Adam Gase’s employment serves as further proof of the NFL’s problematic relationship with race when it comes to hiring head coaches.
This Tuesday, the New York Jets officially announced their intentions to cut star running back Le’veon Bell after failing someone willing to trade for him the last few weeks. Come 3 PM Central on Wednesday that move became official and marks the fourth instance of Adam Gase running star players (or potentially star players) out of New Jersey: Keleche Osmele, Quincy Enunwa, Jamal Adams, and now Le’veon Bell.
He is currently 7-14 as the Jets’ head coach and has lost the support of both the players and fanbase. Sam Darnold has stopped progressing and lost quite a bit of confidence over the last season and a quarter leading the Jets to having the 32nd ranked offense in 2019 and currently the worst offense in 2020.
This is not the first franchise that Gase has destroyed and derailed, having spent three seasons as the Dolphin’s head coach from 2016 to 2018. In that time he went 24-24 and had quarrels with both players (His conflict with Devante Parker and his agent should disqualifying in and of itself) and upper management.
He halted Ryan Tannehill’s growth (see his success in Tennessee for proof of his abilities being squashed in Miami), led bottom ten offenses in every season with the Dolphins, including 2018 where he coached both the 31st ranked offense and 29th ranked defense.
However, despite the fact that Gase has only ever been to one playoff game as a head coach (2016 Dolphins) which he lost, and two of the other struggling teams in the NFL are already getting the coaching carousel going with the firings of Bill O’Brien and Dan Quinn, Gase remains a coach in the NFL.
O’Brien won the AFC South four times, led his team to 6 playoff games, winning two, and Dan Quinn led the Falcons to a Super Bowl, five playoff games with three wins, but easily justified) from the Atlanta Falcons.
Instead of moving on, the Jets continue to give Gase more control over play-calling and decision-making and blame his mistakes and shortcomings on the players he is supposed to coach and empower.
Not only is Adam Gase still employed, if his job were ever to be in jeopardy or even terminated, reports suggest that he has a job already lined up.
Despite his failures as a leader and coach and obvious inadequacies that should keep him from the position, he keeps getting head coaching positions and being given opportunities to derail franchises.
…and that is just Adam Gase.
There are plenty of other coaching positions across the league that should be in jeopardy and available, however are held by inadequate and even bad coaches.
Matt Patricia with the Detroit Lions, Doug Marrone with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Doug Pederson with the Philidelphia Eagles. The list goes on and on of coaches that have proven that they should not be leading a team, and yet they are still coaches.
A list just as long is the number of minority coaches/coordinators that have been left patiently waiting for an opportunity to prove themselves as actual head coaches. The list includes names like Eric Bienemy, Leslie Frazier, Robert Saleh, and even Byron Leftwich have been waiting for season after season for a shot at one of the countless open coaching positions.
There was five head coaching positions open after the 2019 season: Dallas, Washington, New York Giants, Carolina, and Cleveland. Of those five positions, only one of them was filled by a minority candidate, while the other four were filled by white coaches who were largely less qualified than the minority candidates that got overlooked.
Joe Judge was a special teams coordinator who worked under Belichick, which makes him arguably the least qualified of those that were hired. Matt Rhule did have experience as a head coach, but only on the collegiate level, which almost never translates well to NFL success. This is without mentioning that Rhule’s record as a collegiate coach is less then perfect, with a 19-20 record at Baylor and only a 28-23 record with Temple. It is no coincidence that both of these teams are struggling, especially Judge’s Giants.
Now Mike Mccarthy and Kevin Stefanski do have some legitimate claim and reasoning for being brought in. Of course, Mike Mccarthy is a future Hall of Famer who won a Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, going 125-77 overall. Sure, his exit from Green Bay was less than ideal, but he deserves a second chance in a new environment.
Kevin Stefanski may not have head coaching experience but he did make one of the league’s worst offenses into a legitimate playoff contender and is currently leading the Cleveland Browns to a 4-1 start.
However, the minority coaching candidates were more qualified than almost every single one of those candidates. Byron Leftwich may be the least qualified of the group, having the least experience of the group, but his time under Bruce Arians as the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and young age makes him an intriguing and interesting investment at head coach.
However, the other three candidates are exciting and would make for excellent head coaches.
Robert Saleh has been the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers since 2017, building one of the best defenses in the league year after year. He is clearly one of the players’ favorite coaches on the team and is often seen helping lead players on the defense on the sideline during games. Last year, that defense carried them to a Super Bowl where they would have won if it were not for some kid named Patrick Mahomes.
Speaking of Patrick Mahomes, Eric Bienemy not having a head coaching position is a crime. Eric Bienemy has been fundamental in the development of Patrick Mahomes the last few years, which in and of itself should guarantee him a coaching position in the NFL. However, it is also his tutelage under Andy Reid, his mentorship of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Damien Williams, and his on-field leadership that makes it so odd that he has been overlooked so many times so far.
Leslie Frazier does have experience as a head coach, having led the Minnesota Vikings from 2010 (he did not become head coach until Week 12) to 2013. Sure, his record was less than ideal (21-32-1) but after falling short there, he has moved back to being a successful defensive coordinator, of which he has 15 years experience. He currently leads the Buffallo Bills defense, which is one of the best defenses in the league.
Despite so many qualified minority candidates, the league only has four minority head coaches: Ron Rivera in Washington, Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Anthony Lynn with the Los Angeles Chargers, and Brian Flores in Miami. That is 12.5 percent of all head coaching positions, which seems odd when nearly 75 percent of the athletes in the NFL are minorities.
So of course, that leads us to the question of why? Why are so many under-qualified or questionable coaches still holding/being hired for head coaching positions while so many over-qualified and great minority candidates continue to be overlooked?
Why is Adam Gase allowed to drive multiple franchises into the ground and keep getting head coaching job after head coaching job while Eric Bienemy leads the best offense in the league three years in a row and has been overlooked multiple times? Why can Matt Patricia keep the Lions in a perpetual state of dysfunction and sadness while Robert Saleh has given the 49ers the resurgence it needs to return to relevancy and is being told teams are going in different directions?
The New York Giants are a young team that could possibly be a legitimate contender (especially in the NFC East) with a few key pieces, so why bring in a Belichick disciple and special team coordinator with no major coaching experience instead of a young up and coming coach who has studied under the quarterback whisperer that is Bruce Arians?
Of course, the follow-up question would be how do we fix the issue? The Rooney Rule has been in place since 2003, and it just takes a single look at the coaches across the league to realize it really is not doing anything. Minority coaches still are not being hired despite their experiences and resumes, while, and I feel I have not stressed this enough, Adam Gase has been hired twice and has a third opportunity if he gets fired soon.
I am not nearly qualified or experienced enough to have the answers to those questions and would argue that it would be wildly irresponsible for me to act like I am. However, there are millions of people more qualified, more experienced, and more intelligent than are in the proper positions to handle this situation, and I believe the answer is just letting those people take control of the situation and lead us into a more diverse and prosperous future for everyone.