Shortly after being named Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins, Adam Gase made the roughly 25 mile drive from the Dolphins’ Davie base to visit Don Shula at his home in Indian Creek. The idea was to personally introduce himself to Shula and glean any words of wisdom he could from the coaching legend.
Metaphorically, the distance between Gase’s office and Shula’s home might as well have been 2,500 miles; such is the distance that Gase needs to travel to be considered among the elite in the NFL’s coaching fraternity.
After three weeks Gase’s Dolphins stand 1-2 and probably deserve to be 0-3. The offense is “flopping” (Gase’s word) and the defense ranks among the worst the league (actually dead last now versus the run). Opposing coaches Bill Belichick and Hue Jackson quickly forced Gase and his young staff on their collective heels in consecutive weeks, their players outperforming the Dolphins and confusing them into glaring mistake after mistake.
On offense, QB Ryan Tannehill continues to run hot and cold despite Gase’s reputation as a QB savant. There are moments when Tannehill has looked Marino-esque, as he did against the Patriots in the fourth quarter. And then there are countless wasted drives, lethargy, and a maddening inability to convert third downs through creativity or any other means when things break down. Gase prefers to blame the offensive line as the primary cause of the woes. Certainly, they are far from blameless as we saw when starting RT Ja’Wuan James was benched for allowing a strip sack that should have cost the Dolphins their win versus the Browns. But it also speaks volumes when Jackson then elected to defer in Overtime this past week, a raw expression of disrespect for Gase, Tannehill, and the acumen of the Dolphin offense that simply cannot be ignored.
Defensively, the game planning hasn’t anticipated what opposing offenses are doing with great effect. Generous cushions have been exploited time and again, edge players have been unable (or not properly aligned) to stop repeated assaults on the perimeters. Given the talent defensive coordinator Vance Joseph enjoys across his defensive line, at middle linebacker, and at Safety, this should not be happening. He is simply not maximizing the performance of his players the way a good coach should, and he’s being schooled accordingly.
It is up to the coaches to properly prepare their players for games, to use them in a manner that maximizes their talents, and to make sure they are knowledgeable. And when players don’t do their jobs properly, to correct the mistakes or play someone else who will deliver the goods. On this last point, it has been refreshing to see a coach like Gase who follows through and holds players publicly accountable.
“I’m over discussing any of this stuff with the players,“ a frustrated Gase said. “We’re either going to get to start getting the job done, or we’re going to make changes.”
Good for him. Just remember that these threats are finite in effect when you have a 53-man roster…that is unless they intend to start trading/cutting players.
It’s clear what we are seeing are the growing pains of a rookie head coach and de facto offensive coordinator, and his rookie defensive boss. It’s a movie Dolfans have become all too familiar with.
This is what owner Stephen Ross signed up for when he once again passed on proven veteran coaches for a man who has never been a head coach before. It doesn’t mean that Gase won’t work through these difficulties in time; by all accounts he is a smart guy and very talented with offense and QBs. But it does mean that the organization and fan base are going to have endure a painful learning curve that will once again test everyone’s patience. Not having veteran assistants like Al Saunders to lean on doesn’t help matters.
Look, we understand Ross’s reasons for hiring Gase. However, the fact of the matter is that the road to the playoffs and the Super Bowl continues to run through the New England Patriots. And a proven coach like Tom Coughlin, who has won championships and knows how to beat a Belichick-coached team, would have been a much better fit for these Dolphins in creating a winning culture NOW through proper preparation and early success. Coughlin already gets it. He’s seen it all and knows what to do from Day One.
If you don’t agree with me, then listen to Larry Csonka who lobbied for this approach for the very same reasons.
Yes, I know. This is all spilt milk and it’s on to the Cincinnati Bengals now for a Thursday night road trip. It means a short week and not much time correct mistakes.
I’m not a football coach, I only play one here at Phins.com. But it seems to me that there are a few things Gase and Joseph could do on a short week to better position the Dolphins for success in Cincy to get to 2-2 and a respite to reset things for the long haul.
Here are five suggestions:
1) Keep feeding RB Kenyan Drake. He’s a rookie and he’s hungry. There is no complacency with him. Give him 15 touches and let’s see how he handles it. Let him be the man for a while and bring that energy to the task at hand.
2) Work rookie Jakeem Grant into the offense more. He can be a wild card, a Darren Sproles type who makes explosive plays. This is badly needed right now to counter a lethargic offense. Gase and OC Clyde Christensen should prepare him to play and contribute, and show more confidence in him. Get the ball to him in space and let him create.
3) Fix WR DeVante Parker. A player with his skills should have more than 11 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown over three games. Why is he underperforming? If Gase could only fix one thing this week, this would be it.
4) Start OLB Neville Hewitt because the current OLBs aren’t getting the job done. He had more tackles last week than the two starters (Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi) combined. I’m not saying Hewitt is better than either of those guys, but sometimes energy and effort trump talent. Gase and Joseph need to send a message to his defense that the current level of play won’t be tolerated.
5) Move Ndamukong Suh to defensive end more often to discourage the outside run. This means more is expected from Kiko Alonso and Jordan Phillips while Earl Mitchell gets healthy. Alonso is on pace for a Zach Thomas-like season in tackles; let’s see if he can step up to keep the middle solid. In time, the big plays will come with him. Walking up a safety opposite Suh in those situations would also help as opponents will likely try to run away from Suh. Reshad Jones is having another Pro Bowl season, and Joseph should rely on him more.