The NYJ’s and The Adam Gase Effect (The PM Perspective)
And why in tech he’d likely already be fired!
I am not a person who leans heavily into hyperbole. Typically many factors drive outcomes, and those factors can make some things seem worse than they actually are. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, that is not what this is.
Before we dive into the obvious, spoiler alert *(Adam Gase is a terrible coach)* I’ll tell you a bit more about myself. I am a sports fanatic. I’ve rooted for the Jets most of my existence, and I’ve lived through all the coaching, player-based, and management-based highs and lows someone in their early 30’s could possibly endure. But deeper than that, I’ve worked in product management focused on data and analytics, growth, engagement, and activation, for a few years. Remember my previous statement on hyperbole. Based on what I see and what numbers show, Adam Gase is likely the worst coach in the NFL.
Perhaps more interestingly, based on most objective measures, he’s also a terrible product manager.
For those of you who don’t know much about product management, Wikipedia defines it as “an organizational function within a company dealing with new product development, business justification, planning, verification, forecasting, pricing, product launch, and marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle.” Thanks, Wikipedia!
In order to be a successful PM, You must sit at the intersection of all these different segments. [Photo Credit: https://blogs.gartner.com/mike-gilpin]
Now I know what you’re thinking. “What does any of this have to do with the NFL, the Jets, and Head Coach Adam Gase?
Well, football teams are a product. Their players and the brand are parts of an always changing, continuously integrating product plan. In most products, the CEO sets the vision, and at a high level, that would be Christopher Johnson (or his brother Woody). He would be the person who decides on what the goals are for the Jets at the beginning of each season. He also decides on what the end product should look like. In the graphic above, he would be the Business Leader.
Joe Douglas is a bit more difficult to quantify, but for the sake of this discussion, his role is very similar to that of a VP of Engineering. He executes the vision laid out from the CEO in a self-decided order of prioritized needs based on what he sees in the Jets ecosystem. In a normal organization, this would be the role of multiple people (he has some help). In the above image, let us bucket him as both Strategy and Finance. Joe’s tech industry job description would look a lot like this:
Sales, marketing, and customer service are pretty straight forward aspects; they both get input from and give feedback to Mr. Douglas and Mr. Johnson.
For a sports team, the product delivery team and the product management team would be the coaching staff. Their job is to take the product from Joe Douglas, who takes input from his stakeholders, his engineers (the scouts and assistant GM’s), and the product management team, in order to create a product that meets the stakeholder’s expectations.
And Adam Gase, you ask? This entire article is about him, after all. Well, that would make Adam Gase the Director of Product Management, and a particularly awful one at that. Let’s circle back to what a product manager does and is expected to do.
The team at Aha.io defines the role of a product manager as follows:
Let’s dive into this a bit and make it more football-centric. Even though Gase fails in either way, however, I think targeting this definition would make it most clear.
Head coaches are responsible for guiding the success of the players and leading the group of assistant coaches that are responsible for improving them. It is a critical organizational role — especially in sports organizations — that sets the strategic gameplan, and focus of the team and its players. Head Coaches must provide the deep player and gameplan expertise needed to lead the team and make strategic game based decisions. They often analyze in-game and competitive conditions, laying out a gameplan that is differentiated and delivers winning value based on the players’ unique abilities and their coaches’ playbooks. This role spans many activities from strategic to tactical and provides cross-functional leadership — most notably from the CEO, to the GM, the coaching staff, and the players.
Based on the above definition, let’s grade coach Gase’s performance.
We will grade on a 1 to 5 scale based on Gase’s performance as a product manager or interchangeably head coach.
Clarion University has a publicly available review metric, using our preferred scale with seven categories. https://www.clarion.edu/about-clarion/offices-and-administration/university-support-and-business/human-resources/frequently-used-forms/Staff%20Performance%20Review.pdf
- Unsatisfactory — Consistent failure
2 . Need Improvement — Frequent Failure
3 . Satisfactory — Just enough to deem acceptable
4 . Commendable- Visibly successful
5 . Outstanding — Does excellent work
- Job Knowledge/ Skill
- Work Results
- Initiative/Problem Solving
- Interpersonal Relations
- Work Habits
For our purposes, this will serve as our guide to giving out these one — five grades and the rationale behind them. I will try to keep these grades as objective as possible, which is always essential when reviewing performance. Finally, in the interest of time, we’ll focus on three of the seven possible review categories, though I believe coach Gase underperforms in all.
As a product manager, Adam Gase would be responsible for guiding the success of the product. In football terms, he is responsible for guiding the success of the players on his team. Despite finding a way to narrow his coaching responsibilities to only one of the three, team phases, there is not a single player whom he has coached, which became a better player under his tutelage. Sam Darnold is objectively worse. LeVeon Bell? He looks like a third-stringer instead of someone who, two years prior, looked like a potential hall-of-fame player. The list goes on. Linemen look worse; receivers look worse; tight ends look worse.
This could fall into a few categories, but we’ll leverage the second on our review rubric, work results. This category measure employee results in meeting established objectives, expectations, and standards of quality. For guiding players to succeed, I believe a one is aptly fitting.
i. Coach Gase consistently fails to meet the expected quality or quantity standards.
ii. Players get hurt more frequently and perform much worse than they did both before Gase was around and after he is no longer there.
iii. There are many examples from Miami. Ryan Tannehill, Devante Parker, Kenyan Drake, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, all players coached by Gase, who looked decent at best and now show varying degrees of greatness having escaped his clutches.
Based on current performance, the expectation would be that these results stay consistent when Gase is looking for his next job in a few weeks.
Leading a group of assistant coaches is the next one on the list. A product manager is responsible for leading a cross-functional team focused on improving their product. Again, we’re going to have to give that a 1. The supervisory/ management segment of our assessment states that it measures leadership, judgment, initiative, and achievement of expectations. The head coach is supposed to set the overall gameplan of the team. Are we going to be aggressive today? Is the weather unfavorable, and we need to take that into account? While our opponent is more talented if we can capitalize on X weakness, we may find avenues for victory.
These and many others are questions and possibilities that a head coach should be considering every time they step on the field. There is a more common occurrence lately of head coaches operating as the coordinator for a specific side of the ball, and if you have a uniquely creative skill at it, I support it. The first problem is that well, Adam Gase isn’t particularly good at coaching offense.
Adam Gase’s Antiquated Offense Is Setting Up The New York Jets For Failure
It’s not Adam Gase’s fault the New York Jets are in their current state. He came to a team that had little talent, a…
5 stats that debunk Adam Gase’s reputation as an offensive genius
41 shares The Jets hired Adam Gase to be an offensive innovator and turn Sam Darnold into a franchise quarterback…
Here is proof Jets’ Adam Gase keeps getting out-coached
BALTIMORE — There are plenty of warning signs swirling around Adam Gase. There’s the fact that he can’t win on the…
Stubborn Adam Gase’s offense wasn’t working; perhaps Miami’s next offense will work better
DAVIE, Fla. — Adam Gase apparently didn’t want to be part of crafting a new future, a new direction for the Miami…
Adam Gase continues to struggle with game planning
Week three continues to see the Miami Dolphins start off slow and lost, then pick it up in later quarters. Is this a…
prove this point.
If you want a pretty prescient perspective, this might be a good read.
Adam Gase Will Not Succeed as an NFL Head Coach
The news came down Saturday morning that Chicago Bears’ offensive coordinator Adam Gase was going to be the next head…
Also, coaching one side of the ball should not come at the expense of your ability to know the entire team and their skills as well as set the overall goals of the team. Gase is not leading as the head coach.
If you don’t believe me, ask Jamal Adams — the former Jet all-pro safety.
Before his trade, he was quoted saying:
While I do take that with a grain of salt, it’s also proven out by the coach himself.
Strategic game planning has to count as a failure as well. When setting the roadmap for your department, a good product manager thinks of the impact of their products on the overall business strategy and how their decisions and timelines might affect the company, its reputation, and continued growth and progression. Coach Gase is not setting the strategy for the entire team, which is a major strike in this grading system. If he were a coordinator that would be a bit less troublesome as his impact is limited to one side of the ball. However, looking at Gase through that perspective, he’s not even doing a good job of setting the strategy and gameplan for the side of the ball he’s coaching. He displays an elite level of ineptitude at adjusting his gameplan, even with the opportunity to copy cat models of more successful competitors. This is tied to an inability to find his player’s strengths and leverage them.
Just look at the Jets team rankings.
It’s early in the season, but the Jet’s offense is setting up nicely to finish at the bottom of the league. Out of 32 teams, they rank in the bottom 5 in
1. points — 31st
2. total yards — Last
3. first downs — Last
4. passing yards — 31st
5. net yards per pass attempt — 29th
6. rushing yards — 31st
7. yards per carry average — 28th
8. starting field position — Last
9. average drive time — Last
They just beat the bottom five with average points per drive, coming in comfortable at 27th in the league or the 6th worst team.
As the saying goes, “Once is a Fluke, Twice is a Coincidence, Three Times is a Trend, Four Times is a Pattern.” If this continues, they will be ranked as the league’s worst or second-worst offense for the second year in a row. This continues a trend for the coach as Miami in 2018 finished as the third-worst offense overall. In fact, in the past four years, Adam Gase has at best finished the season with the 27th ranked offense, sixth-worst in the league.
We have to give out another one here as well. While Adam seems knowledgable when it comes to football, unfortunately, his results don’t correlate well with that knowledge.
Our tally on those three review out of a possible maximum score of 15 was 3. Typically a 6 would’ve been probation worthy, a 9 would've been an average score.
A bad product manager can have a massive impact on the shelf life and valuation of your product. They impact public perception, customer value, and asset growth. From a business leader standpoint, a bad product manager impacts your bottom line. Head coaching aside, Adam Gase is simply bad for the New York Jets’ product.