Maybe Adam Gase, 38, isn’t so young after all, based on a longer view of NFL history and some of the game’s most successful coaches.
We all know that Don Shula was 33 when he became the head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1963. That caused quite a stir, especially since he replaced Weeb Ewbank, 23 years his senior.
A few other quick promotions didn’t work out so well, with Lane Kiffin at the top of the list. He was 31 when hired to coach the Oakland Raiders. Raheem Morris and David Shula were both 32 when they were handed NFL teams. Their combined record adds up to 41-98.
Here, though, is proof that it’s always the right time to find the right guy, no matter what is printed on his birth certificate.
The following coaches worked their first seasons as NFL head coaches at the following ages.
33 – Don Shula, John Madden
35 – Jon Gruden, Mike Tomlin
36 – Tom Landry, Mike Shanahan, Hank Stram
37 – Chuck Noll
38 – Paul Brown
39 – Bill Belichick
40 – Bud Grant
41 – Joe Gibbs, Tony Dungy
42 – Bill Parcells
Of course, patience is a factor in letting young coaches grow into their roles.
Landry went 0-11-1 in his first season with the Dallas Cowboys and didn’t post a winning record until his seventh year.
Belichick and Noll needed four years to field their first winning teams.
Gruden won pretty quickly at Oakland but got fired anyway. Then he went to Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl.
Since Stephen Ross has a reputation for giving his head coaching hires more than enough time to turn the corner, Gase at least has a fighting chance.
Most interesting in relation to Gase’s rookie season with the Dolphins is the fact that only two of the big names listed above had any previous head coaching experience.
Parcells had one 3-8 season as coach of the Air Force Academy.
Grant won four Grey Cup titles as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before the Minnesota Vikings hired him, and he was 30 on the day he ran the show at his first CFL game.
Of course, it’s all up to Gase to show what he can do personally in this particular circumstance, but we probably won’t be focusing in on his age much longer.
Tony Sparano was 47 and Joe Philbin was 51 when they were hired to coach the Dolphins. Being older and supposedly wiser didn’t make champions of them.