NEW YORK — Le’Veon Bell will have a first chance to exact sweet revenge when a lifeless opponent rolls into town Sunday.
Bell versus Adam Gase is the headliner for an otherwise predictable affair between the juggernaut Chiefs and 0-7 Jets. The outcome between the reigning Super Bowl champions and the only winless team in the NFL isn’t in doubt.
The lingering question is whether Bell, who was cut a couple weeks ago after being disillusioned by Gase’s shenanigans, will show his previous employer that he still has plenty of juice left.
Freed from the albatross around his neck, Bell had a solid debut for the Chiefs last week with two 16-yard runs on six carries after logging just one 16-yard run in 274 carries with Gase.
“He did a nice job this past week,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “He’s been working his tail off, just trying to learn and making sure he’s got everything down. He’s picked it up faster than I ever thought guys would pick it up. That position’s a tough position because they have so much responsibility. And he’s really dug in and done a nice job with it.”
Bell is the latest player to clash with Gase, whose remarkable ability to drain the joy from players should earn him a spot in Bizarro Canton.
“I don’t feel like he’s the right leader for this organization to reach the Promised Land,” All-Pro safety Jamal Adams told the Daily News a few days before he was traded to Seattle this summer. “As a leader, what really bothers me is that he doesn’t have a relationship with everybody in the building.”
Gase’s issues with players and co-workers pre-date the Jets. A conga line of Dolphins personnel had problems with the mercurial coach, whose Jets offense ranks dead last in nearly every meaningful statistical category. To make matters worse, a litany of Gase’s former offensive players have found big-time success without him.
Ryan Tannehill, Robby Anderson, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams and others have been better off without the man that Jets CEO Christopher Johnson dubbed a “brilliant offensive mind” earlier this season.
Jets offensive linemen who struggled in Gase’s scheme last season were signed by winning clubs in the offseason. Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell, Brian Winters (and Kelechi Osemele before suffering a season-ending injury) are starters for playoff contenders now.
Meanwhile, Gase’s new offensive line is among the worst in the league. The Jets rank 29th in pressure rate, according to Next Gen Stats. Four of their five offensive linemen rank in the top 15 in pressures allowed, according to Pro Football Focus. The Jets rank 23rd in rushing, but a 46-yard touchdown run by Sam Darnold on a broken play after the protection failed skewed the ranking. Gang Green would be 28th in rushing if not for that fluke scramble.
Bell made the best business decision for himself by signing with the Jets in free agency before the 2019 season, but his career was derailed thanks in large part to a stubborn coach. While great play designers tailor schemes to players’ strengths, Gase’s rigidness ultimately fractured his relationship with one of the best dual-threat running backs of the past decade.
Along the way, Gase disparaged Bell to folks behind the scenes, blaming the player rather than himself for his offensive struggles. Gase’s broken promises this summer about better using Bell were the final straw that led to the divorce.
“I know he’s going to be hyped up,” running back Frank Gore said of Bell. “He gets the opportunity to show this organization that he still can play. I feel that he still can play. Being around him in practice and training camp, he still can play at a high level. He’s going to want to definitely show it on Sunday.”
Bell stayed in the background in the run-up to Sunday’s game rather than fan the flames. But make no mistake: He would love nothing more than to show Gase what could have been.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure that he’s going to be worried about just winning a game. Period,” Gase predictably said. “That’s what most players are worried about. They’re worried about, ‘Hey, what do I got to do this week to help my team win?’ So I’m sure that’s what he’s going to be worried about doing. We got a lot of guys to worry about on that side of the ball against them.”
Bell joins a loaded Chiefs offense that leads the AFC with 26 touchdowns. Everything runs through Patrick Mahomes, but you can bet that Andy Reid will give Bell chances to shine on Sunday. After all, Reid is the antithesis of the HC of the NYJ. He has mastered the art of finding creative ways to highlight his players’ strengths.
“There’s a lot that goes into that,” Reid said. “You got to try to utilize your strengths (and) exploit them the best way you possibly can. … It’s a whole balancing act. So it’s not just about one guy. It’s about everybody. You still have to stop at red lights. What am I saying there? You have a system and a scheme and there’s some rules and regulations that you have to follow. That’s how it rolls. But at the same time, let your personalities show.”
There’s a good chance that Reid will give his newest weapon an opportunity to show his former employer that he can still make a difference.
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