Armando Salguero

Why Adam Gase was bad at calling plays during parts of game last week against the Chargers

Head coach Adam Gase was not happy with his own play-calling last Sunday.
Head coach Adam Gase was not happy with his own play-calling last Sunday. adiaz@miamiherald.com

It was before practice Thursday and Dolphins coach Adam Gase was still beating himself up over his play-calling in the season-opener.

The season opener against Los Angeles, by the way, was four days earlier.

And the Dolphins won the game.

But Gase was still thinking about why some of his play-calling against the Chargers was not up to his own standards. He had matched wits with Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, the former Jacksonville head coach and Seahawks defensive coordinator, numerous times.

And although Gase was seeing the Chargers playing a zone defense in the secondary, he was expecting Bradley to do what he normally has done in the past, which is play man. Except Bradley didn’t do what the Dolphins coach expected.

“It was just one of those situations where I almost didn’t believe how they were playing us,” Gase said Thursday. “I was waiting for Gus to take the next step and he stuck with what he was doing. I should have just believed what I was seeing and gotten to the things we could attack, [going after] the coverages we were playing instead of waiting for him to use whatever he had off of that.”

“I wasn’t giving our guys a good chance. I was doing things in the first half that didn’t let them go play and win one-on-one matchups. I went too schematic crap instead of asking DeVante [Parker] to go win. We got to that in the second half. Probably the biggest thing is I felt like I held our guys back.”

Gase was unhappy with how things went after the first possession and into the second quarter. Gase was so unhappy with his own work in the first half, he’s told players he failed them. He even took responsibility for the sack Laremy Tunsil gave up.

Head coach Adam Gase speaks to the media about suspension of Lawrence Timmons and the acquisition of linebacker Stephone Anthony from the Saints, on Wednesday, September 20, 2017.

“I do think one of his strengths is that he takes responsibility,” said offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen. “I think the players respect that. At halftime, he told me ˜I didn’t get us into a rhythm in the first half.’ That’s the job of a play-caller. It isn’t to get guys 40 yards open, but just to get your offense in a rhythm.”

All this begs the question why did this happen? Why was Gase off?

One theory I heard from some NFL people is that Gase, who is human, was off simply because he had a lot of issues he had to deal with last week. Some of those included losing the first scheduled game and a bye and having his team move across country to practice and then having Lawrence Timmons go AWOL hours before the game.

Perhaps those problems that take up a head coach’s time affect the Dolphins head coach who doubles as the offensive play-caller.

Gase doesn’t agree with that theory.

“The one thing about this profession is you have to be able to compartmentalize things and focus on what you’re doing at the time,” Gase said. “I felt like the play-calling was not necessarily from that. It was trying to be too cute after that first drive. We had some success and kicked a field goal and stuck with a lot of the other things we had game planned that they hadn’t seen yet instead of letting our guys win their one-on-one matchups. That’s where I felt I wasn’t very good at that. In the second quarter I allowed them more to go play -- get the one-on-ones and go win.”

Quarterback Jay Cutler (6) speaks to the media after Miami Dolphins football practice on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.

Christensen dismisses the idea Gase’s play-calling is a concern. (So do I although I must chronicle that it was not great last week). Christensen says other issues were at play last week that won’t be a problem in the future.

“I think opening day, a new [San Diego] staff, a new defensive coordinator, there wasn’t [four games worth of] film available on these guys...I think all of those things were involved,” Christensen said.”Still, we’ve talked a lot about what are we? What does it look like with Jay (Cutler) at quarterback and blending in with these guys?

“I think there are some natural things responsible. (It was) opening day. An opening day is hard to have a feel, so we’ve had some changing of parts in this thing, so I think it was that. (Gase is) always harder on himself than I am. I thought he dialed up some things in the red zone where he gave us a chance to score touchdowns and we ended up going 0-for-3 in the red zone, which was big. We needed those points. He’s blaming himself and I thought that we have to make those plays for him.”

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