It’s going to take two if this is going to work.
Last season, there were too many times when it appeared — and felt like — Jets coach Adam Gase and running back Le’Veon Bell were on different teams, wearing different uniforms.
As a team, with little margin for error because of a roster so thin on skill-position talent, the Jets cannot survive a repeat of that nonsense.
Personally, both men have a lot at stake here. Bell may be playing for his next contract, because there’s zero chance he returns to the Jets in 2021 with a repeat of his career-worst 2019 season, and Gase may be coaching for his job, depending on how badly or sideways this season goes.
One of the recurring themes around the Jets that’s become tiring is whether the head coach and his star running back get along.
It began with the rumblings that Gase was not on board with management paying Bell the kind of money it did (four years, $52.5 million).
It continued with Gase’s sometimes curious misuse of Bell last season.
And the annoying case of acne reappeared last week with Bell’s tweet that contradicted Gase telling reporters after a scrimmage that the back’s hamstring had tightened and that’s why he was held out of some reps.
Bell took to Twitter later that day and posted: “ain’t nothing wrong with my hamstrings.’’ Gase said afterward he was “caught off guard’’ by Bell’s message.
After the Jets’ final session of training camp Thursday, Bell, speaking for the first time since the incident last week, did what he could to stamp out any thoughts that there’s a rift between him and his coach.
“We’ve had positive talks ever since I got here,’’ Bell said. “I don’t understand why everyone is trying to put me and Coach Gase against each other. We’re not against each other. I understand how hard it is to believe that, but we actually like each other. We understand it comes with the territory. We’re just going to keep our heads down and keep working.’’
Both need to work better. Gase needs to utilize Bell better and Bell needs to perform better, because a 3.2-yards-per-carry average and two rushing touchdowns on 245 carries is not going to help either Bell or Gase.
Bell, 28, said he’s playing at 210 pounds this camp, which is 12 pounds fewer than his listed weight from 2019. He has, on more than one occasion (including Thursday) stated strongly that he feels better this season than he ever has in his NFL career.
“This is the best I’ve felt since I’ve been in the league,” Bell reiterated. “We’re going to see. We play Buffalo in [10 days]. It’ll be my first opportunity to show how different a player I am. It’s going to be fun.’’
Gase recently conceded he believes he can “find better ways to get him the ball to help him create more explosive plays,’’ adding, “We can get him in space better than we did last year.”
That will mean splitting Bell out as a receiver slot or even on the outside, which is not something they did a lot in 2019. Yes, Bell caught 66 passes last season, but just 11 of those came when he was lined up outside the backfield, according to ESPN statistics. So, most of those passes came as a safety valve out of the backfield, and they didn’t result in a lot of yardage (461).
Bell, for the most part, has been deft at saying the right things. He was lauded last season for resisting the urge to blow up out of frustration amid the losing and some games when he simply didn’t get the ball enough.
“Everybody tried to make it seem like I was trying to go against what Gase said,” Bell said of last week’s Hammygate. “I’m just trying to clarify: ‘My hamstrings are fine.’ I wasn’t worried about my practice reps or what people tried to make it seem like.
“Ever since I got here and [Gase] got here, there’s kind of been this little thing of me and him butting heads all the time, which I don’t know where it comes from. We had a long conversation [last week] because basically people [blew] it out of proportion because I did make the tweet.”
Curiously, though, on Thursday Bell actually conceded his hamstring “tightened’’ up in that scrimmage. Then he blamed the incident on a “miscommunication’’ between the trainers and Gase.
The Jets cannot afford any more miscommunication between these two. Both need to be better in 2020.
“Last year was a kind of like learning year for both of us,” Bell said.
For the Jets’ sake — particularly for that of Gase and Bell — hopefully lessons were learned so we can all be free of the murky innuendo.