This really is beautiful country. The Olympic Mountains lie to the west of salty Puget Sound, and the Cascade Range dots the horizon east of fresh water Lake Washington. And to this gorgeous land Adam Gase has brought his Miami Dolphins to meet an apparent obsession.
Gase is making his regular-season, head-coaching debut against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. And that’s ironic because although Dolphins fans would say their rivals come from New England or New York or even Buffalo, that is not yet the case for Gase.
For Gase, it’s about Seattle.
It’s the Seahawks who have been on Gase’s mind. A lot.
Sure, he has been studying them recently because his team is playing them in their season opener. But you might be surprised to know the Seahawks have been in Gase’s head for maybe three years.
He’s thought about them. Dissected them. Asked questions about them. Disliked them. Admired them.
So, yes, Adam Gase has a thing about the Seattle Seahawks.
He doesn’t like to talk about it. He might not even admit it publicly. But his simmering feelings about the Seahawks kind of boiled over earlier this week when an unsuspecting reporter asked if Gase ever thought about the Seahawks after that team beat the Denver Broncos, for which Gase was the offensive coordinator, in the February 2014 Super Bowl.
“Never,” Gase said staring coldly at the reporter.
“Yes! Gase then said, ending an awkward pause. “You lose the Super Bowl 43-8, you try to figure out what went wrong. We got a chance to play them the third game of the season the next year and saw them in the first preseason game. Yes, you think about them and what went wrong.”
And there you have a window into Gase’s mind. His Broncos offense, a record-setting unit with a quarterback who threw an NFL record 55 touchdown passes in 2013, went into Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seahawks and scored eight points.
That left scars on Gase.
It also didn’t help that the first play from scrimmage for the Broncos in that Super Bowl was a safety. Center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Peyton Manning’s head, and Knowshon Moreno recovered in the end zone for Seattle’s first two points.
That was a defining moment. And Gase calls what happened next “an avalanche.” The 43-8 loss was embarrassing for Gase. It was humiliating. It left a bitter taste in the coach’s palate.
And because Gase is such a competitor, that Super Bowl loss forced him to find out more about the team that had dismantled his Denver unit.
“I went back in the offseason and looked at it,” Gase said. “You have to do a lot of soul-searching at that point and reevaluate what you were doing and what went wrong and how you could’ve changed things.”
The problem is Gase being smart and learning more about the Seahawks didn’t help matters the next year, in the 2014 regular season. In the third game that season the Seahawks beat the Broncos 26-20 in overtime.
And, again, that game’s first play was a nightmare. Gase called a safe handoff to running back Montee Ball. Ball got hit by Seattle’s Kam Chancellor and fumbled. The turnover led to a Seattle field goal.
Last year, Gase followed John Fox to Chicago to become the Bears offensive coordinator, and the Bears played the Seahawks. All week, prior to that game, Gase worked on a suitable way to start the game as to not suffer a catastrophe right away.
Well, on the first play of that game, the Bears took a delay-of-game penalty.
Seattle won that game 26-0, and to this day different people within the Bears organization joke Gase ordered his offense to take that delay on purpose so as to not suffer a worse fate.
That, of course, is all history now. Gase isn’t really thinking about a Super Bowl from three years ago, or regular-season games the past two years, or the first play of those fateful games now, is he?
Well, yes. Yes he is.
“Gase came in today and he said, ‘Put some thought into this first play of the game,’ ” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said this week. “Probably the truth of the matter is it’s one of 75 [plays]. The feel of the thing is, ‘Gosh, we want to get off to a good start,’ and you go back and forth. I’ve lost more sleep over that first play of the game.”
So a sleep deprived Christensen this week was still trying to figure out that all-important first play against the Seahawks. He wondered whether to be aggressive at the risk of a game-defining turnover or be conservative so as to not cause his own team damage.
Maybe the Dolphins take a delay of game the first play.
“It’s one of those things,” Christensen said, “you wrestle back and forth with.”
It’s one of those things that let us know the Seahawks are on Adam Gase’s mind.