Adam Gase, Christopher Johnson, Leon Hess, Rich Kotite
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New York Jets head coach Adam Gase can’t quite match Rich Kotite‘s ineptness and confusion, but honestly, who can?

Robby Sabo

He really fired himself before Leon Hess and the New York Jets could do the honors. He entered the final week of the 1996 season as the head coach who put forth one of the worst two-year stretches in NFL history, knowing full well he was riding off into the dead of the night’s darkness. (After all, sunsets are for heroes, champions, and the Peyton Manning-greeting-Papa John and John Elway‘s-last-hurrah-type situations.)

Rich Kotite waved his left hand at Giants Stadium Dec. 22, 1996, only to be rarely seen in the public eye again. The man nearly vanished, occasionally popping up in commercials and working as a contributor for NFL Films.

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Envisioning a defeatist Adam Gase is one of the tougher things in this world.

Adam Gase is no Rich Kotite. Let’s get that out of the way at the top.

The overabundance of “Gase is Kotite” calls in early 2019 was predictably shortsighted. Starting the season with a fourth-quarter 16-3 lead over the tough Buffalo Bills only to lose C.J. Mosley suddenly and Sam Darnold to mono a day later automatically crossed Gase off the Kotite list. The team’s 7-9 finish (now 7-12 over 19 games) stamps it as so.

Gase is no Kotite.

Then again, who is? Those shoes aren’t exactly the easiest to fill.

The Jets’ 42-year-old sideline boss wasn’t just tasked with developing a hopeful franchise quarterback; he also had to overcome the public sentiment that wanted to bury him from the start.

Not a Jets fan today would stand up and shout January 2019 support for the man. Even if the fan did agree with Colin Cowherd’s original assessment that Gase was a good hire, it wouldn’t be admitted today.

That’s OK. The fan is the fan, and the fan can and should never be held accountable for pundit-like proclamations.

Nonetheless, the fan was right about the hire and the Gase-Kotite parallels cannot be ignored.

Each offensive mind took over for a defensive-minded head man. Pete Carroll was the unfortunate soul to only get a crack at one year (6-10) prior to Hess’s acquisition of Kotite. Gase entered the Jets world after a Todd Bowles era that featured an early high-point followed by misery.

Each showcases the unprepared-team look. The number of mistakes and miscommunication examples ran rampant in 1995 and 1996, while 2019 and 2020 didn’t do anything to separate Gase from the Kotite pack. Incorrect receiver routes, poor fundamentals and archaic offensive play designs have Jets Twitter losing its already-depressed mind.

Each was tasked with developing a specific player. Gase’s Darnold duties are obvious, but Kotite’s Kyle Brady selection falls a bit under the radar. Remember, Kotite played tight end in the NFL for five seasons (four with the Giants).

Each has even experienced buzzwords used to describe intelligence. Kotite once famously told the world that he was “no genius.” (Oh yeah, he proclaimed such a thing on the first day, his introductory presser.)

“I’m not a genius,” Kotite said, via Gerald Eskenazi of the New York Times. “I don’t have all the answers. But if you have a team that you prepare, that plays hard for 60 minutes, you have a chance to succeed.”

Gase, on the other hand, brushed against his genius moment when Christopher Johnson bestowed it on him after the Jets’ opening-season 27-17 loss in Orchard Park, NY this season.

“I have full confidence in Adam,” Johnson said. “I think that he has a lot more in him as a head coach than some of our fans are giving him credit for. And I understand they want to see success. I think that they will.

“Look, I think he can work with and develop quarterbacks,” he added. “I do continue to think he’s a brilliant offensive mind especially. He has my every confidence.”

Jets fans have used “offensive genius” since. How much longer it can be used is the critical question of the moment.

Rumors are already swirling about Gase’s job. New York’s matchup with the Denver Broncos this Thursday night could be the final nail in the coffin. The diehards have already connected the Jets’ all-black uniforms (which is what they will wear Thursday night) with Gase’s soon-to-be and greatly-anticipated coaching funeral.

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This is where the dial has been turned to for fans.

Gase, the stoic one, remains publicly undeterred. Any outside noise doesn’t help him and simply serves as a distraction.

“It’s something, I can’t focus on that,” Gase told reporters Tuesday. “It’s wasted energy for me. It’s not going to help me at all. All I can do is make sure I get our guys in the right headspace to go out there on Thursday and play well.”

He’s even joked in the past that he completely avoids opening internet browsers. The dial is so incredibly turned up that when loved ones and friends often attempt dialogue about something negative, Gase shuns it.

“I just don’t respond to any of it,” Gase added. “If somebody tries to tell me something, I’m like – it doesn’t help me. It doesn’t do anything for me.”

Unless this version of Darnold suddenly turns into post-grocery store manager Kurt Warner, Gase’s short Jets tenure will be remembered alongside the worst in franchise history. Currently 7-12, the names that compare include Lou Holtz (3-10), Todd Bowles (24-40), Bruce Coslet (26-38, 0-1), and Charley Winner (9-14).

Incredibly, 10 of Gase’s 12 losses have come by double-digits—a trend he carried over from Miami. That’s three more double-digit losses than victories. He’s also started 0-3 for the second-consecutive season, while an injury fest that could only be described as the football gods punishing an entire fan base continues to run wild.

The mere fashion for how everything’s transpired since January 2019 makes the 7-12 record feel a hell of a lot worse. For that, and the overpowering feeling of the current mood, Gase’s nearly reaches the unreachable depths of Jets history.

Adam Gase is no Rich Kotite, but then again, who is? Remarkably (or unremarkably), he’s as close as anybody. And that’s more than enough for the man to soon ride off into the darkness of the Northern New Jersey night en route to parts unknown.


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