The brief heated exchange between New York Jets head coach Adam Gase and quarterback Sam Darnold signals a precious positive.
BALTIMORE, MD—You already knew the impending Friday morning reaction. Before you could even blink, bombs would be dropped relating to blowups, anger and incredible mounting frustration signaling the end of times.
Any slight sign of behavior contrasting with a robot would be hopped upon as fiercely as any subject in town, and the New York Jets understand this notion better than most.
The slight-frustration session Adam Gase and Sam Darnold showcased during the team’s 42-21 loss to the mighty Baltimore Ravens Thursday night has now been spread far and wide. The negative avalanche—thanks to a season of forgettable moments—continues to push forward, allowing a chunk of the fanbase to pile on the momentum.
But sometimes—and when I say “sometimes,” I may mean “oftentimes”—the hardest thing to do is evaluate an in-game situation from a football perspective and fully realize a positive has taken place.
This dust-up marks one of the positives from a terrible Thursday night in Baltimore.
Fight is what Joe Douglas wants to see in his team. Down and out, while finding your teeth constantly kicked in time and again shouldn’t warrant a robotic reaction. If some sign of frustration isn’t apparent, something’s wrong.
The Jets general manager hit on it at his initial presser. In addition to making the correct statement—one that hadn’t been uttered over five drafts during the Mike Maccagnan era—that it “starts with the quarterback and both lines”—Douglas announced he’d be seeking a specific type of player, one that hates to lose.
One may argue New York currently employs too many players who accept less-than-stellar results. The Gase-Darnold flare-up finally brings the fan a little human reaction cooked with a little energy.
Overwhelmingly, the predictable reaction has slammed the Jets head coach. Interestingly, check out Jets’ backup quarterback David Fales as the exchange gets into its meat and potato section:
Sam Darnold, the nicest human on planet earth, is done with Adam Gase pic.twitter.com/jU6oGa9RAz
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) December 13, 2019
Yeah… that’s a reaction, boys and girls. There’s no question Darnold drummed up a few magic words for his head coach.
The moment was captured by the FOX cameras after the Jets failed on a 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter while trailing 42-21—the eventual final. Surprise, surprise… the California kid found himself pressured on the play.
When attempting to diagnose the exchange, ask yourself two questions:
- Did the incident impact the game and/or the objective at hand?
- Did the incident carry over once the game came to a close?
No and no. Both men traveled far to squash it with words after the game.
“I think for me, where we were at in the game, especially not executing, especially on a fourth down, a really key down, I was just frustrated about the circumstance,” Darnold explained on a Friday conference call. “It wasn’t anything more than that, we were just having a conversation about not executing the way that we were supposed to and that was really it.”
The more interesting case in this scenario is the head coach.
Gase, 41, came to the Jets with many questions surrounding his player-relationship ability. Complaints from Miami echoed sentiments that the young head coach would often “outsmart himself” by not sticking to what was working in games and that he would allow himself to be “taken out of games emotionally” if something didn’t work, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
Perhaps the scariest criticism came by way of ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe, who reported on complaints that dealt with certain players ranking over others in the head coach’s eyes.
“A few guys told me [they] felt alienated and held to a different standard if they weren’t one of ‘his guys’ like Ryan Tannehill and others,” reported Wolfe.
Such information can make this newest Gase topic tricky. If Darnold is viewed as “one of his guys,” he certainly didn’t overreact to the Darnold words that had Fales’s face go into “oh my goodness” mode. At the same time, there really isn’t any Jet in Gase’s doghouse. Which player has received his wrath over the course of 14 games?
Sure, many will argue Le’Veon Bell fits into that classification; but there’s no chance it’s a realistic claim when the former All-Pro is currently sporting an ugly 3.3 yards-per-carry mark. If anything, it’s remarkable Bell ranks 11th in rushing attempts this season. To suggest Gase is underutilizing this player is either foolish or stir-the-pot worthy.
Whatever the theory, Gase maintained a remarkably level head during and following the blowout loss.
“We were both in the same mind frame, where somebody didn’t execute their job,” Gase explained Friday. “And, basically, I was (talking) about that and he was doing the same thing.”
Whatever happened to the competitive attitude that would have the world collectively frowning on droves of Jets players awaiting a freshly-signed Lamar Jackson uniform from the man himself—the very same individual who just torched the team unmercifully?
It’s gone. That Michael Jordan era featuring athletes who’d rather die than lose or embrace the enemy has been firmly buried 10-feet deep. And that’s OK.
Just don’t let a brief exchange allow you to think such a conversation or attitude is the reason for the Jets’ woes. Gase described as either a competent or terrible coach is fair game; it’s just not nearly close to the most critical area of the organization that needs an overhaul.
This roster, especially with the unbelievable rash of injuries suffered, rivals the worst in the league. And we didn’t even get to the part that explains how everything has been built from a flawed perspective the moment the Mike Tannenbaum-Rex Ryan regime began to wind down.
Just a couple of months ago, the mainstream media praised Sam Darnold for walking into Adam Gase’s office and demanding that he cater the offense to his strengths. Today, speaking up in a fit of slight frustration is a sign of dysfunction.
It’s OK for the quarterback and head coach to get after it from time to time. After a 42-21 thrashing on national TV, it should be a welcomed sight, especially for Douglas, the new boss who watched his team find itself run over in every way by the organization he earned his chops.
Unfortunately, in this world, it’s anything but welcomed, especially for a New York Jets organization that feels vulnerable after such a media-driven decade that produced one negative thought after another.
Social media overreactions aside, give me that fight, show me that attitude and present to me guys who won’t go meekly into the night while experiencing awful times.
If Joe Douglas also views this incident as a positive, the New York Jets will be just fine moving forward.