By Abraham Gutierrez
One of the biggest question marks for the Miami Dolphins following last season’s first-round playoff loss was whether the culture change instilled by head coach Adam Gase would transfer over to the 2017 NFL campaign.
While at first glance it would appear that the answer to that query is a resounding “no,” the truth is that those initial sentiments aren’t fully accurate or necessarily a fair reflection of the current state of affairs.
In actuality, it takes time to truly change the DNA of a professional ballclub, the same way that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Luckily for Gase (and others), Dolphins owner Stephen Ross seems to be a fan and a proponent of that old French proverb.
No Front Office or Head Coaching Changes
Following Miami’s loss to the Buffalo Bills in the season finale, the 77-year-old billionaire put all speculation to rest regarding potential changes to the current organizational nucleus.
Bombarded by reporters about the subject, Ross did not hesitate to declare that Gase, along with Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier, would all be returning next season.
“When you find the right guy, why give someone else a chance to grab him,” he said. “We had done our homework beforehand. Once we settled on it, we moved on it. Sometimes time really helped you, and sometimes it is never on your side.”
Concerns Regarding Fins Offense
What gives Gase a little more leeway is the way things got started for the offensive unit. Prior to the start of the season, Miami lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a knee injury. That forced the organization to go out and signed retired veteran signal-caller Jay Cutler, and everyone knows how that played out.
Nevertheless, Gase was highly scrutinized—by the fans and the media—for sticking with Cutler instead of promoting back-up quarterback Matt Moore to the starting role. Everyone is also well aware how that entire conversation quickly dissipated, and Gase came out of the whole thing looking like a genius.
That said, even with Tannehill set to return as the first-stringer next season, there are some concerns regarding a Fins offense that finished ranked 28th in points scored, 25th in total yards, 18th in passing yards and, most importantly, 29th in rushing yards per game.
Dolphins Needs And Priorities For 2018
Defensively, there are some things to iron out, but most of the legwork will need to take place on the other side of the rock. Another running back as well as improved offensive play-calling have to be atop the list, not to mention resigning soon-to-be free agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Unfortunately, many observers believe that “Juice”—specially given Gase’s reputation for nonsense—may have sealed his fate by getting tossed in the fourth quarter of the season finale against Buffalo.
“I regret I put my teammates in a bad spot and I put myself in a bad spot,” Landry said regarding the incident. “But, again, I do have a career to protect. If somebody tries to jeopardize that, I have the right to defend myself, too.”
Dolphins Nation certainly hopes cooler heads will prevail as, quite frankly, there aren’t too many wideouts capable of producing the type of numbers the former LSU standout tallied this season.
Even with a bad offensive line, poor play-calling and a quarterback that left a lot to be desired, Landry was an elite receiver. He finished No. 1 in the NFL with a career-best 112 receptions; his 9 touchdowns (also a career-high) are tied for fourth-best in the league; his ball-security was second-highest (4 fumbles, 2 lost); and he was the seventh-best receiver with 60 catches for first downs.
“I want to be a Dolphin,” said Landry, who’s slated to become a free agent in March. “I want to be here. If not, I’ll find a way to be successful also.”
Residing in the AFC East means that the likelihood of beating out New England for a division crown next year is highly unlikely. That said, much like they proved last season, the Dolphins could contend for a Wild Card spot (just ask the Buffalo Bills), even in the AFC East.
Keeping Gase and the front office intact certainly seems like a no-brainer, particularly due to the lack of options at the head coaching position. Because Gase is an offensive-minded coach, there’s hope he will make the necessary adjustments to get back into the postseason.
However, knowing when to delegate is going to be part of the process in order to turn things around. Discipline was a huge problem for this team, as they just could not find a way to reduce the unsightly amount of flags.