The grass isn’t always greener. Even if the uniform is. Running back Le’Veon Bell leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers for the New York Jets proved to be the downfall of his career. And though he realized not every place is like Pittsburgh, he says his eyes were opened by playing for then-Jets head coach Adam Gase.
In a great interview on the Steel Here podcast with co-hosts Kevin Adams and Jersey Jerry, Bell detailed his time in New York. Suffice to say, it wasn’t what he expected. He took repeated shots at Gase’s play calling, also widely criticized by the media, for not getting him involved in the offense.
“The play calling was terrible,” Bell told the show. “It was a lot of things that were not going the way that obviously should have been going.”
Gase worked his way up the coaching ladder with an offensive background. He made the leap from coordinator to head coach in 2016, leaving Chicago to become the Miami Dolphins’ head coach. His first year was a success, going 10-6, though the season ended with a playoff loss to Pittsburgh, a game in which Bell torched Miami for 167 yards and two touchdowns. From there, Gase’s career didn’t recover. He went 6-10 the following year and 7-9 in 2018 before being fired.
Surprisingly, the Jets quickly hired him as the team’s new head coach for the 2019 season. The team’s splash signing that year was Bell, who sat out the entire 2018 season following a contract dispute with the Steelers. He signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with more guaranteed money than Pittsburgh was willing to offer. Bell thought he was coming to the Jets to be their lead back, taking Gase at his word after playing for shoot-you-straight coaches in Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.
“[Mike Tomlin’s] a legitimate, honest man,” Bell said. “He’s a guy who will look in your face, whether you like what he says or not, he gonna tell you the truth…when I went to New York, it was a lot of secrets. It was a lot of secrets.”
Under Gase in 2019, the Jets’ offense floundered. They finished 31st in the league in points an held to fewer than seven points in four games, while Bell averaged a lowly 3.2 yards per carry. He said Gase’s uncreative scheme led him running into walls.
“If you call ‘dive’ from second and 10, there’s nothing I can do with that,” Bell said. “I can’t do it. You’re asking me to just dive the ball behind the behind the center. I can’t do anything.”
Bell hoped 2020 would be better for him and the offense. It wasn’t. They lost on the road to Buffalo in Week One with him hardly being involved in the offense, six carries for 14 yards.
“I’m talking to [Gase]. He’s telling me certain things, but he’s just lying,” Bell said. “He’s just saying whatever sounds good so I can get out of his face.”
The Jets bottomed out in 2020 under Gase, going 2-14. By midseason, Bell asked for and was granted his release, signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. Gase was fired after the season and hasn’t been back in the league. As Bell told it, he wasn’t the only one unsure of the team’s offensive plan.
“Sam Darnold doesn’t even know like the actual protection or what the line’s protecting because he’s so confused about our offense because the coach is confusing him,” he said.
Bell told Adams and Jerry he had three options in free agency after being released: Miami, Buffalo, and Kansas City. He crossed the Dolphins off the list, believing they’d run him into the ground with too many carries. The Bills made a strong push — QB Josh Allen and WR Stefon Diggs called to try and convince him to come — but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid sold him on K.C. While Reid is regarded as arguably the top coach in football, Bell said he felt a little misled by Reid’s promise too.
“Andy Reid calling me. He’s like, ‘Hey man, I need you. I’m over here drawing a place for you right now,’” Bell said.
Bell signed with the Chiefs but had a reserved role, carrying the ball 63 times across nine games. Even when facing his old team in New York, who Reid teased Bell would play plenty against, his role was minimal.
“Now we playing the Jets. He has one whole play [for me],” he said. “One.”
Kansas City blew out New York 35-9 but Bell saw the field for just 17 offensive snaps, carrying the ball six times for seven yards while chipping in with three receptions. He told the show he felt “misled” by Reid’s recruiting pitch but still praised him as a great coach and said he enjoyed his time with the team.
While some of that may sound entitled, hearing the conversation comes off a bit different. Gase was truly a poor leader and head coach. Bell’s commentary here is more specific but it isn’t particularly revealing. And he seems to hold no ill-will toward Reid.
If anything, Bell’s comments show how highly he regarded Tomlin and his ability to tell you the truth, good or bad. From the way he tells it, it’s a trait that’s hard to find in the NFL.
Check out the entire interview below.