FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Two weeks ago, running back Le'Veon Bell joined two new teams -- the Kansas City Chiefs and the Adam Gase Alumni All-Stars, a fast-growing squad of high-profile players who are enjoying success after Gase.
It's a team filled with Pro Bowl players and an MVP hopeful, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Most of the players changed teams under normal circumstances (on the surface, anyway), but a few were shipped out after reported clashes with the current New York Jets coach, who worked previously for the Miami Dolphins.
Bell belongs in the latter category, and now he will face his former boss Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS) -- a delicious subplot in the league's most lopsided matchup of the season.
"Oh, [Bell is] going to be fired up," said ESPN analyst Damien Woody, a former NFL guard. "You know he's thrilled to be in that situation, with all those great players in Kansas City. Now you have the Jets coming into Arrowhead? Oh, man, he's going to be looking to embarrass -- embarrass -- Adam Gase and the Jets. I'm sure Le'Veon has friends on the team, but it's not about the players. It's about embarrassing Adam Gase. So, yeah, I think he's going to be highly motivated."
Bell's relationship with Gase, which became tense at times over the past few months, ended Oct. 13 when he was released by the Jets. It was a bad marriage from the outset, as neither side seemed comfortable with the other. Bell, who felt under-utilized in New York, ran the ball six times last week in his Chiefs' debut, but he broke a couple of 16-yard gains.
In 17 games with the Jets, he did that only once.
It sets up a weird dynamic: The Jets are paying Bell to play against them. (They're on the hook for more than $4 million in 2020 base salary). One former Jet said this week he hopes Bell gets 20 carries against them, which would be 20 opportunities to send a message.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure that he's going to be worried about just winning a game, period," said Gase, throwing a wet blanket on the confrontation. "That's what most players are worried about. They're worried about, 'Hey, what do I have 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've got a lot of guys to worry about on that side of the ball against them."
For his part, Bell seems thrilled to be away from the winless Jets, playing for the defending Super Bowl champs.
Gase faces another former disgruntled player on Dec. 13, when the Jets go on the road to play safety Jamal Adams and the Seattle Seahawks. Unlike Bell, who kept his issues with Gase private (except for occasional tweaks on Twitter), Adams blasted Gase on the way out of town.
Fresh start, feels good... ❄️ thankful to be a part of this organization. On to the next. pic.twitter.com/u1ThOf1mT8— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) October 26, 2020
Get the picture?
There are Gase alums scattered across the league, with no fewer than nine of his ex-Jets starting for other teams. It's funny how most of them ended up on winning teams. That includes three offensive linemen -- Brandon Shell (Seahawks), Kelvin Beachum (Arizona Cardinals) and Brian Winters (Buffalo Bills). Kelechi Osemele, whose time in New York ended on an ugly note because of an injury dispute, was having a Pro Bowl year for the Chiefs before a serious knee injury.
That these players are thriving elsewhere doesn't reflect well on Gase, whose 2020 offensive line -- actually, the entire offense -- is performing poorly. It's so bad that he stripped himself of the playcalling duties, handing them to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains for the second straight week.
The biggest offseason loss was wide receiver Robby Anderson, who is having a career season for the Carolina Panthers. He already has 640 receiving yards, second in the NFL. Gase didn't have a bad relationship with Anderson; he just felt his game was limited. The Jets saw him as a vertical threat, not an all-around receiver, so they decided not to pay him in free agency. The Panthers expanded his route tree and have received a big return on their investment.
Nose tackle Steve McLendon had no choice in where he ended up -- he was traded -- but he's loving life with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He went from the basement to the NFL's trendiest team, revitalized by quarterback Tom Brady. Playing as if he were on the Brady diet, McLendon, 34, recorded five tackles in 24 defensive snaps in his debut last Sunday. Hail the kale!
The captain of the alumni team is Tannehill, whose career was reborn after being traded by the post-Gase Dolphins. He's having another outstanding season for the Titans, ranking fourth in Total QBR (82.2).
After floundering with the Jets, Bell is hoping for the same turnaround with the Chiefs. Gase might not be eager to see him, but at least one player is.
"For me, seeing Le'Veon is going to be awesome personally," Jets quarterback Sam Darnold said. "Whether it's before the game or after, [he's] just someone that I built a good relationship with for the last year and just to be able to see him again, that's going to be good. But I'm not sure about anything he has against us or anything like that."
Spoken like a future member of the Gase alumni all-stars.