While the 10-1 Dallas Cowboys have the league’s best record, the Miami Dolphins have a more impressive run. If fans had to throw a name in the hat for coach of the year, Jason Garrett with two rookies leading the charge should be a top contender, right? While it’s no easy feat, a lot can be said about what’s going on in Miami.
Sure, Dallas is running away with their division. However, the Cowboys have already had the building blocks in place. It wasn’t too long ago the Cowboys had the league’s leading rusher and one of the best passing offenses in the league. Aside from Tony Romo’s injury last season, the Cowboys were 12-4 and another Romo injury away from a possible Super Bowl berth.
One could make a case for Adam Gase, who has the whole league taking notice. While a 6-4 record might not be a jaw-dropping turnaround Gase has the Dolphins playing like winners. It’s not often a first-time head coach with a first time defensive coordinator can turn things around in just one season.
Luckily for Dolphins fans, that’s exactly what Gase has done. Even if the Miami Dolphins can’t pull off a winning season, Gase seems to have changed the losing culture. How Miami is winning football games shows a lot of direction in where the team wants to be.
Gase had an uphill battle changing the team’s mindset. When he took the job he was challenged with finding a replacement for lead running back Lamar Miller, rebuilding an offensive line that struggled to find depth, reconstructing a defense that was close to dead last in most major categories, turning quarterback Ryan Tannehill into a focused and driven quarterback, develop young talent to build the future, and last but not least give fans hope. That’s a tough checklist to complete, but Gase is getting it done.
Will he be able to replace former running back, Lamar Miller? Even though his production has cooled a bit,, Jay Ajayi is the league’s 6th best rusher, 14 spots above his former teammate Lamar Miller. Ajayi is on pace for 1283 yards and 10 touchdowns. Even at his best Miller topped out at 1099 yards and eight touchdowns.
From here on out, Ajayi needs to average 49.2 yards per to account for Miller’s productivity. In letting Miller go, the Dolphins got a younger and cheaper and lost nothing. Check that off the list.
How will he rebuild the offensive line? Injuries aside, it’s quite impressive the offensive line has put together. Early in the season, Gase cut two linemen who started the week before. Message received. Since then the Dolphins are on a five-game win streak, have kept Tannehill upright and productive, and made holes for Ajayi to run the football.
Even with three starters out against the Rams, the Dolphins struggled but came together when it counts. In giving Tannehill enough time to pick apart a Rams defense, the line showed that even the backup are ready to win. Check that off too.
Can he fix a struggling defense? While at times it hasn’t been pretty the defense is getting it done. Newcomers like Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell have the Dolphins atop the league on 3rd down defense. The unit has also developed up-and-coming talents like Tony Lippett and Xavien Howard who, if developed properly, could be Miami’s best cornerback duo for years to come. Another domino down.
Can he fix 5th-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill? When Gase took the job, all eyes were on the quarterback. Tannehill never produced a winning season. He showed flashes of greatness only to stumble again. In his five-game win streak, Tannehill has spread the ball out to each of his receivers in different games. No longer does he key in on Jarvis Landry. Kenny Stills has been the recipient of plenty deep passes. Passes Tannehill supposedly can’t throw.
Jarvis Landry is still leading the team in yards, but Devante Parker is slowly catching up. If Landry can catch 40 passes in his last six games, he’ll hit the 100 catch mark yet again. Devante Parker finally appears healthy and is building on the sort of game-changing momentum Miami needs. Fans might point to Tannehill’s stats being down, but his win total is up for this time in the year. Find a way to win with Tannehill, check.
Winning season or not, Adam Gase has changed Dolphins fan’s mindset. For now, gone are the Sundays of “Here we go, again. Typical Dolphins football.” This Miami team has found ways to win. Even on special teams, the Miami Dolphins are the only team in the league to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown. Everybody plays a part. Everybody is hungry to win. The Dolphins aren’t the Dolphins of yesteryear. Adam Gase has them playing every minute of every down as a team that crosses the finish line. For the first time in years, players and fans alike believe this team can win. Gase is doing the impossible, and if that doesn’t scream Coach of the Year, nothing does.