The Miami Dolphins have a playoff appearance and at least 10 wins to go along with their first year head coach, Adam Gase. With the season winding down, talk is turning to Coach of the Year candidates and Gase is in the thick of it.
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The Dolphins are not getting much attention in the media as it relates to their playoff berth but their head coach has turned heads. Adam Gase took a team that is mostly composed of the same players from a season ago and increased their total win count by four in 2016.
Gase is proving that he can deliver as a head coach. The players respect him and love playing for him. Where Joe Philbin earned the respect of his team by how “nice” he was, Gase has earned the respect of his players for being brutally honest.
The question now becomes whether or not Gase has done enough to convince the voters that he deserves the COTY award. On the surface the answer is yes but it’s not that easy. And frankly, I don’t think Gase really cares one way or the other.
The top coach of the year candidates thus far are Bill Belichick who has taken the Patriots to a current 13-2 record. This without Tom Brady for four games and Jimmy Garropolo for two games. In Oakland, Jack Del Rio has led the Raiders to at least a 12 win season after a 7-9 2015 season. The Raiders can still win home field advantage.
In Dallas there is talk that Jason Garrett will get the nod. The Cowboys are the number one seed in the NFC and have done it with a rookie quarterback. Then there is Dan Quinn in Atlanta and Ben McAdoo with the Giants and Andy Reid in Kansas City.
Then there is Adam Gase. Everyone would love to see Gase get the nod but it will take more than 10 wins and it will take more than just a playoff game. The problem for Gase is that the Dolphins haven’t really beaten anyone of any significance. The Jets, Bills, Cardinals, Browns, 49’ers, Chargers, Rams, and finally the only winning team among the bunch, the Steelers.
In almost all of those games the Dolphins almost lost. Some on a miracle tackle with time running out and others because an opposing kicker missed a field goal. Wins nonetheless but hardly COTY worthy.
But there is far more to this than who the Dolphins have beaten. And it’s for those reasons that Adam Gase’s name should be at or near the top of any post-season award discussions. See Adam Gase did this with a team of nobody’s.
Everyone knows Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake but does anyone know Tony Lippett or Isa Abdul-Quddus? Does anyone know Jermon Bushrod or Kenyan Drake? What about Dion Sims and Neville Hewitt?
Gase inherited a bad team and the Dolphins opted to not overspend in free agency. Gase has turned the culture around in Miami. He has made lemonade out of lemons. He has won with a starting quarterback who many believed should be no more than a back-up and then when the team faced it’s two most critical games of the season, he won with that “back-up’s” back-up.
Adam Gase won while losing both of his starting outside linebackers for most if not all of the season. He won while losing both his starting center for all but five games and his back-up center. He won without his starting rookie cornerback, a converted wide-receiver as his starting cornerback, he won with back-up linebackers, back-up safeties after losing his Pro-Bowl safety early in the year. He won while missing Pro-Bowl left tackle Branden Albert for a few games and his number draft pick Laremy Tunsil for a couple of games.
The media is making a mountain of the Raiders losing starting quarterback Derek Carr but Miami has been losing key players all year, including their quarterback.
Adam Gase also changed himself. A self-professed pass happy offensive coach, Gase recognized early that his team was better suited for running the football and maintain a far more balanced attack on offense. He began utilizing the players talents instead of expecting them to mold to his desires. After starting the season 1-4, Adam Gase convinced a team that had been used to losing for a decade and a half, that they could win. And they did just that.
While Dolphins fans would love to see Gase’s name mentioned as this years COTY it really means little in the overall future of the franchise. In 2008 Tony Sparano’s name was the hot topic heading into the season ending awards talk.
In that season, Sparano turned around the Dolphins from a 1-15 team to an 11 game winner and division winner in the AFC East. Yet when the votes came in, it was fellow first time rookie head coach Mike Smith of the Falcons that took home the honor. The point? Both coaches are no longer head coaches in the NFL.
The Dolphins finally have what appears to be a very good head coach and it doesn’t matter if he is the COTY in 2016 or not. It would be far more impressive if he is the COTY in 2018 or 2019 for the Miami Dolphins. It would show stability and continuity in winning.
No matter how the votes go later when they actually vote, Adam Gase has won more than a simple award. He has won over a downtrodden fan base and more important than that, he was won over his own players. Players who until this year didn’t know Miami could actually win.