Adam Gase’s Twelve Steps to Rehabilitating the Dolphins: Step 1

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The Miami Dolphins are hoping that Adam Gase can make the team into a playoff contender. The road to get there is not a matter of one big step but instead a series of smaller ones.

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Adam Gase has every intention of turning the Miami Dolphins into a playoff team in 2016, but how he will go about doing that may surprise most fans.

Step 1 – Restoring balance to Miami’s Force.

If you ask the most optimistic Miami Dolphins fans what Ryan Tannehill’s 2016 season might look like, some will undoubtedly insist that now, finally free from the sub-par coaches that have hindered his development, the young Texan will rack up numbers in the neighborhood of 36 touchdowns and 4500 yards through the air. While this scenario is, of course, possible, the truth is, it isn’t likely. Now, that isn’t to suggest that Tannehill and the Dolphins can’t have a successful season. It just won’t come in the way most foresee.

The notion that Tannehill’s numbers will suddenly soar into the stratosphere, while misguided, is understandable. After all, when Miami fans hear the name Adam Gase, most can’t help but think back to his success as the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, and that team’s record setting 2013 campaign, which saw that unit score more touchdowns and more points than any team in history. Regardless, a closer look at Gase’s career reveals a man with a far more nuanced approach than the typical “bombs away” offensive scheme many envision.

Sure, it’s fun to fantasize about Gase unleashing Ryan Tannehill’s inner gunslinger, as he did with Manning, but, in reality, he is far more likely to cut back on the number of passes Miami attempts per game, as he did with Jay Cutler in Chicago last season…..and he would be right to do so.

As the chart below details, one of the biggest issues Miami’s offense has dealt with over the past few years has been an extreme imbalance between the pass and run.
















This over-dependence on the pass, when combined with former head coach Joe Philbin’s refusal to allow Tannehill to audible, and the team’s notoriously porous offensive line, became a near perfect recipe for disaster. This was particularly true in the second half of games, when Miami all but abandoned the run. Defenses, of course, simply ratcheted up the pressure, scoring what seemed like sack after sack at the most crucial moments of games, or when Miami was deep in their own territory. This crippling predictability was highlighted by the fact that the Dolphins gave up safeties in three consecutive games last season, a feat that had not occurred in the NFL since 1980.

Needless to say, Gase is not eager to see this kind of history repeat itself. Fortunately for Dolphins fans, there is nothing in his coaching past to suggest it will, because, while Gase allowed Manning to throw the ball a whopping 59.4% of the time in 2013, his offensive game plans have grown more balanced with each passing year, as evidenced by the stats below.

Team and Season



2013 Denver Broncos



2014 Denver Broncos



2015 Chicago Bears



Some might argue that this evolution towards a balanced attack is more of a reflection on Jay Cutler’s limitations as a quarterback than on Gase’s overall mindset as a strategist. However, Miami’s rookie head coach made clear how important balance was to his offensive scheme as far back as 2014, while still coaching Manning.

“When you get too many third-and-10s, that’s when it gets difficult,” he stated to, before going on to explain why even short gains on the ground are important. “The good thing is when we do have two or three yards per carry, the next play, whether it be a run or a pass, we are making sure we stay out of those third a long situations.”

“The good thing is when we do have two or three yards per carry, the next play, whether it be a run or a pass, we are making sure we stay out of those third a long situations.”

In fact, Cutler, himself, was already aware of the benefits of Gase’s balanced approach prior to the start of the 2015 season, before the two began working together.

"“(Gase) does a really good job of putting you in the right position, keeping the defense off balance, mixing up the play calls, and that makes it easier on the quarterback,” insisted Cutler, according to the Sports Exchange."

Further evidence of Gase’s ardent commitment to a balanced attack is the fact that, even though Cutler enjoyed his finest season last year, the Bears went from 27th in the league in yards rushed in 2014, to 11th in 2015, and did so despite their star running back, Matt Forte, missing three games.

Perhaps, of most importance to Dolphins fans is the fact that Chicago often stuck with the running game even when playing from behind. As such, there is little chance of the 2016 Dolphins suffering a repeat of what occurred during the team’s embarrassing 38-20 loss to the New York Jets in late November of last season. In that game, Miami rushed for a lowly 13 yards on 9 attempts while forcing Tannehill to throw the ball 58 times.

While the NFL is a passing league, it is, nevertheless, difficult to imagine winning any game with a pass to run imbalance of 85.5% to 14.5%, as unfolded that night. Sure, Tannehill threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns against the Jets, but those numbers were highly deceiving. As Gase, or any competent coach would point out, he was also sacked three times, threw an interception, was under pressure the entire game, and averaged a mere 6.1 yards per pass. In other words, in the end, the Dolphins’ predictability and over-dependence on the pass proved a highly inefficient strategy against the Jets.

So, what does this all tell us about what we can expect from the 2016 Miami Dolphins? Well, as Cutler argued, Gase’s insistence on a balanced attack is designed to make life easier on his quarterbacks, and it is through that more efficient approach, and not more pass attempts, that Tannehill and the Dolphins’ offense will truly benefit from Gase’s tutelage.

That said, as we shall see in the next segment of this series, Step 2: How Less Jarvis Landry Will Translate Into Greater Success For The Dolphins, in Miami’s case, ultimate efficiency will require achieving an effective balance that goes far beyond simple harmony between the running and passing games.