Head coach Adam Gase has a vision for the New York Jets only he can see. Everyone else is left wondering exactly who fits into his ideal scenario because some of the team's best players certainly don't.
Running back Le'Veon Bell and safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye aren't a part of Gase's puzzle, or so it seems.
Despite what some have publicly said, Gase's preferences and personality created a rift within the organization. The team's stars are chief among the detractors.
"Players don't respect Gase, who has rubbed them the wrong way with his inability to lead and lack of support," Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported June 24.
"Too many people on 1 Jets Drive—including players, coaches and front office members—don't trust or believe in Gase, whose disingenuous bent hasn't been lost on people in the organization," he added. "They painted a picture of an insecure figure always willing to point the finger at others for the team's failings last season. No player, or person, was immune."
Before going into individual situations, we should determine what someone within said locker room believes constitutes a good leader.
Fortunately, running back Frank Gore, who signed a one-year deal with the Jets this offseason, offered his perspective in an article by NFL.com's Jim Trotter. What was the first trait the five-time Pro Bowl back mentioned? Honesty.
"A coach being straight up with a player is critical," Gore told Trotter. "We're all men at the end of the day, and I hate when a coach isn't 100 percent real with you. I might not like what you have to stay, but I respect that you're straight up with me."
Steadiness and flexibility were second and third, respectively, on the veteran's list.
None of those seem to accurately describe Gase's character based on what's been reported. He's always been viewed as more of an offensive wizard and quarterback whisperer since his days working with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. But that personality never materialized in Miami, and issues continue to arise in New York, as well.
To be fair, the 37-year-old ball-carrier is a consummate professional and one of the NFL's most beloved players. He's not going to speak ill of any previous or current coach. And his decision to play for the Jets could say more about Gase than it doesn't, though his options may have been limited considering his age.
In this particular case, Gore spent a season with the Miami Dolphins under Gase's leadership and decided to play for the coach a second time.
However, Gase's departure from Miami was met by critics from within the organization. According to ESPN's Jeff Darlington, a "deteriorating relationship" between the coach and owner Stephen Ross led to his ouster.
Gase wasn't despised in Miami's locker room, and no one should work under such an assumption. At the same time, he rubbed certain individuals the wrong way with his roster decisions and in-game management.
The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reported complaints from within the team about Gase's unwillingness to stick with game plans. He also cited how the coach became too emotionally invested during games instead of letting things go when he needed to make clear-headed decisions and how too much cronyism existed throughout the decision-making process.
"He's an insecure guy," a Jets source told Mehta toward the end of the 2019 campaign.
The situation is reminiscent of what happened to former Jets and Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini. Like Gase, Mangini was once viewed as a wunderkind. But his first stop didn't end well, primarily due to his handling of the locker room. Instead of stepping back for a year or two to reassess, he was hired by the Browns less than two weeks after his firing.
He repeated the same mistakes at his second stop.
Less than two weeks after he was let go by the Dolphins, the Jets introduced Gase as their new head coach, and he's continued to repeat some of the same mistakes he did in Miami, starting with his handling and alienation of three top players within his first year and a half on the job.
"He's not changing," another Jets source said. "He said he's going to try to win his way."
Jamal Adams' trade demand is at the forefront, of course. Normally, a trade demand centers on a new contract, which is only part of the equation in this instance. Mehta reported Gase is "a major factor why Adams has felt uncomfortable with his long-term future with the team."
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, meanwhile, has to run damage control to keep the franchise's best player happy if a deal doesn't materialize.
"I want him to feel good about everything that's going on," Williams said of Adams' trade request, per ESPN's Rich Cimini. "He knows when he gets inside the door and inside the white lines, there's a chemistry that's outstanding. I've been through this before with other players. You can't get too emotional. I can't. I've got to stay levelheaded with that and just know that I can't wait to get a chance to coach him again."
Williams knows what's at stake.
Adams is an elite safety with a varied skill set. The two-time Pro Bowl defensive back excels against the run, as a tackler, in coverage and when blitzing opposing quarterbacks. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded as the game's second-best safety over the last two seasons.
The Jets would be wise to do everything in their power to keep a player of Adams' caliber on the roster.
On the other hand, Gase wanted fellow safety Maye gone last year. According to Mehta, the coach preferred to trade the '17 second-round pick shortly after becoming the team's head coach. Then, general manager Joe Douglas fielded calls leading up to this year's draft. A third-round investment in Cal free safety Ashtyn Davis certainly complicates Maye's future even though he played well last season.
New York is in a position where it might have to pay both safeties next offseason. Maye is a free agent after the upcoming season, but an Adams extension is clearly the higher priority.
This safety dance comes a year after reports surfaced that Gase didn't want previous general manager Mike Maccagnan to sign running back Le'Veon Bell at the price he eventually did, per ESPN's Ian Rapoport.
To Bell's credit, he made the best of a bad situation.
"Even if reports are true, that won't stop me from doing what I came here to do," the running back tweeted. "Everyone has a job to do, and I'm gonna do mine whether people 'like' me or not. I'm here to win football games."
The 28-year-old posted a career-low 3.2 yards per carry in 2019, though the underwhelming performance can be explained away by Bell playing behind a subpar offensive line and quarterback Sam Darnold missing three games with mononucleosis.
But the spotlight will be on both Bell and Gase this fall since the back's salary-cap number escalates from $9 million to $15.5 million, per Spotrac, and the Jets can't really get out of the deal until the '21 league year. His usage and relationship with the coach will be watched closely.
In the end, the only relationship that really matters is between the head coach and his quarterback. However, Darnold doesn't seem to be enamored with Gase's approach, either.
"Some team sources believe that Sam Darnold and David Fales are among the few returning players that actually tolerate Gase," Mehta reported, but tolerating someone and actually believing in him are two very different things.
Darnold's continued development in his third year is critical if the Jets expect to be playoff contenders in the AFC East.
On paper, the organization revamped the offensive front to help Darnold and the team's skill positions. Douglas added quality veterans like Gore, Joe Flacco, Breshad Perriman and Pierre Desir. The squad should be able to consistently compete, but a question about culture arises thanks to Gase's attitude.
"He's a professional excuse-maker," one general manager told Mehta last season.
A divided house cannot stand, especially when divisions are created by the pillars acquired to hold up the entire organization.
Think of the other organizations found within the same division.
The New England Patriots meticulously cultivated the league's best locker room over a 20-year period. Everyone in the system buys into the "Patriot Way," which allows head coach Bill Belichick to remain successful year after year.
Brian Flores is bringing something similar to the Dolphins. Miami won five games in his first season despite a near-total teardown and rebuild by the front office. His team believed in him and set higher expectations for its second year under his supervision.
Gase needs to be honest, steady and flexible with his players. That hasn't been the case so far. If things don't change, the coach will sink an otherwise promising season for a potential-laden Jets squad.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.