less than two weeks after he had been dismissed by Miami after three seasons of diminishing success. Gase’s first team with the Dolphins made the playoffs, and lost in the first round. His next two teams missed the post-season.
Gase’s current record as a head coach is 32-48, and it is unlikely he ever gets another chance after this debacle.
But he is not the Jets’ problem anymore, other than the reported $10 million over the next two seasons for which ownership is still on the hook. There likely is offset language is Gase’s contract, meaning the Jets would get back any money he earns at another NFL job in the next two years. But even if he resurfaces as an assistant somewhere, that money won’t be anything close to what he made with New York.
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Thus, the question for the Jets now is very simple—where do they go from here?
Acting owner Christopher Johnson must let general manager Joe Douglas, a veteran football person, make the decision. As to whom that coach will be, here are some possibilities:
Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator: Bieniemy has helped Kansas City head coach Andy Reid mastermind the prolific Chiefs’ offense, and has helped develop superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes. No, he does not call the offensive plays for KC—Reid does that—but perhaps that is a positive. The Jets have had their fill of a head coach with his head stuck to his play sheets all gameday. The last thing they need is another one. Bieniemy does help in preparing the gameplans.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern University head coach: It is unclear whether Fitzgerald is interesting in leaving his alma mater, but if he decides he’s listening, it’s a call the Jets should make. Fitzgerald has had great success at a program that hasn’t historically been a football powerhouse, and has built a winning culture, a culture that thrived even in a bizarre and challenging season such as 2020. That is the thing the Jets need most of all—a culture.
Dan Mullen, University of Florida head coach: Mullen is open to NFL offers, according to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter. Certainly he has an NFL-worthy resume, much the way Fitzgerald does. The question with both of them would be how much control would the new coach want over personnel, with Douglas already there. That could be a sticking point.
Arthur Smith, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator: Smith would be seen by Jets’ fans as the anti-Gase. Under his tutelage, former Gase pupil Ryan Tannehill has thrived, and finally realized his potential. The portion of the fan base that still believes in quarterback Sam Darnold certainly would be on board with this. The million-dollar question is whether general manager Joe Douglas believes in Darnold, and whether the new head coach, who should have a say in things, believes it would be worthwhile sticking with the lowest-rated passer in the NFL in 2020.
Brian Daboll, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator: One could apply similar superlatives to Daboll, who has developed Josh Allen into a terrific dual-threat signalcaller. Remember, Allen was drafted seventh in 2018, four spots behind Darnold and six behind top pick Baker Mayfield of Cleveland. Daboll once was the Jets’ quarterbacks coach.
Don “Wink” Martindale, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator: Douglas spent several years in Baltimore in the front office and is familiar with Martindale on a personal level. Martindale is colorful and a bit bombastic at times, not quite as much as former Jets coach Rex Ryan, though. He would bring with him the experience of working in a terrific winning culture in Baltimore.
Jim Harbaugh, University of Michigan head coach: Harbaugh’s name hit the rumor mill again Monday for NFL jobs as he continued to delay signing a reported contract extension that would keep him at Michigan through the 2026 season. Although the Wolverines had a rough 2020 season, and Harbaugh hasn’t been able to beat Ohio State, he had success in the NFL with San Francisco and his resume still is very good. But would he want full control of personnel? Getting that would be unlikely given how much Johnson trusts Douglas.
Robert Saleh, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator: Saleh has done a terrific job with the 49ers defense, which was ranked 17th heading into the final Sunday despite a rash of injuries. But Saleh reportedly already is at the top of Atlanta’s wish list, thus it appears the Jets likely might not get a chance to be a serious suitor unless they move quickly.