Associated Press photo by ED ANDRIESKI -- Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase speaks to reporters after practice in Englewood, Colo., on Jan. 16.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — At the age of 35, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase has rocketed up the charts over the last couple of seasons to become one of the hottest NFL head coaching candidates.

Apparently, Gase, who was a top candidate for the Cleveland Browns job before declining an interview, wasn’t bad son-in-law material, either.

Gase’s father-in-law is New Orleans Saints assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt, who gave Gase permission to marry his daughter the first time they met.

Gase told the story during Super Bowl week that he’d been dating Jennifer Vitt, whom he met at a golf tournament in Columbus, Ohio, for three months before meeting Joe Vitt at the 2008 Senior Bowl.

Gase was having dinner with Vitt, Saints coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis and Buffalo Bills linebackers coach Matt Sheldon when the other three left the table — leaving Gase alone with Vitt.

“I’m kind of like, ‘What’s going on here?’ ” Gase, a graduate assistant at LSU from 2000-02 under Nick Saban, said laughing. “So he gives me permission to marry Jen. I didn’t even ask him.

“So I’m leaving the Senior Bowl, and I call Jen and say, ‘Hey, your dad gave me permission to marry you,’ and she goes, ‘What ... you asked him?’ I told her no. I don’t know if it was too many vinos or what.”

Three months later, Gase proposed to Jennifer Vitt.

“I was like, ‘I don’t think I have a choice now,’ ” Gase said with a smile. “I’m in.”

When asked if he’s ever been intimidated by his father-in-law, who is intense and fiery on the practice field and in games, since that first meeting, Gase laughed.

“There may, or may not, be some rumors going around that he did a lot of investigating on me before we met — which isn’t surprising if you know Joe,” he said. “He made sure his daughter was not getting in involved with any bad guys.”

The couple now has three children, which has allowed Gase to see the softer side of his father-in-law.

“It’s very rare,” Gase said when asked if he’s ever seen Vitt relax. “If my kids are around — we’ve got three of them now — he’ll be good. He’s good.

“My 4-year-old daughter, McKenzie, can get him to do whatever she wants. He’s a pushover when it comes to her. … He’s got nothing.”