The hurricane-riddled, starting-quarterback-losing, cocaine-platter-punctuated season is over.
The Miami Dolphins think you stunk.
By the time this season ended, head coach Adam Gase was in such a perpetually bad mood, he got mad at a player this week because the player followed a poor practice with a great day, carrying out his assignments perfectly and showing precision on his techniques. And that seemed like good news to everyone except Gase, who was peeved because he believes the player capable of such heights should be stringing one great practice after another by this time of year.
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This disappointing, long, unsatisfying and unacceptable season was bad for months, but the past two weeks made things embarrassing. Last week, the Dolphins laid an egg in Kansas City despite having a chance to extend their playoff hopes.
This week, the Buffalo Bills installed a belly play for defensive tackle Kyle Williams. And sure enough, when the offense got down to the one-yard line in the third quarter, the Bills brought in the 6-foot-1 and 303-pound lineman, handed him the football and celebrated in unison after he scored the first touchdown of his 12-year career.
That’s how 2017 went for the Dolphins. It began with all the promise of a playoff berth and ended with this 22-16 loss and some folks wondering whether people should be fired.
Stephen Ross is not one of those people. The Dolphins owner is disappointed. He expected the Dolphins to follow their 2016 playoff appearance with another trip to the postseason.
“I’m terribly disappointed,” Ross said. “The new year didn’t start out right with the injury and you can’t replace a good quarterback. I look forward to next season and the adjustments. You put as much as I put into team, trying to do all the right things to win, how can you not be disappointed?
“I [expletive] hate losing.”
But having failed the owner’s stated goals, Ross said none of the folks running the Dolphins are getting fired.
“I have a lot of confidence in Adam,” Ross said. “I think the way Chris and Mike and Adam worked together... I think Adam is a good football guy and I believe in him. He’s as disappointed as I am. I talk to him a lot. He recognizes we got to make adjustments. And I think we will.”
So no one is gone despite a 6-10 season. Ross is going to be patient and let the people he hired and believed in last season have a chance to fix the things that went wrong this season.
But that doesn’t mean significant change isn’t coming. It is.
Start with the coaching staff: Gase stays, but he’s planning changes, most significantly in the offensive staff. League sources say Gase has been mulling hiring an experienced, accomplished coach who can help him run the offense.
No, that doesn’t mean Gase is going to give up his play-calling duties. But he apparently believes there was too much on his plate at times this year, particularly after Chris Foerster’s cocaine episode forced his departure. And Gase wants to address the void in 2018.
It’s not clear who that coach addition is going to be. And it’s not known whether that coach will primarily deal with the offensive line aside from being Gase’s confidant. But if the new guy doesn’t coach the offensive line, the Dolphins will be adding a coach there, as well.
It’s uncertain how this will position offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, who is excellent in the role he and Gase agreed to before 2016. This is a dynamic that Gase and all the parties will have to figure out.
Me? I’m more concerned with the 2018 roster because players make coaches and not the other way around.
This looming offseason begins Monday for all intents and purposes, and we already know how some key roster decisions are going to play out. For example:
The Dolphins this offseason are going to cut tight end Julius Thomas, per sources. The team believed he would be a red-zone threat. The team believed that he would be the same player he was when he scored 24 touchdowns in two seasons under Gase in Denver. Except he wasn’t.
So he’ll be released.
Same with Lawrence Timmons, who came to the Dolphins as a free agent with a reputation for playing hard and physical from his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played poorly and looked spent near the end of the season, and the Dolphins don’t expect that will improve next year.
The Dolphins are also going to rescind the fifth-year option currently on right tackle Ja’Wuan James, per a league source. That option, worth roughly $9.2 million, was guaranteed for injury, but James is mostly recovered from the groin injury that landed him on injured reserve this year.
So the Dolphins won’t owe James the $9.2 million, and the offensive lineman will be a free agent when the new league year begins.
Those three moves alone will save the Dolphins over $21 million in salary-cap space next offseason. Yes, it also means the Dolphins need to find a linebacker and a tight end and possibly a right tackle next offseason.
But this team is moving on with a new look in 2018. The ugly, terrible, unacceptable stuff we saw last year?
The Dolphins say good riddance, 2017.
“It’s a new year,” Ross said. “ We need it.”
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero