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First Impressions, Second Thoughts: Gase, Kitchens Didn’t Wear It Well

On the day Ben McAdoo was introduced as head coach of the New York Giants in 2016, the lasting impression was not about his oratory. It wasn’t exactly Lombardian. Nor was it about his confidence. He sounded nothing like a reclining Joe Namath a week before Super Bowl III.

It was about his suit. It didn’t seem to suit the occasion. It hung off his shoulders like a wet sweatshirt on a bedpost. It puffed out at the chest, its sleeves dipped low over the wrists.

Freddie Kitchens

Let’s put it this way: He didn’t look like Rick Pitino before a Final Four game. There was no silk in his breast pocket. It certainly did not look as if anyone from Milan contributed to its design or creation.

And the New York media, many of who cover games in sneakers and khakis, had a blast with it. Putting aside anything concrete he’d said about rebuilding the four-time Super Bowl champions, it focused on his wardrobe, correlating it with his ability to accessorize a team.

And you know what they say, you are what you wear. Less than two years later, the Giants recycled him. Unless the Arizona Cardinals add him to the staff this week, McAdoo, and presumably his Sunday suit, is still hanging off the rack.

The possible implication of a bad first impression on a coaching career was back in focus earlier this week when Adam Gase was introduced as New York Jets coach and Freddie Kitchens took his bow in Cleveland.

Did you happen to catch the look on Gase’s face as he answered questions? His eyes were wide open and expressive, but not in the way Gregory Peck looked at Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. They were downright chilling; the popular term is bug-eyed. He looked like he was a still life standing in the window at Madame Tussauds in Times Square. Hello, tourists.

On Tuesday, the newspapers and radio stations in the New York Metro area were in full belly laugh. Memes of Gase (an appropriate name, wouldn’t you say) were lighting up social media. The Jets, after four years of staring into the doe eyes of Todd Bowles, were ogling Freddie Kruger minus the switchblade. And since Gase had developed a penchant in Miami for confronting a probing question or two with a snarl, one and one seemed to add up to too-tight-for-New York.

As for Kitchens, he walked into his room with a big brown suit, white shirt and Browns scheme orange tie, a color no former Alabama quarterback should be wearing so soon after last week’s mashing by Clemson.

Like McAdoo’s suit, Kitchen’s was fit-challenged, too big at the shoulders, too loose at the rib cage when he buttoned it. Unlike McAdoo, Kitchens also wore a hat, its bill stylishly curled to look cool. He looked an offensive coordinator who had to get changed in the car before his daughter’s recital.

The point to be made is that football coaches should never be judged by what they wear in public. Remember, most of these guys have spent nights sleeping on cots in their offices, a habit which alarmed Dick Vermeil’s family, fed Jon Gruden’s idiosyncratic frenzy and pretty much says it all about what’s important in life to these guys.

If they could get away with it, they’d all probably were sweats and headphones to these press conferences. What do they know about the difference in polyester and tweed?

If you want a fashion show, go to a Cam Newton postgame press conference. One day, he rocked the room with an aqua blue wide-brimmed hat adorned with two ostrich feathers. He wore a light pink sports coat with a like-colored boutonniere. His bowtie was blue with splashed of orange, white and black.

If you looked at Newton that day, you got a pretty reliable sense of what the guy is about, how he rolls, what he perceives himself to be. He wouldn’t look good in Walmart microfiber.

But an NFL coach worth his salt often cares little about how he looks. They live in trenches, design gaps, execute blitzes and draw squiggly lines on grease boards wearing shorts, visors and whistles.

Judge a football coach by how he designs game plans not on who designs his big-boy clothes.