The New York Jets‘ new coaching staff includes family ties, former enemies, plenty of youth and an aqua-and-orange tint.
Welcome to the Adam Gase era. It won’t be boring.
In assembling his first staff, Gase reunited two of the central figures in the New Orleans Saints‘ BountyGate scandal — Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt, who called Williams a liar and excoriated his character during his BountyGate testimony in 2012. Vitt happens to be Gase’s father-in-law. Williams, too, has family on the staff — his son, Blake.
What could possibly go wrong?
Three other takeaways on the new staff:
In recent interview, Gase said he wanted young, energetic coaches to foster a competitive atmosphere at practice. He made it sound like the coaches will do more trash-talking than the players, saying, “It’s probably going to start off where we’re talking more than the players and they’ll be going, ‘What’s wrong with these guys?’ That’s how we are. We’re all competitors in the building.”
With some volatile personalities, led by Gase, Williams and his son, we’ll have to keep our eyes fixed on the sideline. A look at the new staff:
Dowell Loggains (coordinator/quarterbacks): As soon as Gase was hired, it was widely assumed he’d bring along Loggains, his coordinator with the Miami Dolphins. They also worked together at the Chicago Bears (2015), with Gase serving as the coordinator and Loggains the quarterbacks coach. Even though Loggains has a coordinator title, he will be the No. 2 man, as Gase will steer the offense and call the plays. In five seasons as a coordinator — Dolphins (2018), Bears (2016-2017) and Tennessee Titans (2012-2013) — he never had a top-14 offense (based on yards) and never had a top-15 quarterback (passer rating). He will have a day-to-day role in Sam Darnold ‘s development, but the primary tutor will be Gase.
Jim Bob Cooter (running backs): This is a demotion for Cooter, 34, who spent the last four seasons as the Detroit Lions‘ offensive coordinator. The Lions regressed badly last season, so Cooter got the booter. After routing Detroit in the season opener, some Jets players — mainly, Darron Lee — suggested Cooter’s offense was predictable. He and Gase spent one season together (Denver Broncos, 2013), so there’s the connection. One concern: Cooter never has coached running backs.
Shawn Jefferson (assistant head coach offense/wide receivers): Jefferson is another member of the Gase gang from Miami; he was there from beginning to end. He’s a former NFL wide receiver (490 receptions) who has coached some good ones, namely Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions) and Jarvis Landry (Dolphins). In fact, Jefferson was Johnson’s position coach when he posted his 1,924-yard season in 2012. Jefferson’s responsibilities changed last season, as the Dolphins hired another receivers coach. He became the assistant head coach/offense.
John Dunn (tight ends): This is a curious choice because Dunn has no NFL experience as a position coach, and this is an important job because he will be entrusted with the development of Chris Herndon. Dunn, 35, the UConn offensive coordinator last season, got the job because he worked with Loggains for two years on the Bears’ staff as a low-level offensive assistant. Prior to that, he coached tight ends at Maryland, so at least he has some background with the position. Dunn was a well-respected coach at UConn. Before the Jets called, UConn head coach Randy Edsall reportedly took a $150,000 pay cut, essentially giving that money to Dunn to keep him on staff.
Frank Pollack (offensive line): Pollack has no background with Gase, but he coached for the Houston Texans while general manager Mike Maccagnan was in the scouting department. Pollack is a no-nonsense technician who prefers a zone scheme over man. In one season with the Cincinnati Bengals, he helped transform their running game. They averaged 4.69 yards per carry, their best mark since 1989 and an improvement of 1.07 yards from 2017 — the biggest one-year jump in franchise history. Prior to that, Pollack spent five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, presiding over one of the NFL’s best lines. He has a big challenge with the Jets, who are planning significant changes.
Derek Frazier (assistant offensive line): He’s new to the NFL, having spent his entire career in the college ranks. He was the Central Michigan line coach for the last four seasons.
Bob Hardegree (offensive assistant): He has been with Gase for much of his coaching career, most recently as the Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach.
Gregg Williams (coordinator): This is a fascinating hire on many levels. The front office targeted Williams before the coaching search, which usually isn’t the Jets’ way. Gase signed off, obviously, but you have to wonder if he and Williams — virtual strangers — will be compatible. Williams is an in-your-face coach who will change the culture and scheme on defense. In short, he’s the anti-Bowles/Kacy Rodgers. He’s expected to replace the 3-4 system, employed by the three previous head coaches, with an attacking 4-3 scheme. He’s a bombastic coach whose record doesn’t measure up to his reputation, but he will make the Jets a better defensive team.
Frank Bush (assistant head coach defense/inside linebackers): The former NFL linebacker is an experienced coach who won a pair of Super Bowl rings with the Denver Broncos during the John Elway/Terrell Davis era. He was Gase’s right-hand man in Miami, serving as assistant head coach and linebackers coach.
Joe Vitt (senior defensive assistant/outside linebackers): At 64, Vitt is the oldest member of the staff. This is his 41st season in the NFL, which means he has seen everything. Ah, but this will be a new experience, working for his son-in-law and the man he helped take down in New Orleans. How much would you pay to be a fly on the wall in the defensive meetings? Even if everybody gets along, it’ll be hard to overcome the perception of internal conflict.
Dennard Wilson (passing game coordinator/defensive backs): Wilson, a holdover from Bowles’ staff, caught a break when Williams was hired. He spent three seasons under Williams with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, and connections mean everything in this business. In terms of personality, Wilson, 36, is closer to Williams than Bowles because he brings some fire to the job. The “coordinator” title is new.
Andre Carter (defensive line): He was a heck of a player in his day, racking up 80.5 sacks in 13 seasons, but he’s relatively new to the coaching scene. Carter was a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Cal, before becoming Gase’s assistant defensive-line coach for two seasons in Miami. This is an important job because there’s a decent chance the Jets will draft a defensive lineman in the first round.
Steve Jackson (assistant defensive backs): Another holdover from the old staff. He played under Gregg Williams and coached with him at the Washington Redskins.
Blake Williams (defensive assistant): From all indications, he did a respectable job last season as the Cleveland Browns‘ linebackers coach. In fact, he called the defensive plays in the final seven games when father Gregg assumed the interim head-coaching job. The team didn’t specify Blake’s role as a defensive assistant. He’s known for having an abrasive personality, so stay tuned.
Eric Sanders (defensive assistant): He was a quality-control coach under Gregg Williams in Cleveland.
Robby Brown (defensive assistant): Another holdover from the Bowles staff.
Brant Boyer (coordinator): Gase wisely retained Boyer, who did a terrific job last season under Bowles. Led by kick returner Andre Roberts and kicker Jason Myers, both Pro Bowl selections, the Jets’ special teams were widely regarded as the best in the league. Boyer drew interest from other teams, including the Minnesota Vikings. The Jets kept him with a contract extension.
Jeff Hammerschmidt (assistant): He returns as Boyer’s right-hand man.