Jets HC Adam Gase Declines to Say If He Wants Le'Veon Bell to Return in 2020

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IIIDecember 30, 2019

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 12: Head coach Adam Gase of the New York Jets and running back Le'Veon Bell #26 talk before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 12, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The New York Jets won their final game of the 2019 campaign, beating the Buffalo Bills 13-6 at New Era Field, but Le'Veon Bell ended his first year with the team with a dud.

First-year head coach Adam Gase declined to address whether he wanted the two-time All-Pro running back to return as the starter next season:

Jets Videos @snyjets

Adam Gase on whether he wants Le'Veon Bell back next season: "He's under contract for three more years...you can ask Joe tomorrow" https://t.co/CHq0z0kFA4

Jets Videos @snyjets

"I have all year" – Adam Gase reiterates that he supports Le'Veon Bell and has said so all season https://t.co/1ldsCqWD0p

Connor Hughes @Connor_J_Hughes

Gase has, on a near dozen occasions, got into great detail how much Bell means to this offense and how selfless Bell was to realize/accept the state of the offensive line, and abandon his previously-successful running style to better the team. https://t.co/BPIAq20kCM

Those comments caught Bell's attention:

Le'Veon Bell @LeVeonBell

https://t.co/csolpvucXt https://t.co/RFNcgQLjq5

According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, Bell and Gase "had a private conversation in the locker room" following Sunday's game after the 27-year-old tallied 41 yards on 16 carries and did not touch the ball for majority of the second half.

"It's been a different season," Bell told reporters. "That's all you can say about it."

Bell added: "I didn't break 1,000 yards. It's disappointing. Obviously, that's a marker that every running back kind of [aspires to]—1,000 yards. It didn't happen this year. I have to work harder and get better for next year."

Le'Veon Bell @LeVeonBell

Blessed for another year. I want to thank Jets fans for embracing me all season. I put everything into every snap this season & hope you all are proud of how I repped the Green & White. Things didn’t go as planned for many reasons, but can’t wait to get working & keep moving fwd. https://t.co/Y2Uxg75fQw

Bell, who signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets in March, finished this season with his lowest marks since 2015, recording 789 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 245 attempts. He sat out all of 2018 amid a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers after spending the first five years of his career with the organization, which selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft.

Bell surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in three of his five seasons played in Pittsburgh.

His regression in New York could at least in part be attributed to an inconsistent offensive line:

Connor Hughes @Connor_J_Hughes

The #Jets started 11 different offensive linemen and nine different line combinations. Asked if that stunted some of Sam Darnold’s potential growth. Gase said it didn’t help. I’ve been told rebuilding OL is priority No. 1, 2 and 3 for #NYJ this offseason

Rich Cimini @RichCimini

This is pretty mind-boggling: Le’Veon Bell gained 3.22 yards per rush for the season, the worst mark in Jets single-season history among players with at least 200 rushes. Wow. #Jets

Bell also made headlines away from the field. He was ruled out for the Jets' Week 14 matchup with the Miami Dolphins because of an illness; however, the three-time Pro Bowler went bowling the night before New York's 22-21 win. 

"I'd rather him not be [bowling]," Gase told reporters. "I'd rather him be at home just getting better. That will be a conversation we'll have."

Bell was not formally disciplined and joked about the situation:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

"I rolled a 251 off the flu." After being ruled out of Sunday's game, Le'Veon Bell had an MJ-like performance at the bowling alley with his family on Saturday night 😂 https://t.co/03ioplkXFP

Cimini read between the lines: "Clearly, he's not happy with his role. He didn't directly criticize Adam Gase—Bell knows how to walk the fine line—but he let it be known he wants more touches. This storyline will continue into the offseason. Prediction: He gets traded."

In late October, Bell disclosed that he was "frustrated" by how sparingly he was used in a 29-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and said he texted Gase to express his displeasure:

"Yeah, I was frustrated, so I didn't want to be in front of the media and say something that everybody could run with. I was frustrated. We lost the game and I didn't feel like I was involved. Plus, I feel like that was a game we kind of let go. I didn't want to say anything I would regret because I was angry at the time."

Gase's latest press conference could cause further speculation regarding Bell's future in New York. The Jets reportedly floated his name ahead of the Oct. 29 trade deadline:

UNINTERRUPTED @uninterrupted

.@LeVeonBell confirms the trade rumors and reveals which teams were involved, then weighs in on @TheAdamsEra on the newest episode of #17Weeks with @SiriusXM 🎙️ Listen: https://t.co/cr2DKQgAjM https://t.co/LRt8Vee4h8

Manish Mehta @MMehtaNYDN

Le’Veon Bell handled himself like a true pro when asked about the Jets exploring trade discussions. NYJ would have traded him if not for the contract obstacle for interested teams. They were hoping to move him.

If Bell's contract was indeed the reason Gang Green didn't trade him, that obstacle is not going away:

Spotrac @spotrac

Notable Running Backs possibly playing a last game for their respective team (2020 cap). Todd Gurley, LAR ($17.25M) Le'Veon Bell, NYJ ($15.5M) David Johnson, ARZ ($14.25M) Devonta Freeman, ATL ($9.5M) Leonard Fournette, JAX ($8.6M) Melvin Gordon, LAC, FA Derrick Henry, TEN, FA

Gase and the Jets have plenty of issues outside of Bell's uncertain future. New York finished 7-9 and notched its fourth straight season with a losing record. It has not made the postseason since 2010.