Jets insult Le’Veon Bell by signing Frank Gore
By MANISH MEHTA
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Adam Gase is knocking on your door, armed with a new set of encyclopedias and steak knives, ready to sell, sell, sell.
His latest pitch centers on disrespecting Le’Veon Bell for the umpteenth time.
If it weren’t bad enough that the Jets head coach had no earthly idea how to properly deploy this other-worldly talent, now he’s piling on.
Gase’s insistence on signing Frank Gore last week is the latest example why players have had trust issues with this guy for the better part of his post-Peyton Manning existence.
Bell, frankly, should be insulted and demand a trade.
His contract ($13.5 million in 2020) makes a deal a virtual impossibility, but Gore’s arrival is the ultimate slap in the face to a player who had established himself as arguably the NFL’s best dual threat before finding himself in quicksand with Gase.
Gore, who will turn 37 on Thursday, is a respected veteran who will be a good influence.
“He’s done a great job as far as helping younger players that are in the room,” Gase said of Gore on the team’s website.
Gore would have been a great coaching hire.
“He’s really going to help the guys like La’Mical Perine, Josh Adams and Kenny Dixon,” general manager Joe Douglas said. “It’s a relatively young running back room right now behind Le’Veon, so he’s definitely going to help those young guys and he’s going to be a great example for them moving forward.”
It’s almost as if the Jets don’t realize — or want to acknowledge — that Bell is a 28-year-old perennial Pro Bowler who offers the same traits.
Highlighting Gore’s willingness to mentor young players marginalizes Bell, who has always helped his teammates. Just ask Steelers Pro Bowl running back James Conner, who reached out after Bell landed his 4-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets to express his appreciation for being a great teammate, mentor and leader.
Bell was also model teammate last season despite difficult circumstances. When the Jets were unable to move him at the trade deadline, Bell’s glass continued to remain half full.
But the inconvenient truth was that Gase never wanted Bell in the first place. Winning coaches create schemes to maximize the skill sets of their available talent, but Gase prefers to fit running backs into his offense.
And he never stops selling.
Even though the coach privately whined when Bell didn’t participate in the team’s voluntary offseason program last year, he told reporters publicly in the spring that he would sit down with Bell in the summer to study plays from Pittsburgh to create a good deployment plan.
The day after the regular season, Gase repeated himself by telling reporters publicly that he was going to sit down with Bell to “(look) at some of the stuff they did in Pittsburgh” this offseason.
Ned Ryerson would have been proud.
One week after Gase told ESPN that he wanted to “get some of the younger backs to where we can make a good one-two punch with Bell” in 2020, he signed the oldest running back in the league.
From a pure football perspective, adding Gore doesn’t make much sense. The Jets need more speed in their backfield. Bell and Perine aren’t burners. A home-run threat would have been ideal. Gore doesn’t offer that dimension.
“He’s a great guy for Le’Veon to be around,” Gase said. “Those two guys can really do some damage together. We got two guys that can play all three downs. They both have outstanding skill sets. There’s a little bit of difference in some of their running style and how they do things, but we know Frank really well. We know how to use them.”
Aside from the obvious fact that Gase didn’t know how to use Bell as a running back or receiver last season, who in their right mind believes that a 37-year-old running back can play all three downs?
Gore is as competitive as they come, but how much does he have left in the tank after a career-low 599 yards with the Bills last season?
He averaged 4.4 yards per carry (95 attempts) in the first seven games before falling to 2.4 yards per carry (65 attempts) from Weeks 9-16. He was a non-factor in the second half of the season, prompting fair questions about how he’ll help the Jets on gamedays.
Bell, coming off a career-low 16.3 rushing attempts per game, has proven to be an every-down back with exceptional pass-blocking skills. Gore could give Bell a breather every now and then, but it would be foolish to significantly cut into the two-time All-Pro’s touches.
However, Gase’s track record suggests that this will turn into exactly what he has wanted from the day he was hired: a committee backfield.
Consider what Gase did with Gore in Miami two years ago.
Although dynamic young running back Kenyan Drake averaged 119 total yards and 4.9 yards per carry in the final five games in 2017, Gase preferred a backfield committee the following season. A 35-year-old Gore had more carries than Drake in 2018.
Although that’s unlikely to happen with Bell and Gore, it would make little sense to curtail Bell’s carries. Workhorse backs actually get better within a game with more carries.
Gore’s presence will also turn 2020 into a de facto red-shirt season for Perine (barring injuries) unless Gase plans on turning the backfield into a three-headed attack.
Gore, the NFL’s third leading all-time rusher, will wind up in Canton one day. He should be respected, but let’s not pretend that the Jets don’t already have a respected veteran at the same position with a great work ethic and a lot more left in his tank.