Candidate Review: Former Players On Adam Gase

Adam Gase. (USA Today Sports)

Adam Gase. (USA Today Sports)

Caleb Hanie first met ‘Goose’ at a Chicago wedding five years ago. The Bears quarterbacks coach at the time, Shane Day, was getting married and Hanie, Goose and Jay Cutler were his groomsmen.

Hanie had never met Goose before, but they quickly become familiar with each other at meals and other wedding events that weekend.

“We got along really well,” Hanie said. “He gets it. He’s a guy that knows how to relate to younger people. He’s real down to Earth and he’s just one of the guys.”

That was the year before Adam Gase became Hanie’s quarterbacks coach in Denver, but according to Hanie and other former players, Gase’s likability is a big reason he’s a strong candidate to fill a head coaching vacancy this offseason.

Gase reportedly has many suitors, but he’s interviewing with the Eagles today. He appears to be the first out-of-house candidate the team will sit down with.

“To get a guy to go all-in for you, you have to first get him on your side,” Hanie said. “It’s a simple formula. Just be nice. Actually care about what’s going on in the guy’s personal life, and then the player will respond.

“Good coaches don’t need to be your friend, but you need to have a great working relationship and there has to be a trust factor. I trust Goose with my life. I know he believes in me and he’ll put me in the best position to succeed.”

Gase’s trustworthiness was a theme that popped up with each former player Birds 24/7 spoke with as we tried to get a better sense of one of the seemingly strong candidates to replace Chip Kelly.

Adam Weber discussed how Gase “speaks the same language” as his players, and that he communicates very well, particularly during practice. Weber, who was with Gase in Denver for the 2011 season and the start of 2012, also said he was “very impressed” with how approachable Gase was.

Hanie added that Gase’s transparency is why you hear so many good things about the Bears offensive coordinator.

“The issue with guys and quarterback is sometimes they aren’t transparent,” Hanie said. “It’s a cover your butt-type thing; a lot of coaches to do it. They’re with you to your face, but behind the scenes, they’re not taking the blame when they should. He’s the opposite; he’s actually honest. That’s a big key with how he develops relationships.”

Gase’s work with quarterbacks is a big reason he’s a hot commodity this offseason. Gase was Tim Tebow’s quarterbacks coach when Tebow won a playoff game with the Broncos, and he was Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator when Manning broke NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55) in a season. This year, Gase helped Cutler achieve a career-high passer rating (92.3).

Hanie mentioned that Gase quickly earned Manning’s respect because of the coach’s knowledge of the quarterback position, and others said Gase’s energy and excitement set him apart from most coaches. Former players added that his relatively young age — 37-years-old — helps him relate, but that it’s more so about his personality.

J.T. O’Sullivan, who was in San Francisco when Gase was an offensive assistant and Detroit when Gase was a quarterbacks coach, recalled how effective Gase was as a teacher.

“He basically tried to learn how I was learning and then taught it to me the way that I had already learned how to learn, if that makes sense,” O’Sullivan said. “He had the capacity to try to look at the game through my lens, and I think that’s what really helped me with the offense.

“The only reason I had the wherewithal in the offense was because of the time, and the way he taught it to me, in a week. It’s safe to say it was a fairly complex system. I didn’t have any background in it, but it was the way that Adam taught it and made it accessible.”

Adaptability is another theme tossed around by Gase’s former players, with a couple pointing to the transition in Denver from Kyle Orton to Tebow to Manning.

“You couldn’t have asked for a bigger challenge when Kyle Orton gets replaced by Tim Tebow and we have to adjust the whole entire system,” Weber said. “Mike McCoy and Adam Gase adjusted the whole entire system. We won six games in a row and beat the Steelers in the playoffs when it looked like our season was going down the drain.

“Kyle Orton is definitely more of a traditional pocket passer, and Tim Tebow probably wasn’t as polished a passer, and Adam Gase did a good job of getting people to buy in to make the new style work. The style of quarterbacks was so different. It was the whole idea of you can’t force a square peg into a circle hole. You have to adjust and adapt to the abilities of the players you have.”

Hanie cited the same example, and said he’s still impressed by all of the small things — such as the cadence — Gase changes to make his quarterbacks feel as comfortable as possible. When asked why Gase is so good at being adaptable, Hanie pointed to his coaching lineage.

“He’s taken a little bit from every coach he’s been under,” Hanie said. “Like from Mike Martz, for instance, he learned so much about coaching wide receivers. He could literally be the best wide receivers coach in the game. Martz was so good at the details of receivers routes — sometimes too good where receivers got mad, but Goose knows how to walk that line a little better — and he learned that from him.

“He has some of Josh McDaniels from Denver in his passing game. He was with Mike McCoy and took preparation and run game stuff from him — Mike McCoy has a really good feel for the run game. And he’s been with coach [John] Fox, so he has a really good sense of how to run the show and relate to players. You have [Nick] Saban, too, and taking a bit from him in terms of running a tight ship when necessary.

“That’s what the best do. You take the best things you learn from everyone and try to piece it together for a really good final product.”

However, with that adaptability comes a big question at least one of Gase’s former players — along with Lurie and the other owners he’ll interview with — wants the answer to.

“I think Adam has a lot of things he believes football-wise. I wouldn’t speak for him, but I’ve been around him enough to know that he probably has a philosophy about what the best type of offensive football looks like. And whether he’s able to adapt that, I would agree with that assessment [that he could], and I think his track record has proven that,” O’Sullivan said.

“But I would be interested to hear exactly how Adam — and I’m sure this is what he’ll be asked in interviews. He can’t just say, ‘Oh, I’m going to adapt. That’s our offensive philosophy.’ He’s proven that he’s been able to do it at a very high level multiple places with different personnel, and I think that’s a testament, but it’s also like, ‘Alright, teach it to me. What are we installing?’”