So Adam Gase and I just got into a cat fight Thursday.
He said something mean, I got flustered. He got frustrated that I would get flustered publicly and scratched me. I knocked his cap off and pulled his hair. He called me fat and spat in my face. I pinched him -- like, really hard.
Nope, that didn’t really happen.
But the Dolphins coach and I did have an open disagreement during his press availability Thursday. And it is the second time this season he and I fail to see eye to eye. And it’s the second time it becomes a thing at a press conference.
The topic of Thursday’s disagreement was quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
As I have written and even told people within the Miami Dolphins organization, I’ve seen enough to draw a conclusion on Tannehill. I like the guy. He is a good man. He’s a man of honor and great work ethic.
But in Year 7 of the Ryan Tannehill era, I don’t see marked improvement now from what we’ve seen in the past. I’ve been watching more or less the same player for years — a guy who makes an eye-popping throw, as he did in San Diego to Kenny Stills back in 2016, but also a guy who tries a hook shot pass under pressure in Cincinnati that gets intercepted and returned for a TD.
Yes, some nuance things get addressed such as footwork or placement of deep throws.
But generally I’m watching a player who isn’t making a leap. And atop that he is now injury prone.
Tannehill on Sunday will miss his fourth game of the season after missing all 16 last season, and after missing four in 2016. And the Dolphins, who a couple of weeks ago hoped Tannehill would be ready to play against the New York Jets, now are completely uncertain when Tannehill will be able to play again.
That is background. Here’s more background: Gase loves Tannehill. He is tied at the hip to Tannehill and believes Tannehill is really good and getting better.
And that’s where we disagree because I haven’t seen that improvement. In 2018, I’ve seen Tannehill play like, well, Tannehill.
And I’ve written as much.
So Thursday a reporter from another newspaper asked Gase what he would say to media or fans or anyone who believe they’ve “seen enough” of the Tannehill tenure in Miami.
“Well, I mean, what qualifications are we talking about with people saying that?” Gase said. “None, so I don’t really care what anybody else thinks.”
To which the reporter restated his question and asked Gase why he still believes in Tannehill...
“We’ve made a lot of strides since we started in 2016,” Gase responded. “He had some good seasons before I got here, I know that. And we did some different stuff that year, we leaned on the running game and worked off the play-action stuff. He does a great job with the zone read stuff.
“When you have an athletic guy that can move around as much as he can, and then his arm strength is something I’ve never been around before where we hit, like, the pass he did against Tennessee where he throws it 50-plus yards in the air and the guy never breaks stride. He has some rare qualities that you can’t find in a lot of guys physically. And the more he keeps playing, he keeps learning game to game.
“And that’s something to me that puts him in a position where, where’s our ceiling at? I don’t think we’re close to it. I think we just keep getting better, keep finding ways to maximize his skill set because it becomes a problem for the defense. It’s hard to defend him when you don’t know what he’s going to do.
“Is he going to run a zone read? Is he going to sprint out? Is he going to run a naked? Is he going to go play action? Is he dropping back? Are we running the ball? There’s a lot of things you have to defend.”
So no-qualifications-having Mando asked why Tannehill wasn’t better the early part of the season when he wasn’t hurt?
“It was,” Gase responded. “I mean the first three games he played pretty good.”
Against Tennessee, in the opener, Tannehill threw two TD passes and two interceptions.
In the second game against Oakland, Tannehill threw three touchdown passes without an interception. Except, Gase who presumably watched that tape, must know one of those touchdowns was a flip to Jakeem Grant who then ran 18 yards for a TD and another TD was a similar flip in the backfield which Albert Wilson took 74 yards for a TD.
The third game Tannehill had that actually was a good performance was against the Jets in which he threw two touchdowns of the orthodox variety without an interception. But even in that game, Tannehill threw for only 168 yards.
Whatever, I didn’t make these points in my exchange with Gase because he watched the tape and still thought Tannehill was good.
I did say that the next two games — against New England and Cincinnati — Tannehill didn’t play better. He played worse.
“Yeah, that happens,” Gase said. “That happens sometimes in the NFL. Quarterbacks play New England. That’s not easy. There’s a reason why they win a lot of games every year.”
That’s true. But that doesn’t change my point. Before he was injured this season, Tannehill was the same guy he’d been in the past. Not a better player. Not worse. The same.
“The first three games he played pretty good,” Gase insisted.
And after a pause he added, “You’re asking that question, you don’t even know what you’re talking about. It’s hard for me to defend anything when you don’t know what you’re talking about. I mean, you don’t. I watch the film. We evaluate the scheme we’re asking him to do and he does a good job on it.”
A little surprising here for know-nothing Mando. To me, the results are pretty black and white. A quarterback either completes a pass or doesn’t. He moves the offense or doesn’t. He gets the offense in the end zone or doesn’t.
And, borrowing from something Tannehill once told me, I know what the results are and winning and losing — fair or not — is on the quarterback.
And I brought up results to Gase...
“That’s fine,” he said. “That’s how you look at things. Everything is results to you. We’re going through a process because that’s what it is. That’s what a season is. It’s about trying to get guys to trend upward and we were headed in the right direction. We hit a speed bump with New England and then Cincinnati he’s playing well and we lose our left tackle and we make two bad decisions.”
I held my tongue after that because, frankly, I have respect for the Miami Dolphins organization.
But I cannot agree that coaches are the only ones who can have an opinion about a player — particularly the quarterback — because they watch film.
I cannot agree Tannehill is better because he had good games to start the season followed by two stinkers at New England and Cincinnati. Don’t tell me to focus on the first three and excuse the next two, especially against the Patriots, just because they’re good.
And ultimately, I cannot agree Tannehill has been better when he’s passing for an average of 194.4 yards this season — which is a career low and 36 yards less per game than in ‘16.
Don’t tell me he’s better when his quarterback rating is lower this year than last time he played in 2016.
Don’t tell me he’s better when his interception percentage this year is higher and his completion percentage is lower.
And I get the whole process thing. I covered Nick Saban, who talked incessantly about how important the process was. Gase gets this process thinking from Saban because Saban started Gase in coaching at Michigan State as a graduate assistant in 2000 — 10 years after I began to cover the NFL.
So I get it.
But I don’t lose sight that results matter. Because the standings measure results.