The marriage between Adam Gase and Le’Veon Bell was doomed to fail. Sadly, it’s just the latest tragic story for the New York Jets.
For years, the New York Jets seemed like the tragic hero of a Shakespearean play. A team that was on the brink of greatness only to be destroyed, not by lack of talent, but by incompetence.
Jets fans always believed they were one hire or trade or signing away from returning to glory. They had hope that their hero would rise once more. Now, they are beginning to realize that the team isn’t the hero, but the antagonist of the story.
Players weren’t leaving because the team didn’t want to pay them or they didn’t want to play for them, but because they were driven away. Luke Falk, Kelechi Osemele, Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, and Jamal Adams all left the team after questioning head coach Adam Gase at one point in time.
It’s becoming clear that the Jets are not a loyal franchise that does its best for its players. Rather, they support those in charge even when the strikes against them are valid. As the Jets continue to jettison players that disapprove of the coach before a full-fledged mutiny breaks out, fans are left to wonder how anyone can have faith in how this team operates.
To show off this whole process in detail, here’s a look at the tragedy of Le’Veon Bell from start to finish.
The rocky start
It wasn’t long to see that the relationship between Bell and Gase wasn’t ideal. It took all of two months before reports leaked that Gase didn’t want to sign Bell. In fact, the signing caused issues within the Jets organization and could’ve been a factor in the team’s decision to fire Mike Maccagnan.
To some extent, it’s easy to see Gase’s point of view. He didn’t want to spend big money on a running back; few in the NFL do. The position has been incredibly devalued in the modern game. Advanced analytics have proven that the running back doesn’t matter as much as the scheme and offensive line in front of them. For the most part, running backs are interchangeable parts that will put up similar production regardless of the player.
Gase made his views clear after trading away Jay Ajayi in Miami despite his role in getting the team to the playoffs in 2016. Thus, Maccagnan should’ve known Gase wouldn’t sign off on paying a running back big money, but he went ahead anyway.
Once Bell was signed, Gase should’ve changed gears. It should’ve been all about trying to get the maximum value out of his new star player. However, Gase did the opposite.
Gase found a way to turn one of the elite offensive weapons in the NFL into a complete scrub. Some would put that on the offensive line, and they’d have an argument. It’s clear they weren’t opening up lanes for Bell to run through, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
In 2019, the Jets ran the ball up the middle an astonishing 68% of the time. The only team in the NFL to run it up the middle more was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Considering Bell is best in space, it should come as no surprise that he struggled to put up numbers when he didn’t have any.
To further put this into context, the Jets were 27th in the NFL in adjusted line yards on runs up the middle, meaning they got little push compared to the average team. It’s clear that they were one of the worst blocking teams in the NFL on the interior.
The edge was a different story. The Jets were seventh in the league in adjusted line yards on runs outside the left tackle. They were getting a push and creating room to run out wide, but the Jets only ran it that way 8% of the time.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, Gase refused to utilize Bell’s top attribute — his receiving ability. In Pittsburgh, Bell averaged 81 receptions for 652 yards per 16 games and was a massive threat in the passing game, basically amounting to a third receiver. But during his tenure with the Jets, he averaged 65 receptions for 471 yards per 16 games.
Gase cut Bell’s touches in the passing game significantly, which is what upset the three-time Pro Bowler the most. He reportedly spoke about this with Gase to no avail. And for what it’s worth, it was the tweet that Bell liked mentioning his misuse in the passing game that eventually became the final straw.
The New York Jets’ latest tragedy
As poor as the misuse and constant leaks of a strained relationship were, Jets fans still had hope. Maybe Bell could’ve been the guy they thought he was once Gase was gone and a new coordinator put him in a position to succeed. Sadly, Jets fans will never know if that would’ve been the case.
Less than a day after Bell liked a tweet stating that Gase misused him, the Jets announced they were cutting the running back. They simply chose their head coach, who has lost five straight games by multiple scores, over their star running back and locker room leader.
At some point, the organization needs to take responsibility for shipping out every single player of talent that the franchise is lucky enough to employ. The Jets are not the tragic heroes who’ve been jilted by so many antagonistic players. On the contrary, the evidence points to them being the antagonists driving away the heroes, who always seem to find success at their next stop.
There should be no doubt that Bell will join that ever-growing list.