Kyle Shanahan, Adam Gase
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Adam Gase and the New York Jets ought to understand Kyle Shanahan’s plight instead of believing in the magical football fairy.

Robby Sabo

The Legend of Zelda taught kids many lessons never forgotten.

For one, never face Ganon without proper hydration. That spine-tingling music coupled with flames from every direction is enough to make any kid’s head spin.

Secondly, prepare. The game isn’t for the impatient. Collect potions, grab those coins and load up on essentials needed to save the lovely Zelda.

Lastly, and most importantly, kids who lived through courageous Link discovered just how fantastic a fairy can be. Fairy Fountains are for healing—a magical event required to triumph over evil.

There’s just one small problem with the fairy angle: some kids never grow up. They believe fairies are real. They firmly believe they also work on the NFL level. It’s this segment of the NFL population that believes the magical football fairy came down to touch Kyle Shanahan on the shoulder last spring and/or summer.

Suddenly, the San Francisco 49ers head coach who put forth a 10-22 record over his first two seasons, is now a “genius” on his way to the Super Bowl.

Fairies or something else completely?

Anybody needing the answer to that is assuredly still rocking The Legend of Zelda in some form. To the smarter observers, Shanahan was finally allowed to showcase his offensive smarts. “Allowed,” thanks to upfront talent.

Anybody labeling Shanahan an “offensive genius” while completely casting aside New York Jets head coach Adam Gase just doesn’t understand the game (of football). In my humble opinion, Shanahan is as good as advertised. But even the “as good as advertised” requires offensive line talent.

For two long seasons, Shanahan was forced to endure unfriendly and unfair criticism. Instead of accepting the fact his quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, was injured and certain areas of the team weren’t yet primetime, he carried around the weight of the hard-hitting complaints about his head-coaching skills.

On the other side, the jury is obviously still out on Gase’s legitimacy as an NFL head coach. He, much like Shanahan, continues to take on all criticism takers. We’ll only truly find out if he’s the goods if or when he’s afforded a real opportunity with a healthy quarterback and serious upfront talent.

Look to the NFL Draft. Look to John Lynch’s aggressive trench-attention as to why Shanahan suddenly turned this thing around.

  • Nick Bosa, DE: Round 1, 2019
  • Dre Greenlaw, LB: Round 5, 2019
  • Justin Skule, T: Round 6, 2019
  • Mike McGlinchey, T: Round 1, 2018
  • Fred Warner, LB: Round 3, 2018
  • Kentavius Street, DT: Round 4, 2018
  • Jullian Taylor, DT: Round 7, 2018
  • Soloman Thomas, DE: Round 1, 2017
  • Reuben Foster, LB: Round 1, 2017
  • George Kittle, TE: Round 5, 2017
  • D.J. Jones, DT: Round 6, 2017
  • Pita Taumoepenu, LB: Round 6, 2017

Lynch inherited a first-round talent in defensive tackle DeForest Bucker, who turned into a stud (especially once the edges around him rounded out), and second-round talent in guard Joshua Garnett, who didn’t work in the Bay. He also inherited stud veteran tackle Joe Staley.

To be honest, it didn’t matter what he inherited; Lynch would have still focused on the trenches, understanding it’s that area that impacts the rest of the depth chart to the highest degree.

Everything’s better when the offensive line is stout. The rushing attack looks dominant. Running backs look like studs. Quarterbacks receive undeserved praise. Play-callers suddenly turn into geniuses.

Is Raheem Mostert—fresh off his 220-yard, four-touchdown performance—suddenly a stud NFL back? Of course, not. This is the same man who totaled 291 yards in 20 games over the previous two seasons in San Francisco.

What happened? Were there two football fairies?

Remember, the additions of George Kittle and Deebo Samuel improved the rushing attack, as well. Both are excellent blockers at their respective positions. And don’t forget about All-Pro fullback Kyle Juszczyk, the devastating lead blocker Lynch scooped up during his first offseason.

And yes, the defensive front also helps the offense. Deploying the nastiest conventional pass-rush in the game not only bumps up the second level and the defensive backfield, but it also helps the offense look incredibly more legitimate. (Adding veteran Dee Ford to the mix didn’t hurt, either.)

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 19: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Championship game at Levi's Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Santa Clara, California.
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In Jets’ land, a legitimate edge rusher hasn’t been employed since John Abraham and the offensive line has ranked among the league’s worst for several years running.

Quinnen Williams at No. 3 overall is a tremendous idea on face value. The problem is, face value doesn’t count when thinking “team.” Already loaded on the inside, an edge rusher or offensive lineman via trade down was the team’s only championship-building option. It would have been the equivalent of the 49ers selecting Quinnen instead of Bosa, already possessing plenty of interior beef.

Lynch understands a football unit is only as strong as its weakest link and properly took the outside man.

Mike Maccagnan selected a grand total of three offensive linemen over five drafts. The 49ers selected seven in the same timeframe. (Oh yeah, they also chose seven on top of already employing Staley and adding a great blocking tight end, in Kittle, and fullback, in Jusczcyk.)

The Jets inappropriately spent money on a stud veteran running back, Le’Veon Bell. (Inappropriate due to the fact the O-line wasn’t ready for him.) The 49ers, meanwhile, intelligently opted for the bargain, Tevin Coleman. (With Coleman’s injury, Mostert and Damien Williams are the Super Bowl backs.)

For such a limited history—in terms of actual success—it’s hard to believe the short memories currently on display in Florham Park. The last time the Jets’ front office forced the issue upfront was the exact moment its last truly great depth chart was kickstarted.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold as first-round selections in 2006 not only represent the organization’s last first-round offensive line selection, but it also represented the beginning of, arguably, the best roster (sans quarterback) in the NFL over two seasons (2009-2010).

The term “insane beyond belief” comes to mind when accepting the fact not another first-round O-line talent hasn’t been welcomed through the One Jets Drive gate.

Joe Douglas, G.M. Joe T-Shirt

By all accounts, Joe Douglas will change that this draft. The former offensive lineman understands the urgency of the situation. With young Sam Darnold entering his third season, already bruised, battered and seeing ghosts, throwing “best available player” out of the window and forcing the issue is long overdue.

Unfortunately, much more work is needed—work that resembles Lynch’s first year in San Francisco (2017). This isn’t to say the Jets can’t win double-digit games in 2020. They can; this is the hard-salary-cap NFL, the place for which teams’ fortunes change in an instant. Hell, we just witnessed it with the 49ers and their newly-minted “offensive genius.”

As long as Douglas and the Jets understand it wasn’t the magical football fairy that changed San Fran’s fortunes, they should be OK.

Finally, a man who understands where football begins—in the trenches—is running the show. And man, wouldn’t it be funny if Adam Gase suddenly turns into an “offensive genius” this time next year while employing a legit offensive line and quarterback without mono?

If the 10-22 Kyle Shanahan can do it, why can’t Adam Gase? If you have an automatic anti-Gase answer to that question, it’s probably you who believes in football fairies while completely ignoring the legitimate trench talent that came together on both sides of the ball to turn the San Francisco 49ers from jokes into NFC Champions.

And if that describes you, return to your Legend of Zelda NES stations where fairies and magic potions actually do exist. Douglas and Gase have no time for such nonsense. Both are currently preparing to put together a similar-strategy that helped the 49ers to another Super Bowl.

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