The NFL's constant churning of coaches can be exhausting to keep track of.
Every year, NFL teams decide to abandon their current directions in the hope and promise of something better; although the cruel irony of such an approach is that constant change rarely leads to the improved stability teams aspire to gain. It’s quite the contrary.
As teams walk the tightrope between changing direction and staying the course, you often find surprising decisions that swing both ways. The Jaguars, despite two consecutive years of regression, opted to stand firm with both general manager David Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone while relieving Tom Coughlin of his duties as an executive. That was definitely a surprise. The firings of well respected and successful coaches like Ron Rivera and Jason Garrett were made as well; hardly too soon as both enjoyed long tenures with the Panthers and Cowboys, respectively. But the decisions further reinforce that even a track record of winning can alleviate the pressures of a constantly changing landscape.
So, who is next? Which coach enters the 2020 season with the hottest seat?
That honor goes to Jets’ Adam Gase.
Gase, who was New York’s third choice for its coaching search in early 2019 after being fired from a stint in Miami at the end of the previous season, back-doored his way into a 7-9 record to close the 2019 season in New York; thanks to three late-season wins against the Dolphins (a generous defensive pass interference penalty moved the Jets into position to kick a game-winning field goal on a critical exchange in the final minute), Steelers (with 259 yards of total offense and 16 points) and Bills (who sat a slew of starters in Week 17 due to having clinched the AFC's No. 5 seed entering the week).
Add in wins over the Redskins (3-13) and Giants (4-12) and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more misleading record in 2019 than Gase's 7-9. Pro Football Reference's offensive simple rating system, meant to indicate the quality of a team's unit versus average, scored the Jets' offense as the least effective in the league.
Yes, quarterback Sam Darnold missed time with Mononucleosis. But Gase's issues as a coach have extended well beyond the Jets. Gase as a reputation of rubbing players the wrong way with his abrasive approach, which reared its ugly head once again in 2019 when Gase callously discarded guard Kelechi Osemele, who went weeks without speaking to his head coach mid-season.
"I haven't seen [Osemele]," Gase said when asked how Osemele's progress regarding a shoulder injury was coming. "I mean, he's in the training room. We're in meetings and things like that. [I] haven’t had any conversations … he hasn't asked to speak to me. He's injured. He's in the training room. I'm trying to get ready weekly for the next opponent. I've got a whole bunch of guys that are playing that need me to do my job … he hasn't asked to talk with me. If he wants to talk to me, he can come to my office."
This is just the latest example of Gase's player relations going south; a continuing trend that was prevalent in Miami as Gase shuttled defensive lineman Jordan Phillips, running back Jay Ajayi, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and others out the door because it was simply easier to not deal with them. Tack on Gase's supposed reputation as an offensive guru compared to the production he's seen and it is difficult to build a case of support of him.
Gase’s team's best production between three years in Miami and one in New York in offensive yards totaled 25th in the league (2017). His last three seasons have seen the team score no higher than 26th in points scored (2018) and 25th in point differential (2019).
The Jets were fifth in the NFL in penalty yardage in 2019, one year after Gase's Dolphins finished ninth in penalty yardage (and were 15 yards away from finishing fifth). Gase's Dolphins were second in the NFL in penalty yardage in 2017.
Star running back Le'Veon Bell toted the football 245 times and finished with less than 800 yards rushing (3.2 yards per carry). On 311 total touches, Bell found the end zone four times and averaged 4.0 yards per touch, the lowest figure in his career by far.
At some point, the excuses have to run out. The personnel explanation is an easy crutch to fall back on, but Gase's Dolphins lost talent because he wanted to mold a conformant locker room to his leadership style; he lost the team by the end of 2018 anyway, mainly because he's regularly passing the back on blame for poor performance. New York is led by an offensive-minded coach who hasn't fielded a good offense in any of his four seasons as a pro head coach. His team finished the year with more games under 200 yards of offense (three) than they did games over 400 yards of offense (400 and 401 yards in consecutive weeks against the hapless Giants and Redskins, respectively).
Gase led teams now have a significant sample size of playing undisciplined, ineffective, low-scoring football.
If you're looking for a man under pressure entering the 2020 season, Gase has more of it than anyone else. And rightfully so. The Jets will need a fast start to paint the image that the team's 3-1 finish to the season was legitimate progress — even though the context to each of those wins will tell you it was anything but.