Not expecting a major step back for Adam Gase, no matter what Las Vegas says

 

Not quite sure where I’m going with my Dolphins prediction right now. Training camp opens Thursday and it makes no sense to guess that there will be no injuries between now and September.

It does seem harsh, though, to predict a major step back in Adam Gase’s second year as coach. That’s what USA Today is doing with a 7-9 pick for Miami in 2017.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase smiles as he speaks during a news conference after an NFL organized team activities football practice, Thursday, May 25, 2017, at the Dolphins training facility in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Back in May, the Southpoint Casino in Las Vegas went the same way, naming 7.5 as the over-under for the Dolphins.

Of course, it could happen that way. Gase, among all people, can be counted upon to stress to his players that a 10-6 playoff season in 2016 is wiped clean. The Dolphins of 2017 are a different animal, with some new players but all the old challenges.

Looking back, though, I can only find seven times in franchise history where the Dolphins had a dropoff of three or more wins from one year to the next. That’s seven times in 51 seasons. (Can’t count 1982, the strike-shortened season when Miami dropped from 11 wins to seven but reached the Super Bowl anyway.)

Don Shula had three of those precipitous drop-offs, proving that not even the winningest coach in NFL history can win them all.

The others were 2004, the year Dave Wannstedt resigned. He was 10-6 the previous season but stumbled to a 1-8 start and bailed on what turned out to be a 4-12 finish.

Nick Saban had a three-game dropoff in 2006, the year he already had one foot out the door for Alabama.

Cam Cameron broke all Dolphin standards by going 1-15 in 2007, a dropoff of five wins from Saban’s low point.

Finally, Tony Sparano went from that magical 11-win debut season in 2008 to 7-9 the following year.

In the last four cases, Miami didn’t have a great quarterback, or, at times, even a serviceable one.

Gase, on the other hand, seems to have something going now with Ryan Tannehill, providing all the good signs on that rehab from last December’s ACL injury continue to be good.

Working against Miami is a schedule that ranks sixth-toughest in the NFL. The Dolphins’ 2017 opponents had a winning percentage of .547 last year.

It’s possible, however, to read too much into that.

Prior to the 2016 season, and using the same methods, Buffalo was judged to have the 10th-toughest schedule in the league. Miami was No. 11 and Carolina No. 12.

Two of those teams wound up with losing records. Miami, going against the grain, had its best season in eight years.

[’72 Dolphins put up entirely different numbers during a different time]

[Here are trap games that should worry Seminoles, UM and Gators]

[A travel itinerary to attend all the best college football games in our state]

So my inclination right now is to say 9-7 for Miami this year. Sure, it’s a small step back, but I can find just one example of a Dolphins coach improving the team’s win total by four games from one season to the next and then immediately stepping it up again.

That was Shula, who went from six wins to 10 to 11 between 1976-78.

It’s a tough ask.

 

Rate the Adam Gase offseason buzz against other Dolphins coaching debuts

It’s pretty exciting having a new coach with the Miami Dolphins. Fresh ideas. Great expectations. And then there’s that undefeated 0-0 record.

Where, though, do you rate the buzz level on Adam Gase compared to other coaches who have come this way since the departure of Don Shula?

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, right foreground, watches the players perform drills during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
DAVIE – Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, right foreground, watches the players perform drills during practice at the team’s training facility on Monday. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

I’m talking about how many people you meet who are talking about the Dolphins with less than 100 days before the season opener, and how many times you have checked in to see what Gase is saying or doing at OTA’s, just in case he’s right about a lot of stuff and Miami is about to make some noise.

Here’s my list in order, from (A)South Florida is crazy-go-nuts over the Dolphins’ new direction to (Z) South Florida is stuck somewhere between ambivalent over what’s coming up and fast asleep in the midst of the offseason lull.

 

  1. Jimmy Johnson – 1996 – He had Super Bowl-winning credentials plus a high Miami profile as former coach of the national champion Hurricanes. Also there was the mystery of what the Dolphins would feel and look like without Shula leading them onto the field for the first time in 26 years.
  2. Nick Saban – 2005 – He was a championship coach at LSU, not to mention previous NFL experience as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. A proven winner who had been given full control of the Dolphins operation and was ready to make the move up from college ball.
  3. Adam Gase – 2016 – Hey, an aggressive head coach who calls his own plays rather than standing around with one hand on the red challenge flag and hoping his staff is on point with the game plan. If Ryan Tannehill ever is going to take off, this should be the year.
  4. Dave Wannstedt – 2000 – Raw deal being the one who had to tell Dan Marino his time was up, but on the other hand he was Jimmy’s hand-picked successor and a trusted partner during great years with the Hurricanes and the Cowboys. Handed a playoff team in Miami, he figured to do fine.
  5. Cam Cameron – 2007 – Sure, this seems completely out of whack now, but that summer Cameron was viewed as the offensive wizard behind San Diego’s high-scoring teams and one of the top coordinators available around the league. If you’re drawing comparisons to Gase, just stop.
  6. Tony Sparano – 2008 – Nobody knew a thing about this guy but Bill Parcells was newly in charge of the Dolphins and he wanted Sparano after working together in Dallas so that was good enough. Most of all, whoever served as head coach immediately after Cameron was going to shine.
  7. Joe Philbin – 2012 – This one was puzzling from the start, and Philbin certainly wasn’t helped by everybody knowing the Dolphins really wanted Jeff Fisher. Joe was helped by coming from Green Bay but hurt by the fact he was a coordinator who didn’t call plays. No outward intensity either.

[One last quick look at all those great Doral moments]

[There’s really no such thing as a simple summer for Dwyane Wade]

[A modest proposal for spicing up Dolphins OTA workouts]

Mix and match these names as you wish. The big thing is it’s good to get a fresh look at the Dolphins. Sooner or later, if only by accident, this franchise needs to start winning again.