The NFL owners meetings are this week in Arizona, a series of meetings that included votes to approve the relocation of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas for the 2020 season and a few rule changes that will begin for the 2017 season. The owners meeting also includes a gathering of the front offices and coaches from all around the league, and it gives us, as fans, a chance to hear from some of the members of the franchise during the middle of the offseason.
On Tuesday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, had a chance to sit down with Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase for about 10 minutes, discussing Gase’s first year as a head coach, the importance of keeping wide receiver Kenny Stills, and Gase’s expectations for quarterback Ryan Tannehill in 2017.
“I think the biggest thing I had to learn was managing my time. It was one of those things you are really not prepared for, everybody tells you about it,” Gase told Florio. “I know (Chicago Bears head coach John) Fox tried to warn me about it over the last two, three seasons, about being able to handle doing offense, working with the defense, special teams, but then, dealing with everything you have to deal with, your front office, with your building, and making sure that you allot yourself enough time to be able to get your work done. It’s one of those things you have to learn on the go.”
Gase served as the offensive coordinator for Fox in 2015 with the Chicago Bears and in 2013 and 2014 with the Denver Broncos. He was also the quarterbacks coach under Fox with the Broncos in 2011 and 2012.
“For me, I think, I lean a lot on (Dolphins Executive Vice President for Football Operations) Mike Tannenbaum and (Dolphins General Manager) Chris Grier,” Gase said of people he has talked to during his first season as the top coach for an NFL team. “It’s hard to talk to too many guys around the league, because a lot of the time when you have those questions and have been involved in certain situations, it is hard to call someone from an opposing team. I think I have had a few conversations with some guys that I respect and that I have become close with over the years, (Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien) being one of them, someone I could always reach out to if I had a question about anything, (Atlanta Falcons head coach) Dan Quinn. There are some guys out there that you feel good about being able to talk about almost anything with.”
Gase was asked about his ability to control his competitiveness when he is in interviews and in front of the media, replying, “I think there is some smoke-and-mirrors there. I feel like, me personally, I’m always trying to win at whatever we are doing at the time, whether it be free agency, the Draft, a discussion about a certain player, you are always trying to win. But, at the end of the day, you are trying to make the right decisions as well, when we are working through things in the front office. I think there’s a competitive nature that everyone has, and that’s why you are in this profession. You enjoy every aspect that you are involved in.”
Florio then turned the conversation to quarterbacks, first looking in general at how a team does find their “franchise” quarterback. He then looked more specifically at the Dolphins and Tannehill.
“The evaluation process is very difficult,” Gase answered when asked why it is so tough for teams to find quarterbacks and to get the most out of them. “The difference between college and the pro-game is tough. That’s why you see guys that have been in some form of the pro-offense, that’s why a lot of pro coaches gravitate toward those guys and you hear those guys being talked about a little more, because there is less of a transition. Trying to figure out how to use some of the spread guys, and trying to figure out what they can do and what they know, how they are diagnosing defenses, how many plays they run, how big is their playbook. It is tough to translate, and really, unless you get your hands on a guy and you are meeting with him enough and you spend a spring training camp, and, really, time in general, that’s how you figure a guy out. The problem is, you have a month to figure that out before you draft a guy, and then you really have to hope you are right on that guy’s personality and what the information is that you gathered on the guy.”
Florio then asked why there seems to be so many people outside of the organization who do not believe the coach and the team are completely sold on Tannehill as the club’s quarterback, “That’s hard for me to answer because I know what [the situation] is in the building, our team knows what it is, and Ryan absolutely knows what it is. We are going to continue to try to make our team better, with him leading the charge as our starting quarterback.”
Tannehill, who missed the team’s final three games of the regular season along with the Wildcard playoff game after spraining his left ACL and MCL, finished the 2017 season with career highs in completion percentage, passer rating, and yards-per-attempt average. He threw for 2,995 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, giving him a 67.1 percent completion rate at 7.7 yards per attempt, with a 93.5 passer rating.
“I think his communication skills with his teammates,” Gase explained of how Tannehill grew the most last season. “I thought he did a great job of explaining to guys why he needed them to be in certain spots and why he was doing certain things. When we meet, we meet as a group on offense, and he did a lot of things on his own, whether it be him and (center Mike) Pouncey, when he was rolling and was able to play, they were having their own meetings with going over blitzes and protections with the entire offense. He is taking control of a lot of the things that we have been doing on offense.”
Asked about any concerns he may have with Tannehill’s knee moving forward, Gase responded, “It’s just one of those things. It happened, he worked hard to recover from it. We were in a good position where we felt like, if we would have moved to the next round in the playoffs, there was a possibility that he could have played. After the season was over, we were able to make sure he went through all the right protocols. I know he did a lot of independent research for himself, asked a lot of great questions, asked a lot of doctors great questions, and everything came back to where there was no surgery needed, it was all about strengthening him up and get him back out there. Get him back with bodies around him and just seeing how he reacts when he has to do something instinctive.”
Florio then asked what Gase wants to see from Tannehill in 2017. “I think it’s just going to be more aggressive,” Gase replied. “I really want him to be feel comfortable that his decision is going to be right. If he feels like something is not really happening the way he wants, to escape from the pocket and not hesitate and worry about, ‘Did I miss something?’ He’s a perfectionist, so he wants to be able to stand back there and go through his progression, and basically go one to two to his checkdown. Sometimes guys that have athletic ability, that can run, want to prove they can be a great pocket passer and all I care about is getting a first down and scoring points. However he does it, that’s all I care about.”
Turning to Miami re-signing wide receiver Kenny Stills this offseason, keeping the team’s leader in touchdown receptions from last year, Gase discussed how he views the move both from the team and from Stills himself. “I thought it was very important,” Gase said. “I thought it was a big statement by Kenny staying with us, because I am sure he would probably have had a couple of offers out there that were a little more money, but by him staying there, he might have set the tempo for our program by saying, ‘This is a place you want to be. This is the kind of place you want to develop your career.’ He did it right last year, he did everything that he needed to do to put himself in that position. He earned every dollar that he got paid this season coming up, down the road for us. We are very appreciative of the fact that we have another chance to coach him for four more years.”
Gase was then asked for his thoughts on the Dolphins having a “measuring stick” in the division with their rivals and the current Super Bowl champion, New England Patriots. “I look at it like it is a great opportunity for us, because we get to play against the best twice a year. We know exactly where we measure up when we play those guys. The last two times we played them, we haven’t played well. They’ve jumped out on us and handled us pretty good, so that’s, basically, every guy in our locker room knows we have a long ways to go. We have to do a better job this year, and we have to prepare better, and we have to work hard in the spring and in training camp. We know there’s a measuring stick in our division.”
Florio asked when Gase would like to see the Dolphins face the Patriots this year, whether it would be immediately out of the gate on a Thursday Night to open the season, or if he would like to maybe get a couple of weeks into the season before New England is on the calendar. “I know we are going to play them early, and we are going to play them late,” Gase replied. “Whatever the schedule is, it is. For coaches and players, it is basically a one-week season every week. Just whoever they put in front of you, you just do everything you can to win that game.”