Adam Gase is the youngest head coach in the NFL at 38, yet he has quickly come to realize the need to exercise patience in his first season with the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins are 1-4 going into their game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. Miami’s lone win came over the winless — and hapless — Cleveland Browns in overtime and it is a 7 ½-point underdog Sunday.
“Our coaching staff is trying to establish how we like to do things,” Gase said. “Any time there is a change, it takes a second to get used to it, just kind of the way we want to practice, the tempo we want to set, the way we want to prepare for a game and the way we want to execute.”
“We’re going through some tough patches here and there and we’re not always getting things done the way we want to get them done sometimes. There is a learning curve for our play callers, both offensively and defensively, in finding out what our players excel at and also what they struggle at.”
Gase calls the plays on offense after making his mark as an offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears. So far, he and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph have learned more about what the Dolphins can’t do than what they can.
The Dolphins’ offense is 28th in the NFL in points scored (17.6 a game) and 29th in total yards (303.8). The defense is 18th in points allowed (23.8) and 28th in total yards allowed (401.0).
“As a play caller, I gointo games thinking we’re good at one thing and then we don’t quite do it the way we did in practice,” Gase said. “Sometimes when the other team makes adjustments, it seems like we have a hard time adjusting back. It’s all part of the process.”
No one expected Gase to fix the Dolphins overnight. Their last playoff appearance came in 2008, and that is the franchise’s only one in the last 15 years.
The Dolphins are also still in the process of shaking up their roster as evidenced by a massive overhaul of the offensive line Tuesday.
Guard/tackle Dallas Thomas, a 2013 third-round pick, guard/tackle Billy Turner, a 2014 third-round pick, and guard/center Jamil Douglas, a 2015 fourth-round pick, were all cut on Tuesday.
With Thomas gone, just three of the nine members of the Dolphins’ 2013 draft class remain — linebacker Jelani Jenkins, tight end Dion Sims and suspended defensive end Dion Jordan.
“I think it was just we wanted to change a few spots and a couple of those guys were offensive linemen,” Gase. Said. “It’s just that what we thought was best for our roster at the moment.”
However, the moves got the attention of the locker room.
“I think it sends a pretty clear message,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “Obviously, it’s a tough part of the business with guys you spend a lot of time with — good people — but it sends a message to everyone on this team that, ‘You’ve got to get your job done, or we’re going to find somebody who can.’”
That could include Tannehill following this season, his fifth since the Dolphins selected him eighth overall in 2012 draft from Texas A&M. While Tannehill has never missed a start in his career, his durability doesn’t offset his 30-39 record.
Tannehill has thrown six touchdown passes and seven interceptions this season while completing 64.1 percent (100 of 156) attempts for 1,272 yards.
Even though Tannehill signed a six-year, $96-million contract extension last year that carries through 2020, the Dolphins would save all but $3.5 million of his $17.98-million salary for 2017 if they release him by March.
Making that situation plausible is that there a number of quarterbacks in the draft that Gase could consider to be a fit for his offense, including Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Miami’s Brad Kaaya and Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly.
Tannehill, for his part, says he is only focusing on trying to make this season better.
“It’s always a process whenever you change the coaching staff and the culture in the building,” he said. “It’s not an overnight process. We’re still growing into it. We feel we’re headed in right direction but we just don’t have results to show for it.”
“We have to keep our heads down and keep working, don’t overthink it too much. It’s a matter of staying the course, sticking with the process and trying to win some football games.”