What followed instead were spells of ineptitude and irreconcilable rifts. Four months after Gase was hired, the Jets fired their general manager, Mike Maccagnan, despite letting him run the two most critical parts of the 2019 off-season: the draft and free agency. Gase later dismissed the perception that he had won a power struggle between the two men.
Then, after reportedly opposing the Jets’ decision to sign running back Le’Veon Bell in March 2019, Gase angered him by not deploying him to what Bell perceived was the best of his capabilities. The team wound up releasing Bell in October 2020. In that, Bell became the latest player alienated by this edition of Jets leadership, fronted by Gase and the new general manager Joe Douglas. Bell joined the star safety Jamal Adams, who was dealt to Seattle in July, and Quincy Enunwa and Kelechi Osemele, who had been upset with the way the team handled their injuries.
The Jets, after closing the 2019 season by winning six of their final eight games, offered a smidgen of hope for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010 under Rex Ryan.
It was a mirage. They were non-competitive in most games, and though teams generally aspire to peak in late December, the Jets’ late-season victories might have done more harm than good. To Gase’s credit and perhaps to the detriment of the franchise, his players did not quit on him. His coaching legacy will be rallying his players enough to win twice in the last three weeks, victories that cost the Jets the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 draft because they no longer had the league’s worst record. Instead, they will choose second, behind Jacksonville.
Almost certainly the Jets would have used that top pick to take Trevor Lawrence, the consensus top quarterback prospect, should he elect to skip his senior season at Clemson. Now, just three years after drafting Darnold out of Southern California, the Jets must decide whether to continue building around him; pursue a veteran stopgap in free agency or via trade; or draft a successor, perhaps Justin Fields of Ohio State or Zach Wilson of Brigham Young.
Gase, like Ryan and Bowles before him, focused on his specialty, giving the deposed coordinator Gregg Williams — fired after his disastrous call in Week 12 led to the Raiders’ scoring the winning touchdown with five seconds left — autonomy over the defense, and the entire operation suffered: The Jets allowed 457 points, the most in franchise history.
While teams around the league this season scored points and touchdowns at an unprecedented rate, surpassing the standard set in 2018, the Jets most definitely did not. They entered Week 17 last in most offensive categories, including yards, passing yards, points and first downs per game; yards and points per drive; and red-zone efficiency.