Locker room culture, and how to improve it, is a hard thing to quantify.
But Adam Gase gave it his best shot at the NFL annual meeting here Tuesday morning during an hourlong breakfast with reporters.
“I am not hoping [the culture will improve],” Gase insisted. “I know it’s going to be different. You have some alpha dogs who are not going to accept a lot of the [expletive] that has gone on.”
So the addition of Robert Quinn, Frank Gore, Josh Sitton, and Danny Amendola has been about getting better, but it’s also been about replacing bad vibes with good.
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The Dolphins either cut or traded almost all of their veteran stars this offseason, dumping Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey, to name a few.
Gase acknowledged that wholesale changes were inevitable after a 6-10 season. The Dolphins’ goal was to make their roster more talented, more mature and more functional.
And he insisted that the players Miami brought in — many of whom are older than 30 — have already changed the energy of the team.
“I think you just have to feel it,” Gase said. “I think you guys will notice it kind of when we get going. I don’t know, there’s something about a lot of these guys that we brought in. Seeing Frank Gore, that gets me going. It’s been 10 years since we were together. It seems like forever. A guy that looks exactly the same, just everything about him. I’m excited to see what he can do to help us. Since we got in Danny in and Albert in at the same time, Josh was in. Those guys were excited to be here. They wanted to come here. It was their decision to do it. They’re looking to be impact players for us.”
Gase added that “it was just the right time for us” to move on from Suh, cutting the defensive tackle just three years after the Dolphins made him the highest-paid defensive player in league history. Suh signed a one-year contract with the Rams on Monday.
Suh was a good player during his three seasons in Miami, but did not make enough game-changing plays to justify his massive salary. The Dolphins needed more leadership from him, too.
Landry is gone because “we couldn’t find a way to meet in the middle [financially],” Gase said.
But that’s not the only reason Landry is gone; he could be a headache on and off the field. He was kicked out of the Bills game due to fighting in his last snap in a Dolphins uniform. Replacing him: Amendola — whom Gase gushed about Tuesday — and Albert Wilson.
“I feel like we’ve added more guys than we’ve lost,” Gase said, when asked who will fill Miami’s leadership void. “I know free agency, a lot of guys were taken away there, whether we’ve released guys or traded guys. I think we’re adding good pieces to the puzzle here. I feel like we’re only going to get better, leadership-wise.”
The Dolphins believe they are better equipped to handle the kind of drama that, to a degree, derailed their 2017 season. Granted, the die might have been cast when Ryan Tannehill got hurt in training camp. But that was just the first of many calamities.
Gase lost his offensive line coach, Chris Foerster, midway through the season after video of him snorting lines in his Davie office went viral. His new big-ticket linebacker, Lawrence Timmons, went AWOL the day before the opener. (Timmons, not surprisingly, has been released.) He had to cut another starting linebacker, Rey Maualuga, because he was arrested at a nightclub just hours before a team walk-through. His team had to play 16 weeks in a row after Hurricane Irma postponed the opener.
And that’s just the controversies we know about. The body blows added up.
“A lot of us had to go deal through a lot of adversity,” Gase said. “It was a learning lesson for a lot of us. I know I went through a lot of things last year where, they were not in the handbook. It was some tough spots to be put in. I think some guys did well, they handled adversity well. Some guys didn’t handle it as well. Probably learned a lot about a lot of guys. It was one of those things, at the time you’re going through it, it’s not really the funnest thing to do, but it was a great learning experience.”
As for what the past season taught him?
“Expect anything. You just never know what it can be. It was either adapt or die. You had no choice.”