Adam Gase
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Jets fandom has settled into the 2019 season with a new rule: either love head coach Adam Gase or bitterly hate the man.

Robby Sabo

ORCHARD PARK, NY—Don’t be in the middle. Do not provide level-headed takes that feature a variety of reasons as to why the New York Jets have struggled in 2019. Don’t you dare engage in a conversation without an extreme point of view in mind.

If you do, the common Jets fan will tear you to pieces.

Here’s the rule: you must either love head coach Adam Gase or bitterly hate the man.

Obviously, the “hate the man” category is currently overwhelming the fanbase, perhaps 75-plus percent of the pie. In the minds of this larger faction, the head coach is the sole reason for the Jets’ struggles this season. Ryan Tannehill’s perceived uptick in success post-Gase is evidence enough. (Although, only starting literally half of his available games via injury in Miami could somewhat skew those development results.)

Hate the man since his offense didn’t overwhelm this season. The offense’s 271 yards in Buffalo didn’t exactly lift the excitement of those diehards watching from home, and it was Gase, the offensive-minded head coach, who should have produced better results.

The “love the man” category, though smaller, brings the pom-pom waving to the table. These are usually the types who cheer for any and every move their organization executes.

Then there are the neutral folks, those who’ll oftentimes be confused with the “love the man” crowd. These are oftentimes the X’s and O’s types, those who understand just how poor a depth chart the Jets showcased this season and may see interesting aspects of the way he calls the game. Though offensive-minded, he’s willing to call a game based on the overall environment.

Against Dallas earlier in the season, when his team was on the ropes, he allowed his offense to sling the ball against a tough Cowboys defense when many head coaches would have choked the clock. A week ago, he kept his foot off the pedal and allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to stuff his offense three more times on the ground prior to the eventual punt that led to one last gasp.

In Buffalo, he performed a similar strategy in the cold, wet weather, knowing it was his team’s best shot at victory.

“It was tough sledding,” Gase admitted after the game. “We were trying to find ways to get into some kind of rhythm. There were a few times where the ball was slipping around and sometimes it didn’t look right when Sam (Darnold) was trying to throw. (It was) like the ball was waterlogged.”

Speaking of young Sam Darnold, the subject of Gase’s most critical job description, he finished with 199 yards and a touchdown to one interception on 23-of-36 passing against a patchwork Buffalo defense. At times, he flashed talent. Other times, he continued committing the same errors that prove inconsistencies still loom large in his world.

The kid must lead the corner route (Jamison Crowder) further to the sideline in order to avoid danger. It was the right decision with the defensive back’s head turned, but keeping the ball too far inside presents a clear danger, one that eventually turned into his only interception of the day.

His head coach, similarly to what we’ve seen the entire season, remained optimistic.

“I thought he did a pretty good job,” Gase said. “The interception was unfortunate. I could see what he was seeing and he was trying to stick it in there. I thought, for the most part, he did a pretty good job.”

How such inconsistencies that were present a year ago can be pinned on the head coach now is tough to imagine—especially with one of the league’s worst O-lines and weaponry groups as Darnold’s supporting cast.

Gase owns his fair share of the blame. The early games that featured hopelessness without Darnold fall on his shoulders. An unprepared team in the NFL is a sign of dark times. But only an agenda-driven individual blames Gase for an underthrown Darnold ball to Daniel Brown in the end zone or another Darnold interception called back for a Bills’ personal foul penalty.

The truth about Gase lies somewhere in between, yet actual football conversations around such facts rarely happen due to a media narrative that hardly allows such a productive event.

It’s been said many times: the Jets don’t just have to take on the opponent, they have to defeat the New York sports media, as well. Agendas oftentime drive these anti-Gase sentiments, and it’s a shame, considering this 7-9 team is still viewed as a horrendous organization clueless as to its next move.

The team’s 13-6 victory over the playoff-bound Buffalo Bills in Week 17 put an end to the franchise’s three-year streak of double-digit losses. For those who didn’t keep track of the standings, a guess of 2-14 or 3-13 is in order if only the headlines were presented as evidence.

Remember, this is a team heading into the season with an unstable infrastructure. The hype surrounding Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley and new uniforms never mask a poor offensive line and nonexistent four-man conventional pass rush.

But, obviously, hype is the goal of the offseason. Only the true X’s and O’s folks could see through such excitement. Sprinkle in an “only the Jets” moment of quarterback mono, a season-destroying Mosley injury in Week 1 and more games lost via injury than any other team in the NFL, and this squad had no business finishing 7-9.

For that, the head coach deserves credit, especially after starting 1-7 and hearing comparisons to the curse word that is “Rich Kotite” earlier in the year.

Of course, 7-9 isn’t good enough. But that’s an organizational problem, not a Gase-only issue. Do yourself a favor and objectively compare the Jets roster to the worst teams in the league. If any Jets fan comes out of that exercise thinking their team employs superior talent (after the injuries), they’re simply waving those pom-poms loudly and proudly.

The Bills rested many of their starters with nothing to play with. Welcome to Jets land, Buffalo. New York unwillingly rested many of its best players for the majority of the season.

Then, there’s Le’Veon Bell, the man the majority of Jets fandom loves and the media loves to use when conjuring up decisive headlines. Interestingly, No. 26 has done everything perfectly in terms of an off-the-field player. He’s done all the right things and stepped up when his teammates needed somebody to speak. When the trade deadline noise was at its highest, it was Bell who reminded Jets fans that it takes time to build a program.

Joe Douglas, G.M. Joe T-Shirt

Bell’s off-the-field showmanship coupled with the headlines that have Gase never wanting the high-priced back have fans in love with one while hating the other. It’s funny… in a way: the hatred for Gase has helped the undying love for Bell to flourish.

But why? Bell finished the season with a career-low 3.3 yards-per-carry (pending Week 17’s official result). Undoubtedly, the bigger issue is the offensive line in front of him, but calls for more attempts rage loud despite a 3.3 YPC back still finishing in the top 10 in touches. If anything, his workload serves as an amazing piece of dedication by the head coach.

Gase elected to not use Bell on the opening drive when faced with a 4th-and-1 situation. Instead, the Jets head coach wanted the first points of the game, but Sam Ficken missed the 51-yard field goal (and another later in the game). Unlike many NFL head coaches, Gase admitted regret on the 3rd-down call prior.

“I don’t know… I wish I could have the 3rd-down call back,” Gase admitted. “I didn’t like that call (a wildcat attempt out of a 3rd-and-2 that gained a single yard).”

In the end, at this very moment, his quotes matter very little and it won’t change until victories come. Hate Gase or love him. Those are the options. Join the 75-plus percent who loathe the man or fear for your life by supporting him. Or, maybe, just maybe, understand the reality that has an unproven head coach putting up a workmanlike first year under terrible circumstances.

What’s important is the fact Adam Gase doesn’t want your sympathy. The very same man who was without his starting quarterback in Miami for 24 of a possible 48 games understands no number of injuries can explain away losses in this league.

“What’s the point? Nobody cares,” Gase said when asked if it’s important to not use injuries as an excuse. “Nobody cares if you get injured or not. You just have to figure out a way to win the game.”

There’s certainly nothing unlikeable about that quote.

It doesn’t matter.

Monday’s season-ending headlines will find a way to turn that 75-plus percent into 85-90.