Safety Reshad Jones’ decision to bench himself after just 10 snaps Sunday is a problem for the Dolphins.
But it might not be their biggest problem on defense.
Coach Adam Gase’s latest headache might reach far higher on the food chain, and start with his defensive coordinator, Matt Burke, and how he communicates with his players.
Something’s up on that side of the ball, now that two key players have thrown tantrums on the sideline — both possibly over their roles on the team.
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First it was Jordan Phillips, who melted down over playing time early in the season and then celebrated when the Dolphins cut him.
Now it’s Jones, who was apparently unhappy with his role after the being told to split playing time during Sunday’s game against the Jets on Sunday.
“[Jones] came up and talked to me last night,” Gase said Monday. “He came up to the office and we talked. We’re still kind of going through a couple of things. I need to talk to a couple of people. Me and him are on the same page right now. ... I have an idea of a lot of the things that happened.”
Gase insisted that Jones, unlike Phillips, will remain on the team and play Sunday against the Packers. And that whatever caused him to quit on the team Sunday will not be a lingering issue.
But when asked if he is comfortable with how Burke communicates with Miami’s defensive players, Gase responded, tellingly.
“I’ll have more of an idea here throughout the day and [Tuesday]. I’ll figure out a lot of the things that happened throughout the week and on game day.”
This latest development comes at the worst possible time for Burke, who already is feeling heat after his defense allowed 74 points in the past two games.
Things had gotten so bad on that side of the ball that Gase has inserted himself into the game-planning process and that the team decided it best for Jones, a two-time Pro Bowler, to platoon against the Jets.
“We’ve got to make some adjustments,” Gase said. “We’re not going to sit there and do the same things that we did the last two weeks that you guys have been [expletive] about. We let up 1,000 yards in two games. We’re not going to stay the same. We’re going to move around.”
Gase was noncommittal when asked if the Dolphins will continue using Jones as a part-time player, pointing out rightly that Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is not nearly as good as Aaron Rodgers, whom Miami will face Sunday.
For Gase, the day after Miami’s fifth win of the season felt far from a Victory Monday. And it’s just the latest sideshow in what has been a relatively successful season, considering the avalanche of injuries that has buried the Dolphins. It’s at least the fifth key contributor to have issues with Gase or his staff. (Phillips, Jarvis Landry, Jay Ajayi and Mike Pouncey are the others.)
Still, Jones refusing to play is very much a fineable offense, and one that could be costly in several ways, should the Dolphins go that route. NFL rules allow organizations to fine a player for up to four paychecks for conduct detrimental to the team. For Jones, that would be more than $200,000.
But there’s more: Such a fine would void future guarantees, and Jones has some big ones in his contract, which has three years and $35 million left on it.
Gase suggested that the team has ruled out suspending Jones, but said that any further discipline will be handled internally.
As for how Jones’ decision to quit after just 10 snaps will play in the locker room, Gase responded:
“I can’t speak on that. I think everybody needs to be a little slow to rush to judgment. They don’t know all the facts of everything. .... I know this is the day and age of everybody just go all in on something, Twitter and Instagram and all that crap. We’ll handle things internally and we’ll make sure that people that need to know know.”