By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)
You’ve no doubt heard of the Midas Touch, a Greek myth that tells of King Midas and how everything he touched turned to gold. Well, the Adam Gase Effect is the exact opposite.
There’s a widely held belief that many of those who have played under the former Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets were notably better beforehand or afterwards. OK, I admit that’s a little disingenuous, as it’s impossible to isolate any individual’s performance from all other factors, such as schemes and play-calling, the other talent on the team and injuries to name but three. But let’s not let that minor point get in the way of a good rumour.
We’ll start by examining the theory that players regress on his watch, before exploring whether departing Jets QB Sam Darnold was the latest victim of the NFL’s equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle, where form vanishes before our very eyes.
Gase’s stock peaked in 2013 when he was the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, a team that scored the most points in NFL history. But then there was the small matter of Peyton Manning to thank, not to mention Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas and Julian Thomas all playing at a high level.
How much of Denver’s success was down to Gase, we’ll never know but what we do know is that it led to HC roles at the Dolphins and Jets. Alas, all but his first campaign ended with sub-.500 records. His offences ranked near the bottom of most categories in both cities and his overall record as an HC stands at 32–48.
Does Gase really negatively impact player performance?
Is there actually any evidence to suggest that Adam Gase does indeed suppress the talent at his disposal? Is he really like a Dementor from the Harry Potter stories, sucking the life force out of everyone who comes close?
That’s a bit harsh, sure, and it also feels a bit unfair to use stats in isolation but as we weren’t there at the time, it’s all we have to go on. So let’s have a quick look at a few players who moved to, or from, Adam Gase teams and see how they fared.
Those who left Gase behind…
Gase’s reputation as a ‘quarterback whisperer’ was probably based on being the OC of a team that included the great Peyton Manning but it definitely doesn’t stack up when you consider what happened to Ryan Tannehill. When Gase came to Miami, Tannehill’s yards and touchdowns dipped, leading to a sub-3,000 and then a sub-2,000-yard season. Other than his rookie year, these were his only seasons with fewer than 20 touchdown passes. Struggling enough to have considered retiring, he was eventually given a new lease of life by the Tennessee Titans. After taking over from Marcus Mariota in mid-2019, Tannehill never looked back, leading the Titans to the AFC Championship with a 9-3 record, leading the league in completion percentage (70.3), passer rating (117.5), yards per pass attempt (9.6) and yards per completion (13.6). Last year went even better, with The Comeback Kid notching more than 3,800 yards and a 33-7 TD to INT ratio.
In his three-and-a-bit seasons with Gase in Miami, running back Kenyan Drake never topped 644 rushing yards and logged a total of nine rushing touchdowns. After a mid-season move to Arizona in 2019, Drake hit 643 rushing yards and eight TDs in the remaining eight games, and doubled his yards per game from his best in Florida (40) to over 80. In 2020, Drake was only 45 yards of a 1,000-yard campaign – a career high by far. Being away from Gase seemed to suit him.
And when the Jets let Robby Anderson walk, the wide receiver became Teddy Bridgewater’s top target in Carolina. In 2020, his first campaign after escaping the gravitational pull of Black Hole Gase, Anderson finally achieved a 1,000-yard season at the fifth attempt.
Those who Gase left behind…
A Round 1 pick in 2015, Miami’s DeVante Parker finally lived up to expectations four years later, after Gase had shipped out to New York. During his three seasons in Gase’s offence, Parker recorded a total of 1,723 yards and six touchdowns in 39 games. He averaged just 44.2 receiving yards per game and never reached 750 in a season. Lo and behold, with Adam Gase moving on in 2019, Parker set career-highs in receptions (72), receiving yards (1,202) and as many touchdowns as he’d mustered in the previous four years (9) while averaging 75.1 yards per game. The wideout finally looked like the guy drafted 14th overall years before.
Tight end Mike Gesicki was another Dolphin who seemed to hit his stride once Gase had moved on to pastures new. He was selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft but as a rookie, only caught 22 passes for 202 yards and no touchdowns. Once Adam Gase had moved to the Big Apple, Gesicki broke out, more than doubling his receptions (51) and receiving yards (570), and catching five touchdowns in 2019. Gesicki progressed even further under Brian Flores in 2020, with more than 700 yards receiving and six more scores.
And one who joined Gase…
At Pittburgh, running back Le’Veon Bell managed three campaigns (2014, 2016 and 2017) with over 1,200 yards rushing and 600 yards receiving. He held out in 2018 and eventually moved to Adam Gase’s New York Jets. Wrong! Inevitably, his numbers hit a wall, ending his first full season with 789 rushing yards (only his injury-curtailed 2015 was worse) and the lowest per-attempt rate (3.2 yards) of his career. Coincidentally, things started to pick up again once he moved on to Kansas City.
Maybe these examples are all just coincidental, as players moved in and out of situations that better fitted their particular skills and characters. But that’s quite a few coincidences…
Did Sam Darnold also regress under Gase?
Let’s turn our attention to young Master Darnold, who it seems provides us with another illustration of the Adam Gase Effect in action. After his rookie year, the #3 overall pick in 2018 looked like he could be Gang Green’s guy. Then Gase turned up. Darnold’s second season was passable, as he adapted to a new coach, system and playbook, but last season was a hot mess. The third year is often where QBs really push on but our Sam went in the opposite direction, ending up with his lowest total yards (2,220) and more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (9). In 38 games so far, he has thrown for 45 TDs and 39 INTs, and almost twice as many losses (25) as wins (13).
Yes, he was on a weak team with very little in the way of skill players around him and some very questionable play-calling (at least one of which cost someone their job) but Darnold himself was inconsistent at best. He was hindered by a foor injury in year 1, a bout of mono in his second year and a shoulder injury last season but so his durability has been a little questionable. And in his time, he has completed less than 60% of his passes and we can’t pin that on Gase.
Two people have since taken the blame for how last season went, one of whom was Darnold himself. “I take full responsibility for the way I’ve played,” he stated. “I haven’t played well enough. I’ve got to play better and put the team in the right situations to be able to win games.” That’s fair enough.
But tellingly, the other person to hold his hand up was Gase, finally admitting near the end of last season that much of Darnold’s regression in his second and third seasons was on him. “I came here to help him develop his career, and we haven’t been able to do that,” he said. “It’s on me to get him to play better and so far, I haven’t done a good enough job.”
How will Darnold fare now?
As Gase had already been relieved of his duties at MetLife Stadium, the 23-year-old quarterback didn’t actually need a change of scenery but with last week’s trade to the Carolina Panthers, the much-maligned QB has finally finished digging his escape tunnel from New York. It will be interesting to see if he can blossom in new surroundings, well away from the influence of the Anti-Midas. And he’s certainly still got plenty of time to kick on from here (Tannehill was 31 when he turned it around in Tennessee).
Up until now, there’s been no way to tell if Darnold is indeed the quarterback that everybody saw three years ago. Maybe re-uniting with Robby Anderson will give him a new lease of life? Maybe having Run CMC in the backfield could take some of the pressure off? Maybe Panthers HC Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady can call a better game for Sam?
Now that he’s free from The Curse of Gase, I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough…
Featured banner image: Gail Burton – Associated Press