FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets coach Adam Gase, whose relationship with Le’Veon Bell already is under a microscope, insisted Thursday that he’s “excited” to have the star running back on the team.
Gase dismissed speculation he’s interested in trading Bell before the season.
“That’s ridiculous,” Gase said. “That’s the first I’ve heard of that.”
The Gase-Bell pairing became an issue last week when the team fired general manager Mike Maccagnan, who lasted only four months with Gase. Sources said Gase objected to the Bell signing because of the steep price tag — a four-year, $52.5 million contract.
In his first news conference since the front-office shake-up, which some believe was the result of a power struggle between Gase and Maccagnan, Gase praised Bell as a player, but hinted he wasn’t a fan of paying that much for him in free agency.
“Whether or not we disagreed on anything financially, that’s a completely different story than the person or the player,” Gase said. “That’s where a lot of this gets misconstrued. Le’Veon Bell is a great player. He’s a good person.”
Yup ✊🏾 Let’s get it Coach ✈️ https://t.co/1lZHScntjz
— Le’Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) May 23, 2019
Gase was asked if the Jets overpaid for Bell.
“No, the contract was what it was,” he said. “Everybody can criticize contracts all you want, but he’s here. I’m excited he’s here. I think the players are excited he’s here. I think the coaches are.
“When you get a chance to coach a great player, a guy who has done things nobody else has done in the league, we’re excited for that opportunity. I’m excited to get him in the offense so I can start figuring out what else can we do with him, and what he hasn’t done.”
Bell has skipped the majority of the voluntary workouts, including the first three OTA workouts. Gase said he’s in “constant communication” with Bell via text and that Bell sends him his workout videos, which he posts on social media.
“All that stuff you get on Instagram, I get it first,” Gase said.
The Jets already have paid $11 million to Bell, so the idea of trading him before the season makes little sense, especially since the team would incur a massive cap hit. But that didn’t stop speculation from spreading in recent days.
Asked point-blank if they will trade the former Pittsburgh Steelers star, Gase said, “No.”
Gase also shot down the notion that he wasn’t keen on middle linebacker C.J. Mosley‘s record-setting, five-year, $85 million deal in free agency.
“We did everything we could to get him,” Gase said. “I think I took a pay cut. Whatever we had to do to get him, that’s what we were going to do.”
Gase was on the defensive, reiterating that he had no role in the ownership’s decision to fire Maccagnan. Sources said there was a rift between the two men, and Gase admitted there were “disagreements on a few things, but there was no personal rift.”
Instead of giving them a season to work out their differences, CEO Christopher Johnson made the decision to fire Maccagnan after having empowered him to hire Gase, spend unprecedented money in free agency and run the draft.
Now they’re in the early stages of a GM search. Gase, who has the title of interim GM, confirmed he will be involved in the process. He downplayed the notion he will pick the next GM, saying it will be Johnson’s call.
“I don’t really hang out with yes men, so if it’s somebody I already know, it’s probably not going to be somebody who is a yes man,” Gase said.
The new GM will have final say on the roster, as Maccagnan did. Gase, who controlled the roster in Miami, said he’s fine with the Jets’ power structure. He said “a group of us” will present their ideas on the search to Johnson and then will begin interviewing candidates.
“There’s a mold of what some teams are looking for in a GM,” Gase said. “He’s looking for something a little bit different.”