New York Jets coach Adam Gase never wanted running back Le'Veon Bell, and he coached him that way at times. It frustrated Bell, who confided in teammates as early as last year that he was unhappy, a source said. He tried to be a good team player but was disgusted with his lack of involvement during Sunday's Week 5 game and met privately Monday with Gase and general manager Joe Douglas.
There were no passive-aggressive tweets from Bell on Monday, just him, Gase and Douglas in a serious discussion about the running back's future. They decided it was best for all parties to terminate the relationship. After calling around the league in an attempt to drum up trade interest, Douglas decided Tuesday night to release the former Pro Bowl player.
They got nothing in return on a $27 million investment that lasted less than two seasons -- yet another disastrous free-agent signing by the Jets. Still, it was the right move. It was a bad marriage from the start, and this earlier-than-expected divorce allows them to play rookie La'Mical Perine and start planning for 2021. It's not hard to replace 3.9 yards per carry on an 0-5 team.
This was the only outcome that made sense. The bigger question is, how did it get to this point? Specifically, why do the Jets have relationship problems with their high-profile players?
It happened over the summer, when the Jets' contract dispute with safety Jamal Adams became so untenable that they traded their best player even though he had two years remaining on his contract. Ironically, Bell criticized Adams on social media for forcing a trade, essentially accusing Adams of bailing out of New York after recruiting him to the team the previous year.
And now it's Splitsville for Bell, who also used Twitter to create an escape route.
Somewhere in Seattle, Adams probably is sipping coffee in his luxury apartment and smiling.
The Jets have an issue here.
Only nine months ago, Douglas stood in front of reporters (in our pre-Zoom days) and declared, "The plan is to create the best culture in sports."
That ambitious goal, delivered at the conclusion of a 7-9 season that was wrongly perceived by the organization as a sign of progress, seems hollow after what has transpired over the past few months.
Don't blame Douglas; he inherited Bell.
Clearly, this doesn't reflect well on Gase, who arrived with a reputation for chafing star players. It happened with the Miami Dolphins, and now it seems to be happening here. Under Gase, they have traded three former first-round picks: Adams, defensive tackle Leonard Williams and linebacker Darron Lee (he deserved to go). The Jets failed to re-sign wide receiver Robby Anderson and now they have jettisoned Bell.
Think about it: The Jets are paying him $6 million (the remaining portion of his fully guaranteed base salary) to play elsewhere.
The idea is to bring talent into the building, not send it away. The idea is to become a place where players want to play, a free-agent destination.
To attract players, the Jets have to overpay, which is what they did with Bell, who chased the money and left behind a comfortable situation in Pittsburgh.
Do the Jets have a right to be upset he didn't live up to his end of the bargain? Absolutely.
Let's be honest: This wasn't the same Bell who starred for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He gained weight last season (he was more than 230 pounds), performed poorly and admittedly became complacent. (Yes, he actually said that!)
The same thing happened with Darrelle Revis 2.0 and Trumaine Johnson, free-agent cornerbacks who came for the money. Bell took it a step further this season by becoming a distraction, as he used social media to criticize Gase. He had a right to be frustrated, but it was gutless to let his thumbs do the talking on Twitter.
So yes, Bell has to share some of the responsibility for the failed relationship, but this wasn't an isolated case, and that's the alarming part. It's a recurring pattern with this Jets organization, which is on the verge of its 10th straight season out of the playoffs.
It needs a culture change, and it probably will start with a new coach. It'll be on Douglas to find a new coaching staff and more talent and a new attitude and ...
There's a lot of work to be done before the Jets can brag about their culture.