The perceived Adam Gase vs. Le’Veon Bell “battle” is a frivolous situation meaning little to the New York Jets’ possible fortunes.
It was bound to become a topic of conversation eventually. It’s just that not many folks had the month of August in the pool.
In one corner, we have the fifth-year NFL head coach, the man who New York Jets fandom loves to hate. He’s the reigning bad publicity champ, Adam Gase.
In other corner is the hip-hop workhorse, the running back whose talents have not exactly translated further east of Pittsburgh. He’s the supremely-talented all-purpose back, Le’Veon Bell.
Gase and Bell represent the two combatants of this football battle royale seeking to divide and conquer Jets fans. Twitter polls and side-seeking runs rampant leading up to this pay-per-view.
If only it actually meant something of importance. Perhaps then it would be deemed worthy to dig in just a bit more.
Under normal circumstances, the “battle” between the two men could be perceived as largely fictional. This time last year, for example, the two were publicly on the same page while entering a fresh NFL season. Only “stories” and “reports” suggesting Gase was not on the same page as then-general manager Mike Maccagnan regarding the Bell signing surfaced to everybody’s attention.
Stories. Reports. Unnamed sources. Bell was undeterred.
Despite his less-than-lofty 3.2 yards per carry a season ago, Bell served as the motivational mouthpiece for the Jets and fans during the trade deadline.
patience is key… pic.twitter.com/ajE7NnNbFx
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) October 29, 2019
“I am happy as hell to be a New York Jet,” Bell said in a self-published social media video in late October 2019. “I am happy to be here despite all the trade rumors and talks.”
Over a month ago in a spot with Hot 97, Bell addressed the Gase topic. He could not understand why it’s been blown out of proportion.
“I’ve never played for an offensive-minded coach,” Bell said. “So I’ve talked to him more than any other coach that I’ve ever talked to in my life.
“So I don’t get how people get that relationship thing—it must have been a rumor before I got there. But since I got there, me and him don’t have no problems.”
Fans, on the other hand, take great umbrage with the head coach.
Gase’s criticisms as the play-caller extended to Bell’s usage. Although, it’s tough to really back those emotional outcries after looking at the numbers.
Bell carried the ball 245 times a year ago in 15 games, finishing 11th in the NFL. He also finished a respectable seventh at the position with 66 receptions. With an average of 5.2 targets per game, he also finished seventh in that category as well.
Eleventh in attempts, seventh in receptions, seventh in targets—not bad for 15 games while operating in front of the NFL’s second-worst offensive line. Nevertheless, the “Gase does not want Bell around” narrative rages.
Then this past week happened.
When speaking to the media after a Wednesday practice, Gase said Bell was pulled for precautionary reasons due to a hamstring issue. Frank Gore and La’Mical Perine picked up the slack with the latter busting out for the first time in camp (scampering for a 79-yard score on an in-between-the-tackles run on one occasion).
Bell immediately disputed Gase’s claim on social media. While quote-tweeting an Eric Allen tweet about Gase’s claim, Bell provided the Gase-Bell battle royale antagonists with the first genuine spark needed to further the story.
ain’t nothin wrong with my hamstrings https://t.co/6ri3vCVQ1U
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) August 26, 2020
its tough to stay loose when you do a bunch of standing around……& I’m used to GOINGGG 🏃🏾💨💨
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) August 26, 2020
Suddenly, choosing sides became important. Are you part of the 80-or-so percent to back one of your favorite Madden NFL players over the past decade, or are you equipped with enough chutzpah to side with the head coach?
As if it actually mattered.
The truth is simple: whether or not these guys are secretly at each other’s throats, this duel is meaningless until the Jets first turn themselves into a consistently-winning organization.
Douglas stunning the world with a Bell trade would not break the franchise. Plenty of “star” running backs have been lost from winning organizations—the very same that continued to win after the deal.
The 10-win 2003 Denver Broncos team that shipped Clinton Portis to Washington reeled off another 10 wins in 2004 and 13 the very next campaign. The terrible 2005 Jets saw Curtis Martin retire only to stun the league with 10 wins in 2006 and kickstart the development of arguably the best roster in the league from 2008-2010. Anybody who believes a single running back in the land of devalued backs can make or break a team’s fortunes was obviously hibernating in February 2020 when two relative unknowns in Raheem Mostert and Damien Williams took center stage in the Super Bowl.
For Gase, it’s a bit different. Bell’s a 28-year-old back making big bucks—valuable dollars under the rigorous salary cap. Gase, no matter your feelings on the man, is an offensive coach tasked with Sam Darnold’s development. As much as many fans would love to see his ticket out of town happen today, it’s tricky when thinking about the collateral damage.
Still, like Bell, Gase’s presence will not entirely make or break the Jets. Coaching is certainly critical in the NFL—perhaps more important than in any professional sports league—but the foundation for which Gase coaches is still not sound (or at least proven to be sound).
Was it Gase’s fault the organization had not drafted a first-round offensive lineman since 2006? Was it his fault the Jets offensive line has stunk to high heaven? Moving from 32nd in the league in adjusted line yards in 2018 to 31st in 2019, per Football Outsiders, does not exactly point the finger squarely at Gase.
The Gase-Bell brouhaha is just another in the long line of distractions this team has been forced to deal with over the years. There’s no question some legitimacy behind the duel now exists thanks to Wednesday’s events. Maybe the communication should have been ramped up. Maybe it was and Bell just wants the damn ball. Maybe Gase was trying to protect his back.
In the end, “Does it really matter?”
Winning organizations shrug these moments off in a way that would make Mike Alstott blush. The Earl Thomas noise in Baltimore will serve as a quickie in the news for the Ravens. Those are the perks granted to a club after demonstrating a winning track record. Losing organizations have a habit of making fictional battles stick to the ribs of an individual attempting to lose weight.
No matter the legitimacy or end result that comes from the Adam Gase-Le’Veon Bell match scheduled for more than one fall, it matters very little.
The real battle should be more obvious: the New York Jets vs. the NFL world. Once they conquer the real battle, situations like this serve as a mere bump in the road.