NFL Teams
Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 32d

Adam Gase tries to set new culture even if it means upsetting players

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The downside to Trumaine Johnson's doghouse residency is that it basically confirms the New York Jets wasted an enormous amount of money on his contract, one that will impact their salary cap even after he's released next offseason. So much for the theory that being reunited with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will revitalize Johnson's career.

The upside to Johnson's Monday-night benching is that it illustrates a new mentality at One Jets Drive. If you don't perform, you sit. It's a meritocracy, and it's the best way to create a winning culture. Coach Adam Gase and Williams, unhappy with Johnson's Week 1 performance, turned him into a $14.5 million-a-year backup.

The size of a player's contract is "irrelevant to me," Gase said Wednesday. "I don't care how much money you make."

Yes, the Jets are reeling at 0-2, looking at 0-3 as they prepare to start third-string quarterback Luke Falk against the heavily favored New England Patriots, but they already have delivered a loud and much-needed statement: Mediocrity isn't good enough.

Even if the Jets finish with a losing record, which seems to be the direction they're headed, they can get something positive out of this season by setting a foundation for the future. Gase and Williams might bruise some feelings along the way, but they have to consider the macro view. It will benefit the team in the long run. The coach they will face on Sunday -- Bill Belichick -- has been running that kind of ship for two decades.

The same thinking applies to Jamal Adams. While Gase insisted his decision to pull Adams late in the game wasn't performance-related, it certainly was perceived that way by the Pro Bowl safety, who said Tuesday on his weekly WFAN radio spot, "Yeah, I got benched. They benched me." An emotional player, he blew off some steam by removing the Jets from his social-media bios.

Adams was on the bench for the last five defensive plays of the game, so we're not talking major pine time. Still, the sight of Adams on the sideline -- he missed only one defensive snap last season -- had to be a strong visual for the other players. If it can happen to Jamal, it can happen to anybody.

Gase explained the decision by saying Adams seemed frustrated and "fired up pretty good," and he didn't want his defensive leader doing something he would regret. So they sent him to "timeout."

Good for the coach. If the player can't handle tough love, too bad. This is the NFL, not Pop Warner.

Adams is frustrated by the losing, and it's understandable because the Jets have dropped 25 of 34 games in his two-plus seasons. That sort of losing can beat down the most optimistic and passionate players. I've seen it happen. Many years ago, star linebacker Mo Lewis told me he never forgot as a young, impressionable player the sight of a distraught James Hasty, sick of it all, crying in his locker after a game.

Hopefully, Adams never sinks that low. If he's a strong and resilient leader, he will bounce back from this and be a better player. But that doesn't make him immune to accountability. No player can be above the team.

Look, Gase had his share of personality conflicts during his time with the Miami Dolphins, so we know he doesn't always push the right buttons. But to succeed in New York, he has to take a strong approach and it has to start early. Todd Bowles was criticized by fans and media for being too soft on the players -- he rarely benched anyone -- and it created a comfort zone. Gase is trying to do something about it.

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