Quarterback whisperer Adam Gase was the hottest name on the NFL coaching market the last couple of years. In 2014, he reportedly turned down the 49ers’ top job after being told he would have to keep Jim Tomsula on as defensive coordinator, and last year he interviewed with the Browns, Giants, and Eagles. If Gase had held out long enough, he probably could have gotten offers to coach half the teams in the NFL. Instead, he chose the Dolphins.
Yesterday, the Dolphins got mollywhopped on their home field by the Titans, who nearly doubled up Miami in total yardage (398-200) and on the scoreboard (30-17). The Dolphins are 1-4 and have been outscored by four touchdowns in their last two games. Their sole victory only happened because a kicker the Browns pulled off the street missed three field goals. They host the Steelers next week, and there are, charitably, three or four wins left on their schedule. Miami’s season is over.
I imagine this is not how Adam Gase figured it would play out. The Dolphins have won between six and eight games in every season since last capturing the AFC East in 2008, never bottoming out and always keeping a Wild Card berth within sight, even if it required some squinting. If Gase had his pick of jobs across the league over the last few offseasons, you have to figure he chose Miami because he felt they were on the cusp of the playoffs. If he wanted to construct a team in his image, I’m sure the Browns would have taken him. If he wanted to spend several seasons molding a young quarterback, he could have hard-pitched the Eagles or Titans.
Instead, Gase chose a team with an established quarterback, a veteran defense, and lofty aspirations. What he ended up with instead is a team with a quarterback so frustrating that fans are openly chanting for his backup (Matt Moore!), a crippled defense that guards as well as one of those squirrels trying to stop a crossover, and a franchise that should already be making plans for what to do with a top-five pick in next year’s draft.
If Gase thought the Dolphins were one good coach away from the playoffs, then it’s because he bought what the front office was selling. Led by Mike Tannenbaum, last seen piloting the Jets into the side of a mountain, the Dolphins adopted an offseason strategy of ditching young, homegrown player in favor of Pro Bowlers of yore. Out went Lamar Miller, in came Arian Foster. The Giants drowned Olivier Vernon in cash, so the Dolphins replaced him with Mario Williams. So far this season, Foster has averaged 2.9 yards per carry in the only two games he’s played. Williams, in 263 snaps, has seven tackles and one sack, and is moving around like a man playing Frankenstein at a haunted house.
In the draft, the Dolphins behaved like a team whose best days were right in front of their noses. They traded down—down!—for the privilege of acquiring Byron Maxwell, who could only have been shipped out of Philadelphia more quickly if he had beheaded the Phanatic on camera. Maxwell was so injured that he couldn’t complete a pushup during his physical, and he was subsequently benched four games into the season. They traded up to draft Maxwell’s counterpart, ex-Baylor corner Xavien Howard, who might be good but might also have a meniscus made of old newspapers. They traded two picks to move up to select receiver Leonte Carroo, who has three catches for 14 yards on the season, and two more picks to get gadget player Jakeem Grant, who at least might be a star on special teams.
The net result of all this maneuvering—and a whole bunch of injuries—is a roster that is easily one of the worst in the league. As Miami Herald reporter Barry Jackson noted yesterday, the Dolphins need to completely rebuild the team from the ground up:
The scary thing here is not that the Dolphins need to completely overhaul their roster, but that they have shown the propensity to try and do so in a single offseason. That owner Stephen Ross is willing to spend cash on the team is a good thing, but it also means that the Dolphins repeatedly trick themselves into thinking that money can immediately solve every problem in one fell swoop. That leads to throwing truckloads of cash at past-their-prime veterans. They’re the only franchise which seems to purposefully model its approach to roster construction after Dan Snyder’s.
Gase isn’t entirely blameless here, of course. He came to Miami with a reputation for being an offensive whiz kid, but that side of the ball has regressed deeply this season. Nobody forced him to take the Dolphins job at gunpoint (I don’t think), and even a cursory understanding of the NFL tells you that this remains one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the league. Still, as someone also shackled to this dumbass franchise, I pity him. Not even I saw this coming.