FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Don’t mess with New York Jets coach Adam Gase. Or else.
On the job for only nine months, Gase has asserted himself as the most powerful person in the organization. The man who won the power struggle that resulted in former general manager Mike Maccagnan’s ouster was infuriated by Sunday’s crushing loss to the Buffalo Bills, so he did the unthinkable. He made a trade with the New England Patriots, acquiring wide receiver Demaryius Thomas — one of his old favorites from his years as a Denver Broncos assistant.
Let’s unpack that, shall we?
The Jets and Patriots, bitter rivals, don’t do trades. Heck, they don’t even talk. A former Jets GM once told me he communicated with every team in the league on a fairly regular basis — except the Patriots. The last time the two teams made a trade was 2000, when the Jets sold off a disgruntled Bill Belichick — former HC of the NYJ — for a first-round pick.
So, yes, there’s shock value to the Thomas trade. The Jets violated the unwritten provisions of the ancient Border War, which should indicate how badly Gase wanted Thomas in the program.
Gase also changed place-kickers, replacing the ineffective Kaare Vedvik with the unproven Sam Ficken, but that’s not really big news. I mean, they fire the kicker every week, right? It’s reminiscent of the old days with the New York Yankees, when George Steinbrenner canned the pitching coach when things went bad. The kicker will be Gase’s pitching coach.
No, the real story here is Thomas, 31, who was one of the best receivers in the league from 2012 to 2016. He’s not the same player — he suffered an Achilles’ injury last December — but he’s healthy and has a comfort level with Gase. Thomas was effective in the Patriots’ final preseason game, which is encouraging.
On Monday, Gase was ticked off with his wide receivers. He didn’t name names, but he was critical of their route running in Week 1. Gase’s offense — his baby — stunk against the Bills, and he blamed the receivers and the offensive line, shifting the onus away from quarterback Sam Darnold. He was irked by one play in particular, a Darnold overthrow to Robby Anderson that could have won the game.
Anderson stumbled as he blew past the cornerback, and the timing was thrown off. He also seemed to downshift near the end of his route; perhaps Gase felt Anderson had given up on the play. Without using Anderson’s name, he questioned the fourth-year receiver.
“We had opportunities, we had a chance to win the game,” Gase said. “We have to come out of our double move. The [defender] falls down, we have to come out running. If we do that, all of a sudden, we’re scoring a touchdown.”
Speaking of the passing woes, Gase said, “If we read the coverages correctly with the receivers, some of that isn’t a problem.”
Gase will say the Thomas acquisition helps their depth — and that’s true — but it’s also a message to Anderson. Both are 6-foot-3, and they’re the same type of receiver. Gase plays only three receivers in his base offense, so someone has to sit. If Thomas can come close to his past form, who’s the odd man out? They also have Quincy Enunwa and Jamison Crowder, both of whom are in the first year of new contracts.
Anderson will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Jets could have locked him up before the season started, as many teams did with pending free agents, but they took a pass. If Anderson fails to excel, and if Thomas proves a capable stopgap, would it shock anyone if the Jets trade Anderson before the midseason deadline?
It shouldn’t because there’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s not afraid to shake up the status quo. Tuesday’s minor shake-up should send a message to the offensive line, cornerbacks, the new kicker, etc.
Don’t mess with Gase.