For all of his success as the NFL’s winningest coach, Don Shula’s overall record in the playoffs was barely above .500 at 19-17, and that’s with Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese and Dan Marino at quarterback for most of those games.
Jimmy Johnson, meanwhile, was 2-3 in the postseason in his time as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, with a 62-7 blowout loss at Jacksonville to kick him out the door.
What we’re trying to say here, and what every Dolphins fan should understand, is that the playoffs are an exceedingly cruel and unpredictable environment, and that goes for everybody.
Adam Gase will try to communicate that to the Dolphins this week as they prepare to face Pittsburgh in Miami’s first playoff game since 2008. Some things, however, just have to be experienced to be believed.
“It’s another level,” Gase said Monday. “They’ll know it. They’ll know it when they hit the field. Trust me. “
How could a rookie head coach be so sure? Consider how much Gase already has seen in his NFL career.
A playoff win in overtime with Tim Tebow, back when Gase was the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach.
Two sudden dead ends when Peyton Manning was quarterbacking the Broncos but they lost their opening playoff game just the same.
Or how about 2013, the first of two seasons for Gase directly collaborating with Peyton on play-calling? Denver rolled all the way to the Super Bowl that year with the league’s No. 1 offense in all the big categories only to get smashed 43-8 by Seattle.
Put it all together, counting Gase’s time as an assistant in Detroit, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago, and he has been a part of three postseason wins in seven tries. Those were good teams, and sometimes even great, or they wouldn’t have been in the playoffs in the first place. Still, it can get ugly in a hurry.
On the other sideline Sunday at Heinz Field will be Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. He’s taken Pittsburgh to a couple of Super Bowls, sure, and won one at the age of 36, but overall Tomlin is 6-5 in postseason games. What’s more, half of his playoff teams have lost their opening game.
It’s another level, all right, and with confidence levels rising and falling with each crucial snap. No reason Miami should be counted out of anything, whether there’s a ton of playoff experience on the roster or not.