Adam Gase was hired by the Jets, ostensibly, because he came with a reputation as a quarterback whisperer.
When Gase arrived before last season, the Jets were one year in with Sam Darnold, whom they chose with the third-overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Darnold, through his rookie season, had not shown enough tangible signs that screamed “franchise quarterback.’’
Exit Todd Bowles and his staff and enter Gase, who had the great fortune of having his reputation as an assistant coach greatly enhanced by merely being in the presence of Peyton Manning in Denver.
If we’re going to call last season’s 7-9 a wash — buy into the built-in (and somewhat legitimate) excuse that Darnold missed three games early in the season with mononucleosis and the team never recovered in time to make a playoff run and the fact that 2019 was Gase’s first year here — then it’s only fair to demand significant improvement in 2020.
In short: It’s time for the quarterback whisperer to whisper.
And whatever Gase is whispering into the ears of his third-year quarterback, it needs to lead to wins. Otherwise we’ll walk away from this season wondering whether Gase’s reputation was smoke-and-mirrors and whether Darnold was worth the high-rent neighborhood where he was drafted in the first place.
When Gase was asked by a reporter on Wednesday’s Zoom call, if the team finishes with a losing record for the second consecutive season again, if he believes it’ll be “fair’’ for Jets fans to want a new coach.
“Well, let’s get to Week 1 and see what happens,’’ Gase responded with some amusement and snark. “I love your positivity. I’m glad that you are worried about Week 16 already. Let’s get to Week 1.’’
Fair enough. That begins with Sunday’s season opener in Buffalo, a place that hasn’t been kind to the Jets.
It’s a challenge that should give us our first preview of how much better Gase and Darnold are in Year 2 of their marriage. Both are adamant about how much they expect to be better in 2020than they were in 2019.
“Year 2 is always going to be better than Year 1,’’ Gase said. “The communication with Sam has been outstanding. It’s just so much more comfortable because he’s not afraid to ask questions, bigger detailed-type questions, big picture-type things, and I think that relationship keeps growing.
“We both just talked about last year, how we felt like we could have been so much better than what we were. The mono kind of threw some things off for us, and then we were battling some changes and injuries and it was just like nothing was ever … smooth. Where we’re at right now as far as our communication and things like that it’s we are excited to get going.
“My expectations and his expectations are always going to be extremely high. That’s why we do this. We might not talk about it publicly, but me and him when we’re together, our expectations are always probably going to be a lot higher than everybody else.’’
Gase’s first season with the Jets was a bit difficult to properly measure.
The 1-7 start was due in large part to the loss of Darnold with mono and the injury to linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was essentially lost for the season in the opener. But the lurch Gase and general manager Joe Douglas left the team in at backup quarterback was institutional malpractice, leaving the team noncompetitive in Darnold’s absence.
The fact the team did not spiral further from 1-7 and suffer from the stereotypical, finger-pointing fractured locker room, though, is something that you have to give Gase credit for. Was the 6-2 finish against a soft schedule a mirage? We’ll begin to find out Sunday.
Will Gase be better in Year 2?
“Every year you do this — this is my fifth year doing this — it changes so much as far as what becomes important to you and how you manage your time and how you maneuver around the building, especially in this unusual year obviously,’’ Gase said. “It just seems like the flow is smoother for me, I feel like.’’
For the Jets’ sake, hopefully whatever the quarterback whisperer is whispering to his quarterback produces more wins than losses. Then we’ll know more to properly evaluate both coach and quarterback.
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