Danny Amendola is latest Texas Tech tough guy to join Dolphins, following Zach Thomas and Wes Welker

Finally the Miami Dolphins have figured out a way to put the pinch on Tom Brady.

By signing Danny Amendola to a free-agent contract, the Dolphins deny Brady the use of one of his most reliable targets and a key member of the NFL’s top offensive unit.

Can’t call Amendola invaluable, of course. If Bill Belichick thought that term applied to

Former New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) makes a catch between Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Koa Misi (55) and Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Philip Wheeler (52) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 15, 2013. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

the slot receiver, New England would have outbid Miami for his services. Already, Amendola has taken some $10 million in paycuts the last three offseasons in order to stay with the Patriots.

Think, though, of the toughness Amendola brought to the Patriots’ huddle, and the leadership he will bring to Miami’s locker room. See if any of this fits the new “culture” that the Dolphins and coach Adam Gase want to build, albeit three years late.

Amendola signed with the Patriots just as Wes Welker was leaving them, a demonstration of his willingness to take on a big challenge.

He started only half of the Patriots’ 2017 games but had such a rapport with Brady that he was targeted more times (86) than anyone but Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski.

Amendola caught just two touchdown passes during the 2017 regular season, nothing dramatic, but then he caught two more in the fourth quarter of New England’s comeback win over Jacksonville in the AFC title game. Altogether, in 13 playoffs games with New England he caught six touchdown passes.

What’s more, according to the Boston Herald, Amendola kept on playing through a torn groin in 2013, knee and ankle injuries in 2015.

Not bad for a guy who went undrafted out of Texas Tech after playing there for Mike Leach, one of the most inventive coaches around.

Matter of fact, I’m going to suggest that the Dolphins look to Texas Tech more often in the talent searches of the draft and free agency.

That’s where linebacker Zach Thomas played his college ball on the way to a great Dolphins career that featured seven Pro Bowl selections.

And how about Welker, another Texas Tech star who the Dolphins didn’t really prize until he had left them and, in a New England uniform, transformed himself into the NFL’s leading receiver.

Jakeem Grant, 5-feet-7, is another little hardhead from Texas Tech. He and Amendola will be playing together now in Miami and maybe even sharing time in the slot position, unless Adam Gase decides he only needs one of them.

Will Brady be able to keep his offense moving without Amendola? Of course. He never slows down, no matter who is running the routes.

This addition of Amendola, however, will return to Ryan Tannehill some of the third-down certainty that was lost with the trade of Jarvis Landry to Cleveland for money reasons alone.

This may not work out so well if Amendola, 32, continues to have trouble with a bad knee that’s been bothering him the last few seasons. Can’t blame the Dolphins, though, for taking what Brady wants.

At least make the Patriots work a little harder on their way to the Super Bowl. At least make them do that.

[Not feeling confident about Gators, Canes and Noles in NCAA tourney]

[Justin Thomas’ climb to No. 2 in world gives Honda Classic another boost]

[Marlins’ inaugural spring training 25 years ago was a Space Coast blast]

 

Eagles could go from losers to Super Bowl champs in one year, but what about Miami?

How far are the Miami Dolphins from winning a Super Bowl?

It seems a ridiculous question coming off a 6-10 season, but there is a history of losing teams making the jump to NFL champion in the space of just one year.

New England did it in 2001. The Patriots were 5-11 the previous season and there was

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld, second from bottom, is followed by running back LeGarrette Blount, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and quarterback Nick Foles, as they arrive for the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in Minneapolis. Philadelphia is scheduled to face the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

nothing much to recommend them except that they never got shut out. Miami suffered that indignity twice in 2017, and it very nearly happened a third time.

The 1999 St. Louis Rams won a Super Bowl after going 4-12 the previous season and sticking Dick Vermeil with the worst record of his 15-year NFL coaching career.

San Francisco won it all in 1981, just one year removed from a 6-10 clunker that was similar in some ways to what the Dolphins are going through. Bill Walsh, for instance, was in his second year as an NFL head coach and he had no more luck igniting his creative offensive ideas with Steve DeBerg at quarterback than Adam Gase did with Jay Cutler.

So what happened to transform those losers into Super Bowl champs so quickly? Obviously there was improvement throughout the rosters, but the most glaring similarity was a significant upgrade at quarterback.

Tom Brady, Kurt Warner and Joe Montana all were first trusted to handle full-time starting roles in those breakthrough seasons. They got their teams through some tight spots and continued to do so for years thereafter.

So about those Dolphins. Can’t see Ryan Tannehill or even some first-round draft pick suddenly giving Gase all that he needs at quarterback. It’s not impossible, though.

The Philadelphia Eagles were 7-9 a year ago and it’s not impossible that they might become Super Bowl champs on Sunday, even with a supposed downgrade at quarterback.

[Mullen promises national title for Gators but doesn’t say when]

[Who knew Hoffman was bound for Hall of Fame when Marlins traded him?]

[Nothing left for LeBron to do but give player-coaching a try]

$10 million sure didn’t buy Dolphins much with Jay Cutler

 

It was a nice round number back in August when Jay Cutler signed for $10 million to provide the Miami Dolphins with one season of competent quarterbacking.

Easy to remember. Fairly easy to swallow, since it was Stephen Ross’ money and not ours, and since Ryan Tannehill shockingly was out of the season.

Also, $10 million in “special money” is what Jeffrey Loria spent for the one-year rental of Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez, a key figure in the old Florida Marlins’ 2003 World Series championship run. That worked out pretty well.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler on the sidelines in the first quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, December 31, 2017. (Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post)

Now that Miami’s 6-10 season has ended, however, there are many ways to show what a waste Cutler’s signing was in a league where journeyman quarterbacks play, and sometimes win, for so much less.

The Minnesota Vikings, for instance, earned a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs at 13-3. Their quarterback Case Keenum, signed in March to provide depth behind Sam Bradford, is working on a 2017 salary of $2 million.

Other quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs either because of injuries or because their team had no one else include Philadelphia’s Nick Foles ($1.6 million) the Rams’ Jared Goff ($6.4 million), Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles ($6.57 million), Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota ($6.6 million) and Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor ($9.7 million).

These numbers come from a Sports Illustrated report in August and are based on 2017 cap hits alone, not overall contract values.

So Cutler got a pretty good deal to come out of retirement at 34. And what did he give Miami in return? Pretty much what he’s given every other team that has started him.

In 14 starts Cutler had a quarterback rate of 80.8. That’s slightly below his career average of 85.3 but certainly in the ballpark. Jacoby Brissett, the tough Dwyer High School product who has started 17 games as an emergency quarterback in New England and Indianapolis, is a fair match for Cutler’s numbers in this category.

Cutler threw 14 interceptions for the Dolphins. His average was 16-plus over the seven previous seasons where he avoided missing major time due to injury.

By throwing 19 touchdowns in 2017 Cutler came in just under his average of 23 over those same seven seasons where he was mostly healthy.

Cutler averaged 190 passing yards per game in Miami. That’s 29th in the league and two spots ahead of Bears rookie Mitch Trubisky.

Overall, the Dolphins would have been better off with Tyrod Taylor, who always seems to beat the Dolphins and throws fewer picks. Buffalo’s got Taylor, however, and Buffalo is in the playoffs.

There are other ways to quantify how badly the Dolphins overpaid to get a quarterback that coach Adam Gase believed capable of saving the season, but here is the simplest way to state who Cutler is and who he’s always been.

With Miami Cutler was 6-8 as a starter. Over his career he is 74-79 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs.

Nothing worth writing home about, or writing a big check, either.

[Does anybody out there want a piece of UCF now?]

[Jeter missed memo on how fed up Marlins fans are with fire sales]

[It’s OK to start wondering again if Tiger will play Honda Classic]

A dream night for Jakeem, but not without the familiar frustrations

Jakeem Grant finally caught a touchdown pass on Monday night, the first of his NFL career, and people are still mad at him.

Because the guy is 5-feet-7 and 169 pounds, everything Jakeem ever does is going to be magnified, if that makes any sense. To me, it’s a wonder that he’s even in the league. Speed and elusiveness got him here as a specialty player, of course, but being so different means that he always is going to try a little too hard, too.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant catches a touchdown pass over New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler in the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 11, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

There was a play in Monday’s 27-20 upset of New England, for instance, where Jakeem decided not to return a punt but couldn’t keep himself from standing way too close to the bouncing ball as it settled to a rest. What was the point of that, when touching it would have made it a live ball? A New England player even took the opportunity to shove Grant toward the ball while everyone was just standing around and watching it on the ground.

Very poor instincts for a player who has returned 41 punts and 38 kickoffs in his career.

Two other spotlight moments from Monday night introduced a whole new category of exasperation for Jakeem the Dream.

The first was a spectacular leaping grab for a 25-yard touchdown over Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX for his interception at the goal line with 20 seconds remaining. Jay Cutler made the ball a 50-50 proposition and Jakeem hauled it in for a 20-10 Miami lead. Not only was it Grant’s first career touchdown catch, it was his fifth NFL reception period.

In the fourth quarter, however, Jakeem had everyone gasping, Miami and New England fans alike, with a dropped ball that could have gone for a game-clinching touchdown bomb. Cutler put the ball on Jakeem’s fingertips, just slightly beyond comfortable reach, but instead of a transformational, two-touchdown night it turned into a major downer. Grant, who had trouble with drops last year as a rookie, said in the locker room that he reached out his arms too soon instead of running through the ball and catching up to it more easily.

I tried to cut the kid a little slack on Monday night, tweeting that because the ball didn’t arrive in perfect stride and required a stretch on the dead run it should not be classified as a truly horrendous drop. Many of the responses to that opinion were similarly sympathetic, signaling that tons of people are pulling for Jakeem to succeed, but here is one that probably resonates with most of you.

“C’mon dude, an NFL player should make that catch!”

Bottom line, Jakeem made himself available by sprinting past Butler and into the clear but failed to finish the play. At that point of the game, with New England on the ropes, it was the one play that everybody would have gone home talking about on Monday night, not only as Cutler’s fourth touchdown pass but as a Mark Duper moment for Jakeem.

Credit Adam Gase with finding ways to utilize Grant in this game, even lining him up in the backfield a time or two. You’ve got to find things that Bill Belichick and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia haven’t planned for, and who game-plans for Jakeem?

I still wonder, however, if the former sixth-round draft pick will be on the Dolphins roster next season. Might as well keep using him as much as is practical in the final three regular-season games to explore all the possibilities.

One thing is for certain. With Jakeem Grant, a gadget player with the ongoing mission of becoming a reliable wide receiver, it will never be boring.

[It’s OK to start wondering again if Tiger Woods will play in Honda Classic]

[Bobby made FSU seem a dream destination but Jimbo? Not so much]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Schiano and Mullen]

Playoffs? Dolphins history says you just can’t get there from 5-7

The Miami Dolphins looked great against Denver last Sunday. Now all they have to do is play great enough to win the last four games of the regular season, including a Monday nighter against New England, and they’re, what, a remote playoff possibility?

Truth is, the reality of the situation is even tougher than that sounds.

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) enters the field during pre game introductions at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 3, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

No Miami team has ever gone from 5-7 to a playoff appearance. The only thing that comes close to that is 1995, Don Shula’s final season, when the Dolphins were 6-6 after 12 games and rallied to claim the AFC’s final wild-card spot at 9-7.

It was a struggle all the way, with Bernie Kosar starting a couple of midseason defeats at quarterback while Dan Marino was dealing with an injured hip. Three wins in the last four games earned a playoff spot, but the spark was quickly snuffed by a 37-22 loss at Buffalo in the opening playoff round.

The Bills led that one 37-0 through three quarters, which is a fair indication of how these things usually go when a flawed team barely reaches the playoffs and is matched against one of the league’s best. Today’s Dolphins, in comparison, have more flaws than the 1995 version, so it really is silly expecting anything spectacular to happen for them now.

Since 2000, no AFC team has qualified for the playoffs with fewer than nine wins.

One of the most disappointing memories in recent franchise history was the 2013 season, when Miami was almost there but ran out of gas.

Wins over Pittsburgh and New England raised hopes for those Dolphins, who improved to 8-6 in the process. Then came a 19-0 loss at Buffalo and a 20-7 loss at home to the New York Jets.

Kerplunk, Joe Philbin missed the playoffs by a game at 8-8. The only good news is that Ryan Tannehill somehow got through it in one piece after leading the league with 58 sacks.

Adam Gase’s 2017 Dolphins have demonstrated the same tendency to curl up into a ball for long stretches, getting shut out two times and very nearly a third. Until there is mathematical elimination, however, there will be talk of turning things around.

You understand how hollow that talk is, but I just wanted to highlight what the echoes of the past say about this.

When a team is 5-7 and there are so many other teams bunched just above, you can’t get there from here.

[Rams’ Sean McVay has overtaken Adam Gase as NFL’s Next Big Thing]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen]

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good situation who wants to be great]

Rams’ Sean McVay is NFL’s hot new flavor while Adam Gase has lost his savor

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.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff heads for the field during player introductions before the start of a game against the New Orleans Saints played at Los Angeles on November 26, 2017. (AP Photo/John Cordes)

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.

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen]

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good solution who wants to be great]

[Hurricanes finally brought out the beast in antiseptic Hard Rock Stadium]

 

 

If you have the courage, here’s where Monday night’s lifeless defensive effort ranks in Dolphins history

I lack the precision to work for the Elias Sports Bureau statistical search team, and then there’s the  personal flaw of occasionally getting up from my desk to eat or sleep.

You can trust me, however, when I say that Monday night’s defensive showing by the Miami Dolphins was historically bad.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) chases Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Carolina rolled up a franchise-record 548 yards in total offense in a 45-21 victory that Cam Newton didn’t even bother to finish. By hunting through a half century of Dolphins stats, I could find only seven games in which Miami allowed more yards, and three of those were in overtime.

Here’s the list of deadliest defensive efforts in Dolphins history.

622 yards allowed, 38-24 loss to New England in 2011

597 yards allowed, 38-34 loss to New York Jets in 1988

593 yards allowed, 31-28 loss to L.A. Rams in 1976

589 yards allowed, 34-31 OT loss to Buffalo in 2016

582 yards allowed, 35-31 loss to Buffalo in 1991

581 yards allowed, 51-45 OT loss to New York Jets in 1986

564 yards allowed, 41-38 playoff OT loss to San Diego to end 1981 season

548 yards allowed, 45-21 loss to Charlotte in 2017

Every game but Monday’s was a shootout, a competitive game, an NFL happening.

This loss to Carolina, the 21st-ranked offense in the league, was a dud from the start. Poor tackling, including several total whiffs. Lousy coverage of receivers, who actually helped Miami quite a bit with some wide-open drops. Poor positioning and sluggish response to practically everything the Panthers presented, and it’s worth noting that Carolina was limited to a single field goal by Chicago a few weeks back.

I covered a couple of the games on the list above and they rank among the most compelling assignments of my career. The overtime playoff loss to the Chargers at the old Orange Bowl. The 51-45 video-game affair at the Meadowlands in which Dan Marino passed for a career-high six touchdowns and lost.

Today’s Dolphins have no one on offense to balance out big numbers like these, but I don’t want to hear about Jay Cutler being a turnover machine or Adam Gase trading Jay Ajayi away or anything else.

When the Miami defense is disintegrating like this, allowing the two highest yardage totals of the season in consecutive weeks, there is nothing to say except that the entire team is kaput, and the season with it.

Feels strange to say something like that about a 4-5 team, especially when the Dolphins turned the 2016 season around so rapidly and so well after a 1-4 start, but it is so.

You can’t win much of anything in the NFL playing Pac-12 defense. Things will get better against Tampa Bay this Sunday but then comes New England and Kansas City and all the rest.

Prepare to see more entries to the franchise’s list of Top-10 defensive demolitions. Prepare for the moment when things like these are no longer shocking.

Once the Miami defense lays down, and it appears to have happened, there’s just no getting up for this team.

 

 

Sour recipe for Dolphins’ offense is one part passing, one part rushing and one very big part holding

Is it impossible to win a game while getting flagged 11 times for 107 penalty yards, the way the Miami Dolphins were on Sunday night?

No, the Miami Dolphins edged Arizona 26-23 last year despite being called for 14 penalties.

All those lost yards and all that lost momentum just make it tougher, however, to get anything

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

done, and the Dolphins offense, last in the league going into Sunday’s 27-24 loss to Oakland, doesn’t need anything to make life harder. What they need is better play on the offensive line, and better coaching in that room on the fundamentals of knocking other people around without knocking your own team backwards.

Here, in order, is a listing of the offensive penalties from Sunday night and how they tore great holes in whatever Jay Cutler was trying to build on a 34-of-42 passing night.

Illegal formation charged to Ju’Wan James: Wiped out a 14-yard gain and a third-down conversion on a catch by Jarvis Landry.

Holding on Mike Pouncey: Declined by Raiders because Miami was about to punt anyway.

Holding on Jermon Bushrod: Turned a second-and-10 into a first-and-20.

Holding on Jesse Davis: Wiped out an 8-yard run by Damien Williams that would have put Miami in a manageable third-and-2 situation.

False start by Jesse Davis: Came on the very next snap, turning a second-and-20 into something even worse.

Holding on Jarvis Landry: Wiped out a 30-yard gain to the Oakland 21-yard line on a swing pass to Damien Williams.

Holding on Mike Pouncey: Wiped out a first-down gain of 4 yards on a Kenyan Drake run.

Holding on Jermon Bushrod: Wiped out a fourth-and-9 conversion pass of 14 yards to Julius Thomas.

 

There were two other defensive penalties and a Terrence Fede holding call on a Miami kickoff return but the major problems are on offense, which is Adam Gase’s specialty area.

He’s the head coach who wants to shift into a more fast-tempo mode in his playcalling but is still trying to get his guys to do the basic stuff first. Gase talked last week about changing the way Miami practices and meets and slogs through walk-through sessions. He talked about finding a new way of teaching and of learning.

It’s clearly not working when every starting offensive lineman but Laremy Tunsil gets penalized in a close game that required crisp execution from start to finish.

Difficult to see the Dolphins topping .500 or Gase’s offense ever finding its promised high gear when the offensive line, the foundation of it all, is festooned in yellow flags.

Maybe next year, when Miami finds an offensive line coach with the authority and the skill to demand more professionalism in his room. This problem won’t fix itself quickly, and there was no hope of it ever happening under Chris Foerster, whose own lack of personal discipline got him fired and into rehab.

 

 

 

Not the first time that fans have wanted Jay Cutler’s injury replacement to keep the job

This business with Jay Cutler getting injured and fans favoring his backup as a permanent solution is nothing new.

It happened at Chicago in 2013, when Cutler missed one start with a torn groin muscle and four more with a high ankle sprain. At no point did former Bears head coach Marc Trestman waver from the notion his starter would be back in the lineup as soon as he was physically able, even though Cutler’s replacement did quite well.

And who was that replacement? Believe it or not, Josh McCown, these days a starter with the New York Jets.

New York Jets outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins  grabs Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler  and slams him to the ground in third quarter of Oct. 22 game in Miami Gardens. Cutler was injured on the play. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Stories in the Chicago Tribune archives give the details, how McCown went 3-2 as an emergency starter that year and was coming off a great performance on the week that Trestman announced Cutler had been medically cleared to return to full practice and would rejoin the lineup immediately.

McCown completed 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns to beat Dallas in his final game before Cutler’s return. Matter of fact, that was enough to win McCown the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award.

Trestman explained his general philosophy on the matter like this.

“He (Cutler) is our starting quarterback. He’s our leader,” Trestman said. “It’s in the best interest of our football team, if he can move the team and not hurt himself or the team, we want him to be in there. And he wants to be in there.”

The Bears were 7-6 at the time and tied with Detroit for the NFC North lead. What followed was a near miss at making the playoffs, with Cutler and Chicago losing two of the last three games, including a 54-11 blowout at Philadelphia. Cutler was sacked five times in that one, but to be fair the Eagles dominated every facet of the game.

Use this as a template for what probably will happen with the Miami Dolphins a few weeks from now, providing Cutler is cleared to return from the cracked ribs he got in Sunday’s 31-28 win over the New York Jets.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase works well with Matt Moore, who sparked the comeback on Sunday, but he chose Cutler to run the team when Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season in August and he can be expected to choose Cutler again at the earliest opportunity.

That’s what Trestman did in 2013, rushing Cutler back into the lineup even though McCown had a higher passer rating to that point in the season, 109.8 to 88.4.

“We’re certainly very, very happy about the way Josh has performed,” said Trestman, “but this has been the plan and we’re going to execute it.”

There was one other time when Cutler came back from an extended injury absence in Chicago. He missed five games early in the 2016 with an injury to his right thumb but the Bears never got anything going with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as his replacements. Eventually the entire season went down the drain with Cutler missing the last six games due to surgery on his throwing shoulder.

“We did try to exhaust all the non-surgical remedies,” said Bears coach John Fox, who noted that Cutler finished up the game in which his shoulder was injured. “Jay is a tough guy and proved that to me in the   past.”

Gase’s respect for Cutler is also high, worthy of a one-year contract for $10 million with the Dolphins this year. Ready or not, you’ll see him again, and maybe with more emotion from Cutler than people have come to expect.

Cutler’s former Chicago teammates reported that the quarterback gave a pregame motivational speech on the night he returned from that five-game injury absence last season, and then he went out to lead a 20-10 win over Minnesota.

The guy still wants to be out there, all right. If he didn’t, Cutler would have stayed retired at 34 rather than taking Gase’s offer to return to the NFL.

[Hoping for a little churn at top of NBA and not Cavs-Warriors rematch]

[Offensive line, a real mess now, used to be source of stability for Shula]

[Even the greatest UM teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

 

Cutler and Gase are nearing their production level with 2015 Bears, but is that good enough?

If Jay Cutler and Adam Gase are finally back to the comfort level of their former collaboration in Chicago, that would be good for the Miami Dolphins.

The question is how good? That crazy comeback in win at Atlanta featured Cutler’s first Miami game with two touchdown passes. He kept everything short and safe and, in the second half at least, he kept the Dolphins offense humming.

Quarterback Jay Cutler walks out to the field for warm-ups prior to his final game working with Adam Gase in Chicago, a 24-20 loss to Detroit with three interceptions on January 3, 2016. (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images)

We can project the best of this solid effort onto the rest of the season, or maybe even something better, but to me it’s more realistic to look at what Cutler and Gase did together with the Bears. That’s always advertised as one of Cutler’s most efficient seasons, remember, and at the of 34 efficiency should be his highest goal.

First, if you’re looking for Cutler to run off a long string of victories, he never did that when Gase was his offensive coordinator and playcaller in Chicago. Their longest win streak was two in a row, which happened twice that season, and two in a row is where the Dolphins’ win streak is right now.

You have to go back to 2013 to find a longer win streak for Cutler. He won five in a row back then, spanning from the end of the 2012 season into the start of the next one. It didn’t last, though, as the Bears missed the playoffs at 8-8.

As for multiple-touchdown games, Cutler is just getting started at Miami with his first against Atlanta. He didn’t have any in 2016 but in 2015, working with Gase, it happened seven times. There’s some promise there.

The most explosive passing game Cutler and Gase had together in Chicago was a 37-13 win over the Rams. Playing indoors, at St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome, Cutler completed 19 of 24 passes for 258 yards with three touchdowns. Included in that were scoring plays of 87 and 83 yards. Altogether, it was a career-best quarterback rating of 151.0 for Cutler.

In 2017 with the Dolphins, he has climbed above a rating of 100 just once, in the opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers, and has an average rating of 85.3 through five games. That’s short of his career-best 92.3 rating for the 2015 season, achieved with Gase.

In short, we’re seeing something just a little shy of the rhythm that Cutler and Gase found in 2015 as a quarterback-playcaller tandem. Through the first five games of that season the Bears were 2-3 and Cutler had four interceptions to go with seven touchdown passes. In 2017 the Dolphins are 3-2, while Cutler has four interceptions and five touchdown passes.

If Cutler is going to vary a great deal from 2015, it figures he will be a little worse over time instead of better. He’s older now, and so far has been involved each week in low-scoring games with little margin for error.

Look again to 2015. The Bears had three wins and four losses in games decided by a field goal or less.

Boy, is that familiar. Miami has scored 71 points this year and has allowed 73. It wouldn’t be that good, either, without a defensive touchdown scored on a Reshad Jones fumble return against Tennessee.

All of this puts a ton of pressure on Cutler to take advantage of every opportunity. That’s what the Dolphins need to make the playoffs, but he’s going to need all the help he can get.

We’re pretty much seeing the 2015 Jay Cutler right now, and the 2015 Bears finished 6-10 with a couple of overtime losses.

[What will Miami get from Syracuse, the team that lost to Middle Tennessee?]

[Spooky offensive room once was source of strength for Shula’s Miami teams]

[Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights]