Is Adam Gase a fit for Baltimore?
Gary Kubiak accepted his dream job as head coach of the Denver Broncos. He backed up John Elway for years in his playing days. He coached under Mike Shanahan when his playing days were up and engineered an offense that won a Super Bowl. A piece of him is still in Denver, and who is anyone to stand in the way of someone earning a promotion in any field of work? Good coordinators often move on to bigger and better things. Even bad ones too, (see: Jim Caldwell). It’s not until you have proven to be a bad head coach that you find a home as strictly a coordinator. Guys like Wade Phillips, Dick LeBeau, and former Ravens Offensive Coordinator, Cam Cameron, who went 1-15 as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2007. I don’t need to remind Ravens fans who that “1” was.
Kyle Shanahan would have been the next best fit as a Kubiak disciple, making the transition seamless. But Shanahan has accepted the job in Atlanta. That leaves the Ravens with very few options. One of whom is Adam Gase, offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos.
With Gase comes the following questions:
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How much of their success in Denver, winning four division titles in a row, is attributed to Adam Gase’s offensive philosophy? How much is attributed to Peyton Manning running the show under center?
It’s easy to point and say that anyone can be an offensive coordinator when you have a QB that does as much audibling and motioning under center as Manning does. But the fact is that someone has to tell Manning what to look for in the opposing defenses, and it’s up to Manning to adjust accordingly when he sees it. That is Adam Gase’s job. Former OC of the “greatest show on turf”, Mike Martz, give his take on Gase in his article here. He explains that a good coordinator needs to have an answer for every question a player can have, and Gase does. Martz breaks down an example from the Broncos week 1 victory over the Colts. Here is the short version.
Julius Thomas in the play call is set to run a post route from the TE position, with another TE lined up off his wing. Based on this setup, and the preparation for the Colts, Gase instructs Manning about three possible scenarios
1. If the Colts come out in man coverage. With Thomas being the inside TE, LB D’Qwell Jackson is his matchup, with the SS covering the wing TE. Gase understands the “rules” on defense and while you would think that the safety would cover the primary, or more skilled TE in Julius Thomas, he knows that that just won’t be the case.
2. If the Colts come out in a cover 2, Manning will then have to look off the safety before Thomas breaks off his post route towards the middle of the field. If the safety doesn’t bite, check down.
3. If the Colts come out in cover 3, Thomas may have to stop his route short underneath, or Manning will need to check down to a RB as the post down the middle is not an option with all deep zones covered by three defenders.
It’s up to Gase to communicate this with Manning as part of their prep. The Colts come out in man coverage, the TE/LB mismatch is exploited to perfection as the post goes for a 35 yard TD to Thomas.
Mike Martz: comments on that play call
“That by design is outstanding. It’d be easy to put him [Thomas] on the wing, but Adam knows the defense’s rules. All the little details work out really well. Very few people do this. They have got good players and he knows what to do with them. He puts guys in a position to have success. It would be easy to do the same stuff over and over, but each week he is going to create.”
How does Adam Gase know so much about defenses?
Adam Gase never played a down of NFL football. Never played a down of college football. At 6’1”, 185 lbs, there aren’t many positions for him to play once he graduated from Marshall High School in Michigan. As a junior in high school where he played tight end, he was developing flow charts, and spread sheets that broke down the opposing teams tendencies. The head basketball coach, Dan Coddens, asked him to turn in scouting report of an opponent for his team, and what he turned in was…
“…an immaculate, exhaustive report with details on the opponent that were incredible. Coddens was “shocked that a teenager could do that.
When Gase graduated high school in 1996, he attended Michigan State. While there, he did grunt work for football head coach, Nick Saban. When Saban left for LSU in 2000, he only took one assistant with him. 22 year old Adam Gase. After three years in Baton Rouge, Saban recommended him to the Detroit Lions scouting department, which turned into offensive quality control assistant, then quarterbacks coach under Mike Martz. After a season in San Francisco, he came to Denver and was promoted to OC the following year.
Gase just throws himself head first into coaching, scouting, all of it. That said, I’m sure Nick Saban, who also has an eye for defensive talent and skill sets, likely taught Gase more than a thing or two along the way. Some of the best coordinators know the opposite side of the ball just as much as the side they coach. Take Scott Frost, the University of Oregon OC. He played QB in college at Stanford and Nebraska. He was drafted as a safety by the Jets. When he got into coaching he was a linebacker’s coach, then co-defensive coordinator at northern Iowa, before Oregon made him their wide receivers coach. He’s learned it all, and that is part of what makes the Ducks the highest powered offense in the NCAA ranks, year in and out.
That’s Adam Gase. He learns everything. Nick Saban has a knack of wearing his assistants out quick. Not Adam Gase. You can’t wear him out. He claims that ten hours of film study feels like one hour to him.
Is it possible that Flacco has never had an Offensive Coordinator so well versed in the game?
Absolutely. Cam Cameron didn’t land another NFL gig after a failed head coaching attempt and four years plus of underachieving offenses, leading to his firing in the midst of a playoff race. Jim Caldwell never was an offensive coordinator prior to Baltimore appointing him that position in 2013. It showed at the Ravens offense was historically bad. Gary Kubiak is the best thing that happened to Joe Flacco and this offense in the Harbaugh era, but he along with disciples are gone.
Isn’t Peyton Manning is a better QB than Joe Flacco?
Sure. He’s better than a lot of quarterbacks. But also know, that there isn’t a throw on the field that Flacco can’t make. Also keep in mind that despite the WCO diminishing the deep ball attempts, Flacco was one of the most accurate when they dialed it up in 2014 to the tune of 21 of 56, 11 TDs, just two INTs. So maybe a switch back to a Coryell offense predicated on deep passing, led by a guy as well versed as Adam Gase who can sprinkle in a little Erhardt-Perkins scheme, isn’t the end of the world. More on that later.
Can Flacco read the defense and make the decisions on the fly like Peyton Manning?
Probably. But I would say certainly with the tutelage of an Adam Gase who is one of the sharpest offensive minds in the game. Flacco didn’t seem to be phased when Cam Cameron installed the “sugar huddle” a few years back, and Flacco doesn’t shy away or buckle under the pressure in those up tempo, two minute drill situations.
What are the drawbacks?
The drawback is that Gase likes to throw the ball… a lot. In 2013, 75% of the Broncos yardage was gained through the air. What happened when they ran into a team that shuts down the passing game like the Seahawks do? Embarrassing. But they got to the dance, which is more than any other AFC team can say that year. In 2014, that number was about 73%. The Ravens gained 66% of their yards through the air. The favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, 55%. A much more balanced attack seems to be the key. With RBs Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaiferro currently on the roster, there is no reason to think Gase would opt to feed a RB here more carries. Flacco is the centerpiece.
Doesn’t Gase run the Erhardt-Perkins system that makes the Patriots so dominant?
With a guy like Peyton Manning, Gase ran more or less an Erhardt-Perkins system with the Coryell playbook staples involved. True EP systems emphasize the run game and short passing in order to thrive in cold weather. The offense is up tempo and a system where the same plays are called out of the completely different sets that make tendencies hard to pick up. The up tempo nature makes substituting on defense not an option at times, thus exploiting mismatches often. In order for it to work, the QB and coordinator need to be on the same page. Even in this system, Gase and Manning throw the ball a lot, until Manning reportedly suffered a torn quadriceps midway through December. The up tempo portion is an EP staple. But the book itself is very pass heavy, and not so neutral like a true EP system would require. If his next offense couldn’t keep up the pace of the EP system, they would be full on Air Coryell.
Is Adam Gase a fit for Baltimore?
If Gase is a product of his own training and education that I mentioned previously, and not simply a product of a future HOF quarterback, then he would be a fit anywhere. No doubt one of the great football minds in the game. Head coaching is in his future one day. He is reported to be interviewed by the Jaguars then the Ravens. If he leaves Jacksonville without the job, the Ravens could lock him up.