Over the franchise's storied history, the Miami Dolphins have had many head coaches who have spanned all levels of the success spectrum. At one end sits one of the best head coaches to ever grace the gridiron in Hall of Famer Don Shula. At the other end is a cavalcade of coaches who, combined with errors in the player personnel department, left the team stuck in the depths of mediocrity. Joe Philbin, Tony Sparano, Cam Cameron, and University of Alabama legend Nick Saban are the most recent of examples of failed leaders in sunny South Florida.
However, a recent gem of a hiring may finally be turning the tides for Miami’s football team. The Adam Gase era is here, and it may be bringing with it the next great head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
There are numerous outside factors that determine the success of a head coach. The patience of a team’s ownership, the ability, intelligence, and foresight of the front office, and the talent level that a team’s players display on the field are just a few of those factors. That being said, any given head coach must ultimately take responsibility for his team’s successes and failures. After all, he’s the leader, and the calls are his to make.
While each successful coach may have his own style and way of going about daily operations, there are universal traits that are vital for success, as well as actions that can be determining factors of the outcome of a team’s future. Luckily for Dolphins fans, it appears that Gase has the makings of a successful head coach, and it seems as though he’s making all the right moves.
Earning the respect and admiration of one’s players is paramount in being able to successfully lead a team. That’s something that Adam Gase has very quickly been able to accomplish since coming into power in Miami.
In fact, I recently got the opportunity to conduct a one-on-one interview with one of the players who’s built a strong connection with Gase, Jarvis Landry. I asked Landry what makes Adam Gase different from other coaches he’s played with, as well as what allows Miami’s players to become so close to him. His answer perfectly exemplifies how Gase has become what many like to call a “player’s coach.”
“Just his mindset. He’s a winner… Just his approach to every detail, every game. The way that he thinks about things [and] the way that he motivates us allows us to be free, not robots like a lot of other coaches [do],” Landry said.
Landry’s answer makes complete sense, and is something that most of us should be able to relate to. Think about all of the teachers, professors, or bosses that you’ve had over your lifetime, and then single out the ones who have been easiest to learn from or work with. What you should find is that those who have been your favorites are those who you have built the best relationships with. The kind of boss that allows for some leniency and freedom, and who understands the needs of his workers are the ones who often are able to obtain the best results. Gase knows that no two players are the same. If he wants to get the best out of each one, he has to work around each player’s strengths and weaknesses to best fit a given player into his place in the system. Players are not robots, just as Landry explained.
Then again, while it’s important for students to have a good relationship with their teacher, for workers to have a good relationship with their boss, and for players to have a good relationship with their coach, there’s a line that must be drawn. Gase has drawn that line very clearly. No player on the Dolphins is free to simply do as he pleases, especially if results are no longer yielded. Last season, Byron Maxwell, one of the highest paid players on the team, and someone who the Dolphins gave up valuable trade compensation for, was benched due to poor performance.
As I noted in an article a few weeks ago, Gase has built a strong culture in Miami, one that enforces the idea that no player, no matter who they are, is entitled to anything. Success must be earned, it’s not given.
This sort of thinking is very important to engrain in the minds of players to achieve the highest levels of productivity. If everyone on the team understands that the only way to ensure their place on the team is to yield positive results, they will work their hardest to attain them. It’s a way of running a team that the most successful franchise of the past two decades has implemented. Bill Belichick's New England Patriots have churned through players at an unprecedented rate, keeping only the ones who buy into his system. If someone refuses to buy in, they’re gone, no questions asked. By this design, every player is forced to work their absolute hardest in every scenario, thereby forcing every player to reach their full potential. Let’s not kid ourselves, this system works, and it’s the kind of atmosphere that Gase is instilling in his players.
We can already see it paying off too. No one thought the Dolphins had a chance to make the playoffs last season, especially after a 1-4 start. But when Gase’s new culture had a chance to settle in, a roster that was by no means ready for playoff contention played to its highest potential, and the 10-6 results speak for themselves.
Now I’ll pump the brakes a bit and admit that Gase has only been around for one season. He still has to be tested in different situations with new players. I am by no means making a direct comparison between him and arguably the most revolutionary and successful coach of all-time.
However, what I am saying is that Gase has exemplified an aptitude for the commander-in-chief position down in Miami. He clearly has what it takes to be successful in this league. That much is not up for debate.
There’s one more very important aspect of being a successful head coach, and Jarvis Landry hit the nail on the head… winning. The greatest coaches simply have a knack for winning. From Shula, Belichick, and Vince Lombardi to Scotty Bowman, Pat Summitt, and Pat Riley, they all have had this intangible and inexplicable ability to win, no matter the circumstance. Landry said that Gase is that kind of guy. “He’s a winner.” Only time will tell if Gase can continue to prove Landry right.