Adam Gase is standing in the family lounge adjacent to the Miami Dolphins locker room minutes after the team’s final preseason game. His cap is turned backwards on his head but his focus is trained directly ahead, to the coming regular-season.
Wait, that’s wrong.
His focus is not on the regular-season necessarily. His focus is on the regular-season opener at Seattle on Sept. 11 -- a game for which Gase’s excitement will build over the next couple of days.
“I think I’ll probably get to a point where I’m ready to go early in the week,” Gase says. “These next two days are kind of like the worst days of what you have to do in this job because you’re going to tell somebody, ‘Hey, we don’t like you enough to keep you.’
“We’ve developed some great relationships with some of the guys. You just don’t want to go through that. But once we get going next week, once I start seeing how our game plan develops and I start seeing those coverages again that they run, I’m going to be ready to go. At least myself. I know that.”
Gase is going to be ready to go after the weekend’s final cuts and roster moves with a team he likes. This roster, some of it made up of new veterans, much of it young and inexperienced, is all his now.
And Gase doesn’t mind taking ownership because he’s comfortable with it.
“I feel good. I feel good where we’re at,” Gase says. “As far as our meetings the past couple of days, kind of doing some Seattle stuff with the guys we know are going to be rolling with us, I feel like they watch that tape and have a good idea of at least what I’m thinking offensively and [defensive coordinator] Vance [Joseph] is thinking defensively.
“So it’s a good start for us beginning the week. But when you go to that place, you have to have the right mindset as you go up there and have to understand that team has won a lot of game there and haven’t lost a lot. You have to understand you have to play well. You have to play turnover-free. You have to play penalty-free. You have to be smart with what you do.
“And it’s no secret how well [Seattle coach] Pete Carroll prepares his players and how well they know their scheme. They’ve been together for a while so you have to put it in fast forward and understand we’re going to have to play really well to beat that team.”
This isn’t coach speak for Gase. He understands most people not drawing a Dolphins paycheck expect Seattle to win its opener at home against the Dolphins. But what folks outside the organization believe isn’t important right now.
For instance: There are many Dolphins fans, many pundits, many people working for other NFL teams, who think the Dolphins cannot be a winner as long as Ryan Tannehill is playing quarterback for the team.
If they’re right, there is no coaching magic Gase can weave that will soon turn this franchise around. None.
But Gase, known for being an expert with quarterbacks during his NFL career, doesn’t think those people are right.
“I think he’s absolutely part of the solution,” the coach says. “I’ve watched a guy that comes in and works hard every day. He’s as tough as I’ve been around. The fact he’s smart and can throw the ball, he knows what to do, he can help those other guys.
“That work ethic he has is special. I love being around him. He’s always thinking about stuff. I’ll get text messages as far as, ‘Hey what do you think of this? Hey, what do you think of this clip?’
“So I like where he’s headed. I think the other guys are doing a great job of following his lead. I think that entire offensive unit is doing a really good job of trying to gel and support each other and help each other.”
If Gase has complaints about his team, his roster, the level of talent on this team, he’s not sharing it during this conversation.
That’s not necessarily because he’s avoiding talking about team problems or flaws. Only minutes before Gase was outlining how running back Jay Ajayi disappointed him by fumbling in the game and how starting left guard Laremy Tunsil isn’t run-blocking as well as he wants.
The truth is Gase thinks this team gets it. He thinks this team has improved and is improving and will continue to improve. He thinks these things because he’s inside the team and sees the signs. Gase sees things people on the outside don’t see because, well, they’re on the outside.
“I like our guys’ mindset,” he says. “I love the way they practiced all training camp. I just don’t remember a day where I walked off the field thinking, ‘That was terrible on both sides of the ball.’
“This training camp I wanted to make sure from a psyche or mental toughness standpoint they improved from what I saw in the spring. And I do feel like going through that camp, some of those days it was really hot, we were pressing guys -- running, throwing, being physical in the run game, doing some goal line, short-yardage work.
“I feel like I saw guys keep pushing. You didn’t hear complaining. You didn’t hear whining. You only heard guys encouraging each other and at the same time you felt like they were trying to get better.
“That’s all you can ask as a coach. If your guys keep working to get better, it’s going to happen. Eventually it goes in the right direction.”