Adam Gase, still looking for his first win, isn’t doing too well in comparison to the other first-time NFL head coaches in the class of 2016.
Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles and Ben McAdoo of the New York Giants are each 2-0, making thing look fairly easy. Dirk Koetter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is 1-1, with a 40-7 loss at Arizona last week weighing him down.
Back in July I wrote a blog surmising that Gase had the toughest road among these four in establishing himself right away with winning credentials. That was based largely on being made to open the season at Seattle and New England, an especially cruel welcome to the job.
Now, though, it is time for Gase to win a game, to make that happy locker-room speech, to validate Stephen Ross’ decision to turn his team over to a guy with no head-coaching experience at any level.
Enter the Cleveland Browns, who also are winless and equally desperate with rookie Cody Kessler as their emergency starter at quarterback. In fact, you have to do a little digging to find a September Dolphins game as desperate as Sunday’s will be to both teams.
Only three previous times in franchise history has an 0-2 Miami team been matched against an 0-2 opponent.
In 1988 Don Shula’s Dolphins beat Green Bay 24-17 and went on to finish 6-10. That was one of only two losing records the Hall of Fame coach ever recorded.
Nick started 0-2 as Miami coach in 2006 and squeaked out a 13-10 win over 0-2 Tennessee on a late Olindo Mare field goal. Again, the Dolphins were bound for a 6-10 finish.
The closest parallel to where Gase stands now, however, is the disastrous debut of Cam Cameron in 2007. It’s not fair to compare the two in any other way. Gase presents himself as much more suited to a long and successful career as an NFL head coach. Here, though, are the facts.
Cameron, a first-time head coach, started out with tough games against a couple of eventual playoff teams, the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. The first game was an overtime loss on the road, fairly encouraging overall. The second, a 37-20 loss to the Cowboys, featured some offensive spark by the Dolphins but a ton of wild and unpredictable mood swings, sort of like last week’s loss at New England.
Next came a match with the 0-2 New York Jets at Giants Stadium. Losing that one 31-28 really exhausted any enthusiasm that remained for Cameron and his sunny outlook on awakening the Dolphins. It took a 15-point rally by Miami to even make the game close, with an unsuccessful on-side kick with 1:15 remaining as the final tease.
That became the lasting theme, one sad loss after another until Cameron finally broke through with a December upset win over Baltimore. In overtime, of course.
This is the kind of attitudinal avalanche that Gase can’t afford, not because he is in the slightest danger of being a one-and-done Dolphins coach but because 2016 doesn’t need to be a training exercise alone.
Miami fans and Dolphins players want to feel like somebody else’s problem for a change. On top of that, getting the Browns at home is the closest thing to a respite that Gase is going to get.
Without a victory over Cleveland on Sunday, it gets pretty dismal around here, and it might stay that way for a while, especially with a Thursday night trip to Cincinnati coming right up next week.
Should be easy but it won’t be. The Browns are in the same rut. Everybody knows it’s win or go utterly sour now.