Skolnick: Offensive guru, fix the offense
Adam Gase has a winning record as the Miami Dolphinse head coach.
This must be mentioned at the start, because it matters, or it should, in the context of the Dolphins' lost era.
Only four coaches in Dolphins history, other than Gase, have winning records. One of those, Todd Bowles, coached only five games. So it's really three.
Don Shula, the NFL's winningest coach of all-time, but who was pushed out at the end, blamed for failing to flank Dan Marino with enough assistance.
Jimmy Johnson, whose Dolphins tenure is largely forgotten now, other than producing four players (Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain) of whom the fans remain fond.
Dave Wannstedt, who went 42-31, but was widely deemed a failure by those frustrated he couldn't get to an AFC Championship game with that core four.
The late Tony Sparano, even after an 11-5 start.
Joe Philbin, known mostly for picking up papers and cutting leaders.
Cam Cameron, saved from eternal embarrassment by one Greg Camarillo mad dash.
Dan Campbell, for all his bluster and Oklahoma drills.
And yes, even the collegiate tyrant Nick Saban, who is still sharing revisionist history about his unsuccessful NFL stint, and how he really wanted Drew Brees.
So it's not for nothing that Gase is 19-18, which includes a playoff appearance and a bit of a mulligan, considering he spent his second season without his starting quarterback, though he did choose the lackadaisical replacement.
But when it turns in this town, it turns for good. And it has turned. The honeymoon is over. The blind trust is gone. It's not just that every player who leaves here tends to trash Gase, from Jay Ayayi to Jarvis Landry to Jordan Phillips; at some point, it can't just be pinned on a particular athlete being disgruntled and does start to speak to the man pacing the sidelines. It's more than that, though. It's that Gase is failing at the primary thing he was hired to craft and empower:
This time, historically bad. Comically bad. On the road, disgustingly bad.
It's bad with Ryan Tannehill, the quarterback Gase chose -- to the point that the Dolphins again avoided bringing in anything resembling competition, whether rookie or veteran. Instead, they signed Brock Osweiler, a flop the Texans paid the Browns (in high draft pick currency) to take off their hands.
It's bad even after an injection of speed on the outside, and the addition of a top receiving prospect at tight end.
It's bad even after Gase got rid of a player he didn't like -- Jay Ayaji -- in favor of a pro he could trust (Frank Gore), to split time with Kenyan Drake, who was used better Sunday but still not enough.
It's bad because the offensive line is still bad. And while any team would have a difficult time overcoming the loss of two starters -- with a third, Laremy Tunsil, going out during Sunday's loss -- the Dolphins chose to keep four quarterbacks at the start of the season rather than more offensive line depth. They don't have anyone to turn to.
And it's bad because he's calling plays.
I covered this in a patron commentary on the Five Reasons Sports Network on Saturday, prior to Sunday's debacle. Head coaches should not call plays. They neglect too much else. I made the same case when Cameron was hired, speaking to several of his mentors, including Al Saunders, all of whom advised against the dual role. Cameron, who didn't know me well yet, reached out by phone, and said he appreciated the article in the Sun-Sentinel, that it made him think. It didn't, however, stop him from calling the plays. A year later, Cameron was gone.
From that article:
> "I always felt when I became a head coach, that I wanted to turn that over," said Linehan, previously offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and Dolphins. "I knew I couldn't do it right away because it was a system where I had been calling plays 15 years, and it's hard to just get what you want."
> Now Linehan's St. Louis Rams were 4-6, coming off a shutout loss to Carolina.
> "I had hired a guy that I knew real well, and we had hit a lull, and I wanted him to concentrate on [calls] so I could work on managing the game while keeping an eye on how all three phases are playing," Linehan said. "Because when you call the plays as a head coach, you are a little bit removed from all that."
> So Linehan removed the play-calling responsibility from his list, and gave it to Greg Olson. The Rams won four of their final six, and Olson will start 2007 in that same role.
Cameron lost 15 of 16, as you recall.
And yet that offense, that pathetic offense quarterbacked by Trent Green (briefly), John Beck and Cleo Lemon.....
Was better than this one.
It was 26th in the NFL in points.
This one? 28th.
It was 28th in the NFL in yards.
This one? 30th.
The difference is that the 2007 defense was equally awful, while this one has been quite good in four of the five games.
And the fans are noticing.
These two polls are telling.
And this one:
The first poll had more than 1,500 total votes at the time of this posting. Gase had 2 percent of those votes.
That couldn't be right. So we took another. The second poll, the negative poll, had nearly 1,000 votes at the time of this posting.
Gase had nearly 60 percent of those votes. More than the other three coaches or managers combined.
Consider that for a second. Richt, the Hurricanes coach, has been pilloried for his play-calling; most of the credit for Saturday's 28-27 comeback win against Florida State has been given, correctly, to defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Mattingly? The Marlins manager doesn't have much to work with, but even those who grew up rooting for him (raising my hand) don't think he's great at pitching and lineup changes. And Spoelstra? He's a criminally underrated coach by many in this market, much more so than inside the NBA, where he is widely appreciated. But if you talk to players, they will say his primary weakness is his stubbornness inside games, and tendency to stay with something that's not working too long.
And he dominates Gase in those two polls.
Gase is last in both. By far.
So what does that mean? Well, it means this has turned. Emotion of a miserable Monday? Some of it, sure. But this is what Gase is here to do. At least Wannstedt and Johnson had good defenses, which was expected because they had defensive backgrounds. Gase came in as a quarterback whisperer, an offensive guru. And if he can't do that well, if he can't fix the unit which is supposedly his area of expertise, he won't be around much longer to put on those polls.
Because once you lose the fans, a winning record isn't enough.
For another take on Gase and Tannehill, read Craig Davis' column this morning:
Ethan J. Skolnick can be followed @EthanJSkolnick, and often @DolphinMaven & @5ReasonsSports