If you listened carefully during the Miami Dolphins’ season recap press conference Wednesday there was an underlying theme when the brain trust was answering questions about volatile receiver Jarvis Landry. And that theme was you better not rush out to buy a Landry jersey just yet because he might not be back in 2018.
That is a significant change from the team’s recent course.
Remember that before the season began and again at the trade deadline in October the Dolphins made it public that Landry was given assurances that he wasn’t going anywhere.
And last month, the Dolphins actually exchanged contract proposals with Landry’s agent to see how much progress could be made toward signing the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent.
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But what seemed to be headed toward a longterm marriage now could end in divorce.
And Wednesday’s press conference made that clear because I saw head coach Adam Gase, general manager Chris Grier and executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum basically stiff-arm the idea that Landry will definitely be on the team in 2018.
Grier lumped Landry in with several players the personnel department has to discuss in the coming weeks. Tannenbaum, asked specifically about Landry, brought up the idea that the salary cap doesn’t allow the team to keep everyone.
And Gase talked about how “embarrassing” it was for him to see Landry have one of his patented post-catch fits of rage that led the receiver and teammate Kenyan Drake to be ejected from Sunday’s game.
“I think that was the pinnacle of what I’ve ever seen with him during a game,” Gase said, comparing this flare-up with Landry’s other almost chronic in-game outbursts. “I know there’s been times some of those guys got in the mix a little bit. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it get to the level where it was extremely bad.
“Last game, that was about as embarrassing as I’ve seen in a long time. ... That was very frustrating to watch and standing there and not being able to do anything. We need way better control from our best players in the heat of the moment.”
Gase was asked if the Dolphins would take that episode into account when deciding how to deal with Landry and his agent this off-season.
“I think you can’t take one isolated incident and overreact, but at the same time we have to make sure we look at everything that we’ve been doing over the last couple of years and really that’s where our decisions are made,” the coach answered. “We look at the body of work and see what direction we want to go in.”
So did you hear Gase or Grier or Tannenbaum say anything remotely akin to “We definitely want Jarvis Landry back”?
Last season when Kenny Stills, one of Gase’s favorite players, hit free agency, everything the team said was about wanting Stills back while adding that the price point would determine the decision.
And that’s a notable difference between Stills and Landry as far as the Dolphins are concerned. Because Miami coaches believe that Stills works on his craft and is a detail-oriented professional who does things as the team wants it done as often as possible.
The internal thinking is that he’s a gifted player who sometimes tries to do things as coaches want. And sometimes doesn’t.
Sometimes he listens and sometimes he doesn’t.
An example? After the Pittsburgh Steelers had a touchdown called back against the New England Patriots weeks ago, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen was asked whether the Dolphins teach their offensive players to not reach the football out with one hand in an effort to get it across the goal line.
Christensen went on for nearly four minutes about how coaches teach players to not reach out while in traffic. And so what did Landry do against Bills?
Exactly what Dolphins coaches told players not to do — leading to what seemed to be a fumble that might have erased a touchdown opportunity.
And even after replay saved Landry from his coaches’ wrath, one play later he got into a confrontation with Bills safety Jordan Poyer, who had taken a cheap shot at Landry. When referees stepped in and called an unsportsmanlike penalty on Landry, among others, Landry lost whatever amount of control he had remaining and he cursed at the officials three different times.
So, of course, the officials used that in part to eject Landry from the game.
This doesn’t even account for the fact that the fight Landry helped start eventually got Kenyan Drake ejected as well because the running back was the first to come to Landry’s aid, which added to the fracas.
Again, none of this singularly is going to cause the Dolphins to break ties with Landry. Nor should it. Many people will read the past few paragraphs and love Landry’s fire and passion while dismissing his lack of professionalism.
But that episode, Landry’s disregard for what coaches try to teach him, and his outbursts (including ones we haven’t seen) all are going to determine his worth to the Dolphins as much as the fact that he led the NFL in catches.
Where does it leave us?
It’ll be about money. If Landry expects to get the $14-$15 million or so he’d like to be paid annually to re-sign, he’s probably not going to get that from Miami.
The press conference made that obvious.