The nightmare continues.
With the 0-5 Jets careening toward one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the dysfunction wrought by misguided decisions at all levels of the organization yielded one more – but certainly not final – moment of ignominy: Le’Veon Bell, whose signing last year was trumpeted as a major fix for the team’s moribund offense, was released Tuesday night after general manager Joe Douglas failed to strike a trade for the 28-year-old running back.
Bell was never a fit for Adam Gase’s offense to begin with, and the coach’s inability and unwillingness to let go of his stubborn refusal to find a meaningful role resulted in yet another prominent player gone from the worst team in football. Bell vented his frustration by pressing the “like” button on social media posts criticizing Gase, making it impossible to set foot in the locker room again and precipitating trade talks that went nowhere.
Douglas inherited Bell from erstwhile GM Mike Maccagnan, who signed the former Steelers’ running back in 2019 as part of a free agent signing spree to save his job, so there was clearly no allegiance from the current regime. But it was yet another roster failure set in motion by team owner Christopher Johnson’s delayed ouster of Maccagnan, who was fired after free agency and the draft last year.
Gase was never comfortable spending $52.5 million for a running back, so his marriage to Bell was a forced one from the beginning. A good coach will find a way to use good players, regardless of their contractual status, because it will ultimately help the team – and the coach- achieve success. But Gase was unimaginative with Bell from the start, and despite promises to do a better job finding a place in the offense for him, Gase never did. Another example of the incompetence that has shrouded his time with the Jets, will certainly be up soon. It isn’t a matter of if, but when he goes.
Douglas bid Bell farewell in a perfunctory statement released Tuesday night.
“The Jets organization appreciates Le’Veon’s efforts during his time here and we know he worked hard to make significant contributions to this team,” Douglas said. “We believe this decision is in the best interests of both parties and wish him future success.”
Bell appears past his prime, having lost a step from his days as arguably the league’s best runner. He was splendid in his time with the Steelers, using that patented burst through the line after a moment’s hesitation in reading where the hole would open up. But he never had the benefit of a capable offensive line with the Jets, so if he does land somewhere else, he will almost certainly be better off than he was here.
Bell didn’t consistently rant at the Jets the way Jamal Adams did in frequently criticizing the team’s unwillingness to sign a new contract. But he didn’t stand by silently either, delivering more subtle jabs to force his ouster. At least Douglas got two first-round picks for Adams, who is with the 5-0 Seahawks and has a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
He got nothing for Bell, other than more evidence that his partnership with Gase must soon end. Gase is simply not up to the job, and Douglas will soon have to find a coach who can right the ship.
In the meantime, there are 11 games left in this disaster of a season, for which Gase and Douglas – and Johnson – bear the ultimate responsibility.
Unfortunately for the Jets, Bell’s release won’t be the final indignity, just another fiasco along the way.