Greg Cote

Dolphins firing Gase, demoting Tannenbaum shows desperation to escape rut. It’s about time

Miami Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross, discusses the firing of Head Coach Adam Gase

Miami Dolphins' owner, Stephen Ross, discusses the firing of Head Coach Adam Gase during a press conference at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, FL.
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Miami Dolphins' owner, Stephen Ross, discusses the firing of Head Coach Adam Gase during a press conference at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, FL.

The Miami Dolphins just fired a good football coach in Adam Gase. He won’t be out of work long. He’ll be on just about every short list for NFL head coach or offensive coordinator openings.

But that doesn’t mean a change here wasn’t needed. It was. The change on Monday included a reassignment of longtime vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, “reassignment” being business-speak for demotion. General manager Chris Grier now elevates to oversee football ops and the next head coach will report to Grier.

It is interesting to note the one thing Gase and Tannenbaum, the two casualties (so far), most have in common:

Ryan Tannehill.

One kept failing to draft a better quarterback, and the other kept adamantly sticking with this one. Both men wore blinders to the growing consensus that Tannehill simply isn’t good enough and that the franchise must move on from him, a situation only magnified by Tannehill’s recent injury history and by his becoming much costlier to keep in 2019.

It is hard to fathom that Ross, Grier and the next head coach won’t see the need for better and more consistent quarterback play, whether via free agency, trade or the April draft.

Who will the next coach be? Mike McCarthy, Josh McDaniels and Rex Ryan have been the stuff of speculation. Unfortunately, it seems we can rule out the Best Available Harbaugh, with Jim committed to Michigan and the Ravens intending to bring back John. Grier will control the 53-man roster, not the new coach, which might be offputting to some would-be candidates.

Coaching changes only prove smart if it turns out you get somebody better. Let’s see if the Dolphins will. For now, though, change for change’s sake passes for an illusion of progress, at least. Of expressing dissatisfaction in a bold, tangible way. Of doing something.

Gase is out just 24 hours after the stunning, unexpected, sudden resignation of Hurricanes coach Mark Richt — and within hours the hiring of Manny Diaz, who jilted Temple to return to Coral Gables.

It’s an unprecedented cap to 2018 for football in Miami, as well as a continuation of coaching instability in South Florida sports at its top level. In the past 10 years the Dolphins, Canes football, Marlins and NHL Panthers have combined to have 27 head coaches including interim guys. The Heat with Erik Spoelstra is the notable exception, the tranquility in the maelstrom.

Chris Grier, the Miami Dolphins GM discusses his goals during a press conference at the Dolphins' training facility in Davie, FL

Why Gase got fired goes beyond the 7-9 season that ended Sunday or his three-year record of 23-25 that perfectly mirrors the club’s stuck-in-mediocrity rut.

One could argue (and I have) that Miami actually overachieved this season given all the crushing injuries, the 13 men on injured reserve as the year ended.

But Gase got fired because his team seemed to quit on him the past two weeks, with the playoffs on the line. A home loss to lowly Jacksonville and Sunday’s 42-17 embarrassment in Buffalo

He got fired because he was an offensive guru whose offenses were pretty lousy here, and whose playcalling was criticized. His offense never ranked higher than 24th in his three seasons. Five times this year his team failed to top 200 yards of offense. The 181.3 passing yards average was Miami’s lowest since 2003.

He got fired because he wanted to win now and sign older free agents, which did not jibe with Ross’ vision of rebuilding with you. Perfect example: Gase wanting 35-year-old running back Frank Gore. Ross is prepared to rebuild toward sustainable success, and the next coach will need to be on board.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says he's disappointed with the season after the Fins' loss to the Buffalo Bills. (Video contains graphic language)

Mostly, Gase got fired as a victim of a long accumulation of frustration and growing impatience, which simmered for too along and finally reached a scalding boil.

He got fired because he failed to change what preceded him. Failed to be the answer, the savior.

This was the 15th season out of the playoffs in the past 17 years, and continued a drought stretching back to 2000 since Miami last won a postseason game.

Those past failures weren’t Gase’s problem, but solving them was.

You can argue three seasons is too soon to fire a coach who reached the playoffs his first year, but the Dolphins moving past Gase and Tannebaum indicates one thing that should be applauded.

Stephen Ross is embarrassed by failure and done with patience, and it’s about time.

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Greg Cote is a Miami Herald sports columnist who in 2018 was named top 10 in column writing by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Greg also appears regularly on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio and ESPNews.


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