Adam Gase has history of leaving teams just before they win big

Getting away from Adam Gase seems to have resurrected Sam Darnold’s career.

Getting away from Adam Gase seems to have resurrected Sam Darnold’s career.
Image: Getty Images

Adam Gase is known for two things: having crazy eyes and losing football games. The man fooled dozens of NFL teams into thinking he was capable of coaching an NFL team. He rode the success of Peyton Manning in Denver into not one, but two head coaching gigs.

The Adam Gase experiments in Miami and New York didn’t work out. Throughout five years as an NFL head coach, Gase recorded just one winning season (2016) and a total record of 32-48. He was so bad at executing his team’s vision that in 2020, when his Jets were clearly the worst team in the NFL, Gase still miraculously managed to win two games and stop the Jets from earning the first overall pick in the 2021 draft and selecting generational prospect Trevor Lawrence. I know Lawrence hasn’t looked great through his first two weeks, but he was still one of the biggest prospects in recent memory at the draft.

The Jets fired Adam Gase on January 3. The quarterback he left behind, Sam Darnold, also left New York. Except unlike Gase, Darnold was able to maintain the same role he had with the Jets. Darnold headed to the Carolina Panthers to become their new starting quarterback, and wouldn’t you know it, in his first year away from Gase, Darnold is the first quarterback in the NFL to reach 3-0.

Obviously, Darnold’s 3-0 record is much less impressive when you consider that his opponents have consisted of the Jets, Texans, and Saints — two of the worst teams in football, and another that we don’t know what to think of yet. However, those three consecutive wins, already match his longest win streak in a Jets jersey from Weeks 10-12 of the 2019 season. Gase’s history of leaving winning football in his wake goes way before his time with Darnold though.

Almost everywhere Gase has gone, his teams/players have done well as soon as they rid themselves of him. From the image above, you can see that this trend started back when he was in high school. Gase played receiver for Marshall High School in Michigan. A year after Gase graduated, his Marshall Redhawks went on to win the state championship in 1996 in Class BB. They also went on to be state runner-ups in that same division in 1997.

After high school, Gase started his coaching career following Nick Saban to LSU, where Gase served as a graduate coaching assistant. He left the school in 2002. LSU won the national title in 2003. Gase then went to the NFL where he would become a household name in football circles for being the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos when Peyton Manning had his famous 55 touchdown MVP season. Gase earned his bag and left town for the Chicago Bears following that historic run with Denver… the Broncos would go on to win the Super Bowl the following year. In all fairness, the Broncos’ offense looked miserable during that Super Bowl run and it’s clear that the Broncos won that championship on the strength of their defense. So, Gase’s departure definitely didn’t have anything to do with the Broncos Super Bowl win.

However, the next few examples aren’t so friendly. Ryan Tannehill was a former number eight overall pick by the Miami Dolphins. He had shown signs of great potential throughout his first few years, but injuries always halted Tannehill from reaching his peak. When Adam Gase came to town, the hope was that he would be able to push Tannehill to his max. That didn’t happen. In fact, the year after Tannehill left the Dolphins to become Marcus Mariota’s backup in Tennessee, he won Comeback Player of the Year and led the Titans to an AFC Championship appearance. He also earned his first and only Pro Bowl nod that year.

Now, we’ve come full circle back to Sam Darnold, a top quarterback prospect out of USC, drafted third overall in 2018 by the New York Jets. Darnold struggled in his first season, but the team was hoping that bringing on Adam Gase would push Sam Darnold to his max. Who could’ve guessed that the plan didn’t work out. Darnold showed flashes of greatness during his time in New York, but everyone knew he was being held back by the lack of talent around him and Adam Gase’s atrocious play-calling.

Now, under Matt Rhule, Darnold is looking better than he ever has. While he still doesn’t seem to be playing up to the hype he received coming out of college, he’s clearly in a much better situation in Carolina. His team is 3-0, the sun is shining, and even with Christian McCaffrey sidelined for the next several weeks, the Panthers have just zero playoff teams from last season in their next seven games. In a weird way, I guess playing under Adam Gase is a good thing for quarterbacks. Whether it’s Manning, Tannehill, or Darnold, they’ve all reached new, unforeseen heights after Gase packed up his bags and headed elsewhere. Maybe Gase is the genius we were all led to believe he was after all, it just takes longer for his plan to unfold than expected.

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