You know the wonders we all wanted rookie head coach Adam Gase to work last year with Ryan Tannehill, the promising quarterback with several levels of development still to come?
Well, Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in the NFL, is making it happen with Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams.
Of course, any player who goes No. 1 overall in the NFL draft is supposed to succeed. The thing is that Goff didn’t succeed as a rookie in 2016. He rode the bench for the first nine games, even though the Rams weren’t going anywhere. Was he still not ready? Was he just not as good as advertised?
There were no good answers to those questions even after former Rams coach Jeff Fisher finally decided to give the kid a start. That day is memorable only because it featured the Rams against Miami and was part of the Dolphins’ six-game win streak on the way to a playoff berth.
Still not all that memorable? OK, the details are these. Miami scored a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns to get out of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a 14-10 victory. Both of those scores came on Tannehill passes, and the winner came with 36 seconds remaining at the end of a rapid 75-yard drive.
Goff, meanwhile, was not particularly dangerous, completing 17 of 31 passes for 134 yards with nothing longer than 21 yards and a total of just 12 first downs for the Rams. Tannehill looked like a veteran quarterback, in other words, and Goff looked like a pup. Overall Goff lost all seven of his starts to close out the season and his lack of development was one of the reasons that Fisher got fired.
Enter McVay, who fired up Kirk Cousins’ stats while working as the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator and got the Rams’ top job at the age of 31.
All of a sudden the Rams are 8-3 and Goff has a quarterback rating of 98.6 that ranks eighth in the league, ahead of Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan. Goff has 18 touchdowns and five interceptions and is playing every bit like a first-round quarterback should play.
Tannehill had a good year in his first season with Gase, too, but the numbers (93.5 rating, 19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) aren’t quite as sharp and it must be considered that 2016 was his fifth year in the league. In theory, Tannehill should have been more ready for a breakout season than Goff, who skipped his senior year at California and is barely 23.
All of this adds to the perception that Gase no longer is the fresh flavor of the month in NFL coaching. Far from it.
Losing Tannehill for the season in August was beyond Gase’s control, of course, but absolutely everything else about the Dolphins offense has gone wrong, too. If it were Tannehill at quarterback and not Jay Cutler or Matt Moore, it figures the story wouldn’t be much better.
Not saying that Gase is a lousy coach or that his stay in Miami will be short, but clearly his ability to make the Dolphins into a Super Bowl contender on offensive ingenuity and a gigantic reserve of self-confidence no longer sells around here.
There always will be hot new coaches. What’s needed in Miami is a system that consistently works, even when the flame begins to die down.
Fair or not, it’s difficult to say right now that Gase would get the same out of a guy like Goff that McVay is getting. As the weeks go by and the losses pile up, Gase is looking more and more like a coach who is discovering how tough this job really is, and one who isn’t quite sure what to do about it.
Add it to the big bucket of confusion about the 2017 Dolphins. That bucket looks even deeper when a team like the Rams, 4-12 last year, begins to come on strong.
Last question, and it really stings. If the Dolphins wind up with a high 2018 draft pick and decide to go for a quarterback, would Gase be able to make that pay off? You want to say yes, but everything about this franchise is beginning to feel like a wish again.