Like 31 other NFL head coaches following roster cuts to 53 players, Adam Gase is pleased with his team. He’s convinced this group of players is the right mix of talent...
...Of experience and maturity.
...Of ego and personality.
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Gase embraces these Miami Dolphins like, well, he really hasn’t embraced some of his past teams -- specifically last year’s. And that’s good because this team is the product of what happens when one person within an organization, Gase, convinces others that too much is wrong and has to be drastically changed.
Even when the reasons for change are not necessarily about talent
This roster, with seven new draft picks, five new unrestricted free agents, two waiver wire additions, and three players who came by trade, has a 32 percent turnover rate from last year. This is the roster Gase crafted. This coaching staff, with six new assistants in 2018, is one Gase remade.
This is his baby, folks. And he likes the work of his hands.
“I like our team,” Gase said Sunday. “I like the fact that I think we’re a team. That’s the best part of what we have going on right now -- is that locker room. I like where those guys are at.
“And I’m not really worried about what anybody else thinks about that. Because when you’re not there every day. and around these guys, and watching them work, watching them at meetings. watching them practice, you don’t know. You look at a piece of paper. But that’s why they play the games.”
Gase is taking a shot at pundits and experts who watched the Dolphins get rid of a Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh, a Pro Bowl caliber center in Mike Pouncey, and the NFL’s leading pass catcher in Jarvis Landry and saw downgrade.
From 6-10, no less.
But Gase believes he had no choice. He saw last year’s team fail to meet challenges or handle adversity. He saw players dedicated to outside interests but not to their tape study. He saw players who didn’t know their assignments, either because they didn’t study or didn’t understand what they studied. He had players not running full speed on some plays or practicing full bore or minding the details Gase wanted them to nail every play.
The Dolphins had an assistant sniffing cocaine in the office, for goodness sake
So, yeah, Gase decided change was necessary.
“I feel like the guys we have right now are different type of guys,” Gase said. “It’s football first. It’s wanting to do things right. It’s putting your head down and working. There’s a lot of [stuff] you can get in trouble with down here. So it has to be football first.
“That gives us a better chance of having success when you have guys like that. Because when adversity hits, it’s not going to be, ‘It’s not my fault, it’s his fault, it’s the other guy’s fault.’ You don’t see that now. It’s, ‘Put you head down and work.’ That’s the type of guys you have to have. I really believe that.”
What the Dolphins have done is not the easy road. It would have been easier to keep more name players such as Suh and Landry and let the chemistry and vibe of the locker room remain the same.
But Gase decided to to use the experience of 2017 as a learning experience rather than a lost season.
“I look at last year as we learned a lot about who we had in the locker room,” Gase said. “I saw where we had to make changes there. Same thing with the coaching staff. Same thing organizationally -- where we had to make changes, what things we had to do different.
“To me it’s never a lost year. It’s a lost year if you just ignore it and act like nothing happened or nothing’s wrong. We learned from it and had to make changes. If we stayed the same that would be the most idiotic thing to do.
“If I would have come in here and said, ‘[quarterback Ryan] Tannehill’s back now so we’re fine,’ and kept everything the same then that’s my fault. Everybody shows you who they are when [stuff] gets tough. You find out who’s with you and who’s going to take the easy way out. So, you want to be with guys that are going to dig deep in the trenches and find solutions.”
Gase believes he has those type of guys now. He sees players staying late. He sees dedication and attention to detail.
“[It] feels like a lot of things have happened over the last two years. good or bad,” Gase said. “It’s been great learning experiences for everybody in the organization and I feel like this year we have a really good understanding of who we are, what our locker room is.
“Our players, I like where our health is. I feel like it puts us in good position to start moving toward this season and kind of see what happens.”