Steve Mariucci coached the Detroit Lions from 2003 to 2005, and it was during that time that he discovered Adam Gase, who is now considered one of the top offensive minds in the game.
“He was this young guy that was working in scouting,” NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci recalled on Tiki and Tierney. “Why? I don’t know. He was over there just trying to get his foot in the door, and he came into my office and he said, ‘Coach, you got to help me.’ And I said, ‘What’s up?’ I hardly knew him at all. And he says, ‘I really, really, really want to be in the coaching side of it. I don’t want to be in the scouting side of it right now.’”
Mariucci told Gase he’d love to do anything he could to help him – in part because Mariucci saw himself in Gase.
“It put me back to when I asked that of John Robinson when I was a young guy,” said Mariucci, 59. “Denny Schuler and I became John Robinson’s quality control coaches in 1985. We were the first quality control coaches. Worked for nothing. Well, they fed us lunch. That’s how I got my foot in the door in the National Football League. Somebody had to give me a break and let me just work. So I said to Adam, ‘You know what? Somebody gave me a break. I’m going to give you a break. Let’s go.’”
Gase got an opportunity. He got experience. He got everything he ever wanted – except money.
“He was making peanuts,” Mariucci said. “But I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’ Because he seemed eager, he seemed bright, and he seemed very, very wiling to do whatever it took to learn and help out. I wasn’t with him long because I got let go in Detroit, but that’s where he got his start. Then the next staff kept him. Rod Marinelli kept him. And he was able to learn some more offenses with Mike Martz and Peyton Manning. So he’s grown quickly. But I’m really happy to see these young guys climb the ladder like they’re dong.”
Amazingly, Gase has been in the league for more than a decade – and he’s still just 36 years old. He has risen from scouting assistant to offensive assistant to quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. He has “future NFL coach” written all over him, and that future may come sooner than later.
But are we sure that’s something he’s ready for now?
“I don’t know if anybody’s sure,” Mariucci said. “All we’re sure of is that he’s smart, he’s bright, he’s been very successful and he’s been around successful offenses.”
Whether a coach gets hired, Mariucci noted, hinges on two questions: One, does the franchise like the coach? And two – and perhaps more importantly – does the franchise like the coach’s system?
“I can see the Niners hiring an offensive guy, bringing in a new system for Colin Kaepernick,” Mariucci said. “Maybe that’s what the thought is.”
Whether it’s San Francisco or somewhere else, Gase’s opportunity is coming – and soon. And when it does, Mariucci will be happy for him.
“I really appreciate guys starting at the ground floor like that,” he said. “Flipping burgers before you own McDonald’s, you know what I mean?”