It wasn’t that long ago we were trying to figure out whether Adam Gase was a legitimate coach or if he was just riding Peyton Manning’s coat tails. A year of wringing one of Jay Cutler’s best seasons out of the mercurial quarterback convinced the Dolphins he was the real deal, and he’ll be charged with resurrecting Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense.
While Gase has added Clyde Christensen as his offensive coordinator, Gase has indicated he’ll call the plays for Miami.
“I really enjoy that aspect of putting the game plan together with the offensive staff, so going into this season that’s how we are going to start, with me calling them,” Gase said at his introductory press conference.
Gase cites Nick Saban, Mike Martz and John Fox as his biggest influences, but he’s also worked alongside Steve Mariucci and Josh McDaniel and he cites the latter as his top inspiration.
“Getting with Josh McDaniels was probably a very eye opening moment for me as far as developing a culture where you use your players to their strengths,” Gase said in a radio interview. “It’s not really about the system that you run, it’s about your players. How do you implement a certain scheme to benefit them and get the most out of them? Obviously, that was something that he did in New England and I love that philosophy and really tried to help implement that when I became coordinator in Denver.”
When Gase talks about his offense, the word “fluid” is used frequently. And when your quarterbacks range from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning to Jay Cutler, it makes sense to construct the offense around their unique strengths rather than ask them all to fit within the same constraints.
“We started moving some pieces around when we had Tebow and then going to Peyton,” Gase said. “We had a fluid offense to make sure that our players were playing the best positions and using their talents to maximize their potential. Every week was different. It’s always about what’s best for this week, winning this game with this group of players—whatever you have to do. That is the fun part of coaching.”
“You can create the foundation, but then I want to coach a team that’s fluid,” Gase continued. “To put guys in the best position possible to win every week. We’re going to build our schemes around our players,” Gase continued. “So as a starting point you look at what my background is on offense, we’ve run multiple things, we’re a very fluid offense. What we’re really going to base this thing around [is] the guys that we have on the roster, and what we add on there.”
The first domino Gase will need to position will be his quarterback. Tannehill has had three offensive coordinators in his four seasons on South Beach, but Gase plans to make the quarterback his personal project.
“I think it’s going to start with me,” Gase said at his introductory press conference. “I think he needs a guy that’s going to have his back, that he feels comfortable with right out of the gate, and I’m going to work directly with him.”
“I was with Peyton Manning for three years and I feel like that was a great experience,” Gase continued. “Dealing with Jay Cutler, a very talented guy, we just kind of changed a few things up as far as trying to maximize his strengths. I think Ryan has a lot of ability that we’re looking to find what things he does best and then really lean on those and then we will need the guys around him to actually be that supporting cast to help him take it to the next level.”
Despite its fluidity, there are hallmarks to Gase’s offense that should translate to Miami. Gase used the screen game in both Denver and Chicago, but where the Dolphins simply threw quick passes to Jarvis Landry and asked him to pick up yardage after the catch Gase’s offenses used play action as well as non-traditional formations and situations to create more success in his screen game.
Gase also used more innovative route concepts than the Dolphins have employed to create throwing windows for his quarterbacks. It’s a tactic that helped Cutler decrease his interceptions from 18 pre-Gase to 11 last year—his lowest total since 2011, when he threw seven in 10 games. Cutler also posted a career best in passer rating under Gase.
Perhaps Tannehill’s greatest challenge will be identifying blitzes and making play calls at the line of scrimmage—something he was rarely asked to do under previous Miami regimes. Tannehill was a wide receiver for some of his college career so he may not have as much experience as, say, Peyton Manning, and by all indications his intelligence and work ethic will work in his favor as he attempts to master this element of quarterbacking.
“It’s hard to do alone, I know that,” Gase added. “It takes a full unit to really succeed. We have to play better as a group. It’s not going to be one guy.”
Miami’s surrounding personnel bears a strong resemblance to what Gase worked with in Denver. They have a Demaryius Thomas-like big receiver in DeVante Parker, a speed guy similar to Emmanuel Sanders in Kenny Stills, and a Wes Welker-esque high-volume possession guy in Jarvis Landry, as well as a capable pass-catching tight end with Jordan Cameron adjusting his contract to stick around.
Gase also could have a very familiar face at running back, with the Dolphins signing former Bronco CJ Anderson to an offer sheet. The money Miami is offering suggests Anderson will be at minimum the lead dog in a backfield committee, though Jay Ajayi should be plenty involved as well. In Denver in 2014 four backs saw 50 or more carries, led by Anderson (179) and Ronnie Hillman (106), while last year in Chicago both Jeremy Langford (148 carries) and Ka’Deem Carey (43) were involved even when Matt Forte (218 carries in 13 games) was healthy.
Ultimately, the plan is for Miami’s offense under Gase to be aggressive, up-tempo and attacking, according to offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen. “It’s an offense we ran for a long time in Indianapolis and then [Gase] took it to Denver and I’m sure they tweaked and improved it a little bit,” Christensen said in a published report.
Gase proved last season it wasn’t just Peyton who made the Denver offense go, and his work getting the best out of Cutler bodes well for Tannehill. The pieces are in place; now it’s up to Gase to construct his offense to play to the strengths of those pieces.