Greg Cote

Honeymoon? Over! How collapsing seasons have Dolphins’ Gase and Canes’ Richt feeling heat

Miami Dolphins Adam Gase comments on Tannehill injury

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks to the media during press conference after team practice at Baptist Health South Florida Training Facility in Davie on Wednesday, November 7, 2018.
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Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks to the media during press conference after team practice at Baptist Health South Florida Training Facility in Davie on Wednesday, November 7, 2018.

Let’s fire everybody! And while we’re at it let’s fire the people who hired the people we just fired!

Somewhere between the out-of-patience hysteria represented above and a blinders-on “all is well” lies the truth about Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt and Dolphins coach Adam Gase. About the job security of each, and about whether either is in any trouble ... or should be.

This we can agree on: They are the captains of Miami’s sinking football flagships, and as such are the obvious targets wearing the flak jackets against fans’ frustration and disappointment. Agree on this, too: With each in his third year, the honeymoon is over. With Gase now 43 games on the Fins’ sideline and Richt 36 in with UM, this has stopped being about whatever they inherited. It is now about what they’ve done.

POLL: Vote here on Gase and Richt

To make clear, sources in the UM athletic department and connected to Dolphins management tell me neither Gase nor Richt is currently in any job jeopardy no matter how the rest of their seasons play out. But the impression I’m given is both men could enter 2019 feeling heat, and needing to produce results that justify how excited both teams (and fans) were when they were hired.

Both teams are 5-5, the definition of average, but downward trending predating this year makes both seasons feel worse.

UM stood 5-1 and ranked No. 16 in the polls before the current four-game losing streak. A mad scramble just to merely be bowl-eligible is upon The U, all but an indignity to Canes fans who hunger for the return of swagger and national prominence — the real thing, not the tease of a year ago. It isn’t just the current swoon. Since once being 19-4 with a 15-game winning streak in his first 23 games here, Richt is 5-8 (.385), the equivalent of a full season’s worth of sub-mediocre.

Gase? His Dolphins were 3-0 but have since lost five of seven, with Sunday’s defeat in Green Bay dropping the Fins’ playoff likelihood to 11 percent (10th in the AFC), according to fivethirtyeight.com. Gase’s first season with Miami began with a 10-5 record. Miami broke an eight-year playoff drought. He has since been 11-17 (.393).

It bears noting how much we loved them, once.

UM season-ticket sales and fundraising boomed when Richt, a former Canes quarterback, was hired in December 2015. “A marriage made in heaven,” Howard Schnellenberger called it. Excitement was palpable. (UM was 10-0 and ranked No. 2 in a November to remember just one year ago).

Gase was seen as a real “get” for the Dolphins, a bright young offensive mind who justified all the hype that first season. The parade of failed, short-term coaches had ended at last.

Now? If there were sports elections and the midterms were this week, I’m not sure either Richt or Gase would survive the wrath of the fan-electorate. (The good news? This being Florida, there would be polling issues, lawsuits, allegations and fraud and a recount lasting at least into next season).

It is almost comical to hear the irrational venom heaped on Richt and Gase by some fans on social media. At the same time neither has a coat of Teflon or is above criticism.

Mark Richt comments on losing to Duke

My take on the job status of each:

Adam Gase, at 40 and in his first head-coaching job at any level, still must prove he is Big Boss material and not better-suited to be the background guy running the offense. But reaching the playoffs his first season earns him latitude. So does the fact his starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill has missed 25 of the last 30 games injured. If I were owner Stephen Ross, my eye for change would be on personnel execs Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier more than on Gase right now. If anything, given the spate of injuries, the Fins at 5-5 have mostly exceeded expectations.

Mark Richt, 58, has been one of college football’s steadiest winners since 2001. But the proving never ends, right? There has been curious unevenness to his UM tenure, with the 2016 season and this one both featuring 0-4 slumps and last year ending with three straight losses. His recruiting has been highly rated but player development hasn’t kept pace. His waffling between two inaccurate quarterbacks has been a mess and his stagnant offense and play-calling are open to fair criticism. Too many penalties (especially on the offensive line) convey a lack of discipline. This season has seen major, discouraging regression.

Fans are understandably impatient for both the Dolphins and Canes to return to the national prominence both once famously enjoyed.

I’d not quit yet on Gase and Richt being the right men to still lead the Miami renaissance.

But if there aren’t signs enough to hang your hope on by 2019, I’d begin to wonder.

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