2019 wasn’t a banner year for New York City football. The Giants benched Eli Manning for Daniel Jones, but still limped to a 4-12 record; on Black Monday, head coach Pat Shurmur paid the price. The Jets did a little better, finishing 7-9, but aren’t exactly a model franchise. The season might be over, but head coach Adam Gase and running back Le’Veon Bell still aren’t seeing eye-to-eye.
On Monday, Gase was asked if he wanted Bell to return to the Jets next season. While it would have been easy enough to give some generic praise, the head coach seemed to call the running back’s future into question.
Le’Veon Bell’s first season with the New York Jets
In March 2018, the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise-tagged Le’Veon Bell for the second straight season. The running back refused to sign the deal, however and sat out the entire campaign. When the 2019 offseason arrived, he finally had the opportunity to get a big payday.
Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets, making him one of the league’s highest-paid running backs. Gang Green’s gameplan was clear: by bringing Bell, Jamison Crowder, and Josh Bellamy to town and hiring Adam Gase as head coach, they were going to give Sam Darnold all the tools necessary to succeed. On the field, though, things didn’t go as planned.
While playing behind a patchwork offensive line didn’t help, Bell didn’t get much help from the coaching staff. The running back only had 20 or more rushing attempts three times over the entire season; he publically complained about feeling uninvolved in a struggling offense. Bell finished the season with 789 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 245 carries.
Adam Gase’s ambivalent press conference
After the Jets’ final game of the season, Le’veon Bell said that 2019 was a “different season.” Despite that reality, he sounded ready to give it another go in 2020. Adam Gase, who reportedly didn’t want Bell in the first place, was less committal.
During Monday’s press conference, a local reporter asked the Jets’ head coach wanted Bell as his starting running back in 2020; Gase responded, “he’s under contract for three more years” and told the assembled media that they could the team’s general manager the same question on Tuesday. When the same reporter followed up, asking Gase if he personally wanted Bell on the roster, the coach once again directed questions upstairs.
While it’s possible that Gase simply didn’t want to answer questions from a specific reporter—Manish Mehta and the head coach have clashed in recent weeks—he could have passed the buck in a more positive way. If nothing else, we know that Le’Veon Bell took notice of his head coach’s comments.
Will Le’Veon Bell be a New York Jet next season?
Based on what we’ve seen publically, Adam Gase probably isn’t thrilled to be working with Le’Veon Bell. At this point, however, he really doesn’t have a choice. The running back will probably be on the Jets roster next season and the team doesn’t really need to get rid of him.
Having a talented player on the roster is never a bad thing unless that player’s salary is killing your salary cap or halting someone’s development. The Jets, however, aren’t currently in a bind. The club has over $67 million in cap space, and aren’t anywhere near the Super Bowl; it’s not like Le’Veon Bell’s cap hit will prevent them from signing that one free agent they need to get over the hump. Even if the team needed to tighten their belt a little bit, cutting Bell wouldn’t save a significant amount of money. While a post-6/1 trade would come with a $9 million savings, it’s hard to imagine that many teams would be clamoring to make that deal.
Based on that reality, Adam Gase probably doesn’t have much of a choice. If Le’Veon Bell is on the 2020 New York Jets roster, it’ll be the coach’s responsibility to make the best use of him possible.