New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, who spoke directly to multiple candidates during the team’s head-coaching search, is convinced the Jets hired the right man in Adam Gase.
“It was a tough decision, but I think Gase and the things he’s able to do, the way he’s able to lead, I think is the best thing for our team,” Darnold said Thursday in a phone interview with ESPN.
Darnold declined to list the candidates he talked to, but he singled out Todd Monken, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator. He was impressed with Monken and predicted he will be a successful head coach one day, but Darnold said he really clicked with Gase.
They spoke for 10 minutes on Monday night via FaceTime, covering everything from team-building to Xs and Os.
“I’m really, really excited about this opportunity and all the things Adam can bring this team,” Darnold said. “For us, it’s about winning. How do you do that? You score more points than the other team. I’m really excited about the opportunity to get to work with him, and score a load of points. I think it’s going to be really fun.”
The Jets’ decision to hire Gase, fired Dec. 31 by the Miami Dolphins, sparked a negative reaction among fans and media. Darnold expects that to change quickly.
“I don’t think they’ll be upset when we start winning games,” he said matter-of-factly.
The Jets interviewed eight known candidates, including former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Gase, Monken, Baylor coach Matt Rhule and McCarthy were the four finalists.
“Adam is an awesome dude. First of all, a really trustworthy guy,” Darnold said. “He just knows ball. He knows football. He’s very, very passionate about it. I think that’s what’s going to be awesome about this whole thing.
“His passion is going to be super, super contagious. Guys are going to want to go out there and play the game all the time. I think that’s kind of his leadership style, and I think that’s really where he’s going to thrive. I think our guys are going to take on that kind of attitude.”
CEO Christopher Johnson said at the start of the search that finding a coach with a history of developing quarterbacks would be “a plus.” Darnold, coming off a strong finish to his rookie season, is the centerpiece of the Jets’ future. Gase has worked with Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and Ryan Tannehill.
Darnold was in high school in 2013, when Manning threw a league-record 55 touchdown passes for the Denver Broncos, with Gase calling the plays.
“When Peyton was doing all those things in Denver, he was there behind the scenes doing everything,” Darnold said of Gase. “Just him orchestrating this offense and getting it to how he wants it, and being able to manipulate a defense the way we want to do it, it’s just going to be awesome. It’s going to be fun as well.”
Manning reached out to Johnson on Tuesday night to advocate for Gase.
Gase has a lot of work ahead of him. Despite Darnold’s late-season improvement — he posted a league-high QBR over the final four games — the Jets still finished 29th in total offense.
The Dolphins struggled, too, as they ranked 31st after a season in which they finished 7-9. That’s one of the reasons why the Jets’ fan base is upset with the decision. Nevertheless, Darnold believes in Gase’s track record.
“I’m really excited to work with him because of all the good things he’s done,” Darnold said. “I just have to continue to push the guys and make them understand, ‘Hey, we’re going to do things this way and this is how it’s going to be. We’re going to get off to a fast start.’ And you best believe we’re going to win games doing that, too.”
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