Coaching Candidate All-22: Gase’s Adaptability
Much has been made about Adam Gase’s adaptability. Whether you talk to his former players or media members who have covered him, it’s one of the first things they’ll mention.
Sure, he helped the Broncos win a playoff game with Tim Tebow starting, but how much can you actually attribute that to the quarterbacks coach? Peyton Manning had the best statistical season for a quarterback ever when Gase was his offensive coordinator, but wasn’t Manning probably most responsible for that?
And now, as the Bears offensive coordinator, Gase helped Jay Cutler achieve a career-high passer rating, but Chicago ranked just 17th in offensive points per drive this season, per Football Outsiders.
To get a better feel of how, exactly, has Gase adapted, and how much praise he deserves for his quarterbacks’ successes, we took to the film and pulled an example from his time with three of his most recent quarterbacks.
At the University of Florida, Tebow turned in one of the great college careers of all time, becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy and contributing to two BCS National Championship teams. Although he had deficiencies in his throwing motion even then, his mechanics were good enough to be very successful.
But what made him a unique threat was his legs.
Tebow set an SEC record with 54 career rushing touchdowns, and he was the first college quarterback to score at least 20 touchdowns both on the ground and through the air in a single season. Although Urban Meyer incorporated several different run plays, one of the most successful was the quarterback power (shown below).
Quarterback power is a very odd play to run in the NFL, but as Jenny Vrentas referenced in her recent feature on Gase, Tebow’s then-quarterbacks coach looked for things “the limited passer could do well.” To do so, Gase studied Tebow’s college film and talked to Meyer.
“I thought those adjustments he made were incredibly impressive considering how that season was going and the personnel we had on that team,” said Adam Weber, who was Denver’s third quarterback when Tebow started.
One of those adjustments was inserting quarterback power, which Gase did right away. In Tebow’s first start at quarterback after Kyle Orton was benched, the Broncos needed to convert a two-point conversion with 17 seconds left to tie the game. Denver dialed up quarterback power, and then won the game in overtime.
“Now that’s a play you would not run with Kyle Orton at quarterback,” former NFL player Solomon Wilcots said on the CBS broadcast. “You talk about tailoring the offense to Tim Tebow.”
THE INDY INFLUENCE
According to Caleb Hanie, who was Manning’s backup in Denver in 2012, Gase’s impact on the future Hall of Famer was evident from the get-go. Hanie says Gase quickly earned Manning’s respect because of how well he knew the quarterback position, and that even before Gase became offensive coordinator and overhauled the offense, the quarterbacks coach began pulling plays from Manning’s time in Indianapolis.
“The wholesale change we went through when Peyton was there after Tebow, I always thought that was really cool he did all that,” Hanie said. “A lot of people say, ‘This is my system. Go run it.’ But [Gase] does not care about the credit, he just wants to win and have fun with the guys.”
Manning got off to a rough start in Denver, losing three of his first five games. But a comeback victory in San Diego, after trailing 24-0 at halftime, sparked an 11-game win streak to close out the season.
At the time, Chris B. Brown broke down a key play for Grantland, which Brown labeled “the classic Manning play.” According to Brown, Manning’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas is known as an “anchor pass concept.” Each route is displayed below, but the key is the two routes targeting the safety (circled). The tight end runs a curl, while the outside receiver — Thomas — runs a double move that’s eventually a post route.
“He’s done a great job adapting and I give him a ton of credit because Josh McDaniels’ system and Mike Martz’s system couldn’t be more opposite, and Tim Tebow couldn’t be more opposite of Peyton Manning,” Hanie said. “Now you have Cutler, who’s in the middle, and he’s been able to put a stamp on that offense and do a little bit of everything he’s learned. He adapts to the talent and doesn’t care what he has to do to accomplish that.”
As much as Gase may seem to be opposite of Chip Kelly, particularly in terms of leadership style, the Bears offensive coordinator uses some tactics Kelly is well-known for.
Gase will mix up the pace and go up-tempo at times, which Vrentas says he picked up from McDaniels in Denver. He also put Cutler in shotgun more this season, and has his quarterback run the read-option occasionally.
“The most important thing that I have learned in this whole experience since 2011 is every guy is different and you need to adjust your offense to who you have,” Gase told Vrentas. “Every team is functioning around the quarterback.”
Cutler didn’t run that much more this season than he previously has, but he was more efficient as he averaged 5.3 yards per carry and set a career-high in rushing first downs. J.T. O’Sullivan, a longtime NFL quarterback who was with Gase in Detroit and San Francisco, said he hasn’t been surprised about what he’s seen from his former coach.
“He was always trying to craft whatever our [head] coach was talking about to what I could do,” O’Sullivan said. “I think there’s definitely a level of adaptability that he brings to how he coaches football, whether that’s fine tuning what kind of plays the quarterback wants or what’s needed for the personnel on the offense. Anybody who looks around, you got to be impressed with what he’s done.”