The Miami Dolphins refusing to affix logos to the side of rookies’ helmets this spring is a misunderstood tact fans have had fun debating on social media.
Some of you, it seems, love that Dolphins coach Adam Gase makes his youngsters earn the mighty aqua Dolphin breaching the orange sunburst. This is an awesome way to motivate rookies, you believe.
Others think this is just a cheap high school ploy that isn’t bound to work on sophisticated professional athletes.
And to both of you I say it’s probably neither.
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This earning of the logo is simply another tool the Dolphins are using to try to establish a team culture — yes, still — that should have everyone within the organization understanding there is no entitlement allowed here.
That’s it. That’s all this is.
Gase wants everyone thinking logos have to be earned. Starting positions have to be earned. Snaps have to be earned. Days off have to be earned.
If players haven’t gotten the message by now, there are problems because reminders about how they have to earn practically everything are everywhere.
When rookies first reported to the Dolphins’ facility about a month ago, the first thing they heard from Gase was a speech about how they had earned nothing by being drafted. Being drafted was what they earned by playing up to a certain level in college.
And now, on their first day on the job in South Florida, it was time to start earning their … spot on the roster, reputation, respect and place on the depth chart.
“I think the biggest thing we emphasized … was that this is a prove-it league,” Gase said. “It doesn’t matter what round you were drafted. If you were drafted nobody really cares. If you can play, you’ll be out there. If you’re a rookie over a 10-year guy and you’re better, you’ll play. No one cares. I think when you’re a rookie, if you hear that, then you know to get to work and see where these chips fall.”
This isn’t just talk for the sake of making a welcome speech. This Dolphins coaching staff has a track record that proves entitlement won’t be tolerated. Consider:
Last season when Andre Branch, making about $2 million, played better than Mario Williams, making about $8 million, the team benched Williams and played Branch.
When $7-million-per-year Byron Maxwell was not playing up to standards in the first month of the season, the Dolphins benched him for Tony Lippett even though the second-year cornerback clearly wasn’t ready and was making about $525,000.
Receiver Leonte Carroo was drafted in the third round last season and cost the Dolphins three draft picks in a trade. And by the end of the year, coaches put undrafted rookie receiver Rashawn Scott on the game day roster while Carroo was inactive for the final three games.
The Dolphins drafted Laremy Tunsil in the first round last season. Coaches knew, without a doubt, he would be their starting left guard when the season began. They knew this.
But when training camp began, Tunsil opened at the bottom of the depth chart and was told to work his way up if he could.
This year, defensive end Charles Harris is the first-round draft pick. Coaches know he’s going to play a lot of pass-rush snaps immediately because he’s already showing signs of being a premier pass rusher.
You think anyone has told Harris that?
Harris has no clue what the plan is for him, and he’s working as a reserve player during OTA drills because he has to earn his snaps.
The Dolphins’ war on entitlement is not limited to spots on the roster or starting jobs or playing time. Obviously, some players have already earned those.
But there’s always money.
In the spring of 2016, star safety Reshad Jones believed he had earned a new contract extension. And when he didn’t get it, Jones stayed away from the voluntary portion of offseason conditioning and OTAs.
The Dolphins refused to reward Jones for staying away from workouts because they believed it sent a message they were rewarding a player who felt entitled. Jones didn’t get his $60 million contract extension with $35 million in guaranteed money until this spring — one year later.
The same rules are currently in play for receiver Jarvis Landry. He’s already earned his spot on the roster, his starting job, his respect within the organization. He deserves a contract extension.
But the Dolphins weren’t going to give him one if he didn’t report to the voluntary offseason work this spring. Or if he skipped OTAs or the upcoming minicamp. Landry has not only had to play right during the season but act right in the offseason to earn his extension.
Landry has responded well, showing up to everything. And so far he and the team are on course on the contract front.
Why this approach? Why such an all-out assault on entitlement when it seems some from the current generation of millennials that make up the roster want success served on a plate?
The reason is Gase and the Dolphins face a stiff challenge when the coming regular season comes. It is human nature that following a good season in which the team made the playoffs, some players might think taking another step will come easier. Some might think taking the next step is promised.
Well, the NFL does not entitle 2016 playoff teams to make the 2017 postseason.
“… They know that it doesn’t mean anything going into this season,” Gase said. “We have to do it all over again. We’re going to be 0-0 at the start. We have to prove ourselves all over again. Nobody is really going to care what we did last season when we head into this season.”
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero