Of course, we’re just getting to know new Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase. There are some good signs, though, that his conversation with players will be more open and comfortable than it was for Joe Philbin.
Joe’s personality is his own, with a New Englander’s dry wit just below the surface. As Dolphins coach, he strived to keep his players focused on the job at hand, each drill, each walk-through, each play in each game. Not a bad idea, but there was a disconnect between Philbin and his team leaders, as proven in the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying flap.
Also, Philbin worked hard to loosen up and bond with his team but it sometimes came off as just another task to be checked off the weekly list. A wacky dance to get guys giggling at a coaches’ talent show, a sardonic comment to break the tension in a team meeting, and then right back to stoic, stone-faced Joe.
Clearly, it didn’t come all that naturally, and Philbin even said at the beginning of mini-camp in 2014 that he was going to work harder on communication with players as part of learning how to be the best head coach possible.
“I think you see a more relaxed coach Philbin than I’ve ever seen before – a guy who is willing to listen to the players, listen to suggestions and put them into action,” Ryan Tannehill said at the time. “Last year and the year before, some suggestions got shot down pretty quickly. Now, he’s hearing us out.”
Great, but by then more than half of Philbin’s three-and-a-quarter seasons as coach were already gone.
Gase, too, is a first-time NFL head coach with plenty to learn about particular facets of his job that probably haven’t even occurred to him yet. Getting to know his players, however, does not seem to be a problem, and neither does showing a level of enthusiasm that will help to motivate them.
Speaking at the NFL’s annual meetings in Boca Raton, Gase sounded like he’s already made himself at home at the Dolphins’ training facility, and is getting players comfortable with having him around. That takes a little extra work during a period in the NFL calendar when coaches and players aren’t supposed to be doing much more than bumping into each other in the hallway.
“That’s the hardest part right now about where we are at in the dead period,” Gase said. “You can’t talk football. The thing you can do is you can at least, if you see a guy in the building, you can have a conversation just about general topics. You avoid any kind of football conversation but just kind of get to learn these guys as people.
“ ‘Hey, what do they like to do? What are they about? What kind of guy are they?’ So, that’s really what, at least, I try to do is try to learn these guys, which is a first step in developing a good relationship with our players. That’s the nice thing about being in Miami is we have a lot of guys that don’t leave. They stay here. I think it’s good to know that our guys are at least in the area.”
One of the guys who doesn’t live here year-round is the uncommonly reserved Ndamukong Suh, but there are signs that he and Gase are making important connections, too.
“He (Suh) has been in multiple times to just come in and talk to me,” Gase said. “I mean, you can’t talk football. He just kind of talks to me about what he’s kind of up to during the spring. To see him be around the building and to pop in and out, I know he’s on the West Coast a lot and it’s a long flight for him. I’ve enjoyed my interaction with him so I’m excited to see him practice.”
That comes later, but the progress Gase already is making in figuring out what makes his players tick may eventually turn out to be just as important.