A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Football nerd: Adam Gase is months away from coaching his first practice, but he already has made franchise history: Of the Jets' 19 head coaches, he's the first without any college or pro playing experience. Yeah, that's right, even Eric Mangini, with his Wall Street body, played college ball. He was a nose tackle at Wesleyan. In case you're wondering, the only other current NFL head coach who never played beyond high school is the Denver Broncos' new hire, Vic Fangio, who attended East Stroudsburg.
This creates an interesting dynamic for the Jets, who have gone from one extreme to the other. Not only did former coach Todd Bowles play in the NFL, but he won a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins. His background commanded a level of respect in the locker room. I can't tell you how many times players used the phrase "he played the game" when discussing Bowles, another way of saying, "He understands us."
At times, I think it worked against Bowles because he let his player's heart overrule his coach's brain when evaluating players (Week 1 starters were almost always granted immunity) and handing out discipline.
Gase brings a unique perspective because he never got past high school as a player. He was involved in the Michigan State program as a student, but only as a behind-the-scenes grunt for Nick Saban. He walked into the coaches' office one day, offering his services as a football nerd willing to do anything to be involved in the game. When Saban left for LSU, he took only one member of his Michigan State staff: Gase. And so began his career in football.
This could be a double-edged sword for Gase. If you believe some of the stories out of Miami, he had a hard time connecting with certain players on the Dolphins -- and some of those players were shipped out. We're talking about Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey, among others. Because of his upbringing in the sport, Gase seems to have little or no tolerance for the so-called privileged athlete. He never was a member of that club. Some believe he was on a power trip in Miami, perhaps because he had control of the 53-man roster. He won't have that authority in his new job, so it'll be interesting to see whether he softens his approach.
Then again, maybe the Jets need a sheriff with Gase's edge, someone who can upset the status quo. Obviously they need a culture change, because the old culture wasn't conducive to winning. The bottom line is, a good coach should be able to convince players with different personalities and backgrounds to buy into the program. Let's face it, you're never going to win with a team of Boy Scouts.
It'll be a fascinating case study -- or, shall we say, Gase study.
2. Flying north: So which Miami free agents might be following Gase to the Jets? Actually, it's not a very attractive pool of players. It includes defensive end Cameron Wake (37 next season), running back Frank Gore (36), right tackle Ja'Wuan James and quarterback Brock Osweiler.
James is the most appealing of the group, but the Jets already have a right tackle under contract, Brandon Shell. Wake could be interesting in a situational role, especially if they switch to a 4-3 front (likely if they hire Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator), but Wake's sack production dropped last season. Truth be told, the Dolphins don't have a lot of good players, which is one of the reasons why Gase now works for the Jets.
3. Clash of egos: If Gase hires Williams to run the defense ... oh, man, that'll be must-see TV. Gase has a headstrong personality and Williams can be downright maniacal, as viewers of HBO's "Hard Knocks" witnessed last summer with its series on the Cleveland Browns. Florham Park, New Jersey, could turn into Florham Sparks.
The plot would thicken if Gase brings aboard his father-in-law, former longtime coach Joe Vitt, currently the Dolphins' senior director of football and player development. Vitt and Williams were members of the New Orleans Saints' coaching staff that got busted in the Bounty Gate scandal. In fact, Vitt testified against Williams, who was suspended for an entire season.
Who doesn't love a good soap opera?
4. Revenge x 2: Gase probably will take the politically correct approach, downplaying his twice-a-year meetings with the Dolphins, but his history suggests he will be fired up. When he faced the Denver Broncos in 2016 -- he was a Denver assistant from 2009 to 2014 -- he called for an onside kick late in the game.
When leading 35-9.
Oh yeah, the juice will be back in the Jets-Dolphins rivalry.
5. Sam of approval: I caught up the other day with Sam Darnold, who gave a ringing endorsement of Gase. If you're surprised Darnold could be so excited after only a 10-minute, pre-hiring phone conversation, know this: Darnold and Gase have the same agent, Jimmy Sexton, who no doubt gave the quarterback a glowing scouting report of the coach.
Darnold also told me he spoke with candidate Todd Monken, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator.
"Trust me, if Monken is a head coach somewhere, you can best believe that team is going to make a run," Darnold said.
Monken was the runner up for the Jets' job, he told friends. Darnold wouldn't say which other candidates he spoke to, but the hunch is that it was Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who told a Texas radio station he wasn't a match for the Jets because he and management had different visions for his potential staff.
6. Miami shuttle: A number of coaches and executives have traveled on the Jets-Dolphins shuttle, including former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum (Dolphins executive), former Jets president Matt Higgins (Dolphins vice chairman) and former Jets executive Dawn Aponte (now with the NFL). Going from south to north was the late Tony Sparano, who became the Jets' offensive coordinator in 2012 after being fired as the Dolphins' head coach.
7. Blast from the past: The Jets thoroughly vetted Gase. In fact, they called Tannenbaum, the Jets' GM from 2006 to 2012, as talk-show host Boomer Esiason noted on WFAN radio. Tannenbaum hired Gase in Miami, and there's no doubt in my mind he gave a positive recommendation.
8. Tampa Bowles: Meanwhile in Tampa, Bowles was introduced as the Buccaneers' new defensive coordinator. He's reunited with coach Bruce Arians, one of his mentors, but he briefly considered an offer to become the Chicago Bears' coordinator. Bears coach Matt Nagy, whose father coached Bowles in high school, wanted him so badly that he dispatched Khalil Mack to recruit him. The star pass-rusher called Bowles and made a strong pitch. Bowles was tempted to join the talented Chicago defense, but in the end, he honored his commitment to Arians.
In his first news conference, Bowles was asked what he learned during four seasons in New York.
"Dealing with people, dealing with adversity, understanding situations on and off the field, dealing with most of that," he said. "Even media-wise, it helped me a great deal. Overall, I've grown as a coach. It was a great experience for me."