Deep Dive – New York Jets HC Adam Gase’s Tenure With Miami Dolphins

Joe Caporoso with a deep dive on Adam Gase’s tenure with the Miami Dolphins…

The New York Jets decision to hire former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase has received a mixed response from both fans and the media. Let’s focus in on his three year tenure with the Dolphins and examine recent historical comparisons of Head Coaches who went directly from one job to another with no years between. 

Gase is the only Head Coach currently in the NFL who was fired from the same role during or after the 2018 regular season. He is also the only Head Coach in the NFL who was fired from the same role within the past five years. The other coaches who were previously fired were Andy Reid (2012), Jon Gruden (2008), Pete Carroll (1999) and Bill Belichick (1995). It is also worth noting that Bruce Arians retired after the 2017 season, took 2018 off and was just hired to coach the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Of those coaches listed, only Andy Reid did not have a multiyear gap between his two jobs. Other recent NFL Head Coaches who have taken their next job with no years in-between are John Fox (2015), Rex Ryan (2015), and Eric Mangini (2009).

The closest comparisons are ironically Ryan and Mangini, both former New York Jets HCs. Reid coached the Eagles for 13 years and made a Super Bowl prior to his transition to Kansas City. Ryan coached the Jets for 6 years with 2 playoff appearances before moving to the Bills. Mangini’s resume lines up the closest, as he coached the Jets for three years, with one playoff appearance (in his debut season, similar to Gase) and had an identical 23-25 regular season record and 0-1 playoff record.

In Mangini’s second job, he had back to back 5-11 seasons with the Cleveland Browns prior to being fired. Rex Ryan went 8-8 and then 7-8 before being fired before week 17 of his second year with the Buffalo Bills. Reid has flourished with the Chiefs, making the playoffs in 5 of his 6 years leading the team.

Gase’s situation is fairly unique and he’ll be looking to break the recent precedent set by Mangini and Ryan. When transitioning to the Jets, he has brought over six of his former coaches from the 2018 Dolphins staff, including his Offensive Coordinator, Dowell Loggains and his father-in-law, Joe Vitt.

However, he has also hired a Defensive Coordinator in Gregg Williams he has never previously worked with and dubbed him the “Head Coach of the Defense,” while not hesitating to keep the Jets Special Teams Coordinator, Brant Boyer, who had the number one ranked DVOA unit in 2018.

The biggest question for Gase is can he demonstrate an ability to change things that did not work for him in Miami and evolve in certain aspects of the job?

When Gase arrived in Miami before 2016, the Dolphins were coming off a 6-10 season where Joe Philbin was fired midyear and Dan Campbell took over. Gase received the job predominantly on the back of a successful run as an Offensive Coordinator alongside Peyton Manning in Denver. Gase hired Clyde Christensen as his Offensive Coordinator in Miami and Vance Joseph as his Defensive Coordinator. Miami’s offense moved from 22nd to 14th in Offensive DVOA and starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 8-5 as a starter with a career high in completion percentage (67.1) and yards per attempt (7.7). The Dolphins were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs with backup quarterback Matt Moore under center after finishing 10-6 in the regular season.

Gase understandably received widespread praise for his debut season, finishing third in Coach of the Year voting. This is an interesting read from Armando Salguero in retrospect on why Gase should have won COY in 2016:

Adam Gase changed significant portions of the Dolphins offense overnight.

The next day — a Friday — he installed it with his assistants and then the players.

And, yes, his offensive line at the time was coming together. And running back Jay Ajayi had been showing signs he was ready to be a bell cow NFL running back. And, yes, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was progressing with his reaction times and reads.

But two days after Gase reworked his offense the 1-4 Miami Dolphins seemed like a different team in beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-15. That was the first of nine wins the next 10 games. That was the moment the Dolphins 2016 season turned on its axis and onto its current postseason course…

…Gase, by the way, declined to be interviewed for this column. I met with him Wednesday and tried to convince him to speak with me about possibly winning the coach of the year award in his rookie year. NBC’s Rodney Harrison has said Gase should be coach of the year. Other pundits have echoed that sentiment.

I think it should be Gase while recognizing he competes in the same division with Bill Belichick, who also basically deserves the award just about any year he works.

Anyways, Gase wanted nothing to do with my idea. He said that wasn’t his priority.

His priorities? His players. Their success. Winning.

And speaking of that, Gase has taken an interesting approach to instilling a winning culture in Miami. He is cocky. He is smart. He is borderline deranged.

Gase had a unique situation in Miami for a Head Coach, particularly a young Head Coach, where he maintained full personnel control. In 2017 that reality came under closer scrutiny with a serious of unsuccessful additions and a few surprising “culture” subtractions occurred in conjunction with a 6-10 record. Miami opted for Jay Cutler to replace the injured Ryan Tannehill, traded for Julius Thomas and sent running back Jay Ajayi packing midseason to the Eagles, where he went on to be their lead back on a Super Bowl winning team. The Cutler decision backfired and it is debatable whether Matt Moore should have received a longer look  and would have been a more effective option under center.

The coach felt empowered by that ‘16 success that included a playoff berth — albeit a one-and-done appearance.

And the owner fed into the Gase power trip because he had given the 40-year-old first-time coach the power to tear down and rebuild the roster if he wanted and done so in writing in his contract.

Gase, no doubt feeding off the early success, sometimes joked about being able to blow up the entire organization if he wanted.

2017 was a tumultuous year for Miami, from losing Ryan Tannehill to a season ending injury before the season started, to their Offensive Line coach being forced to resign after this video leaked, to ongoing struggles with on field discipline. Miami’s defense dropped from 19th in DVOA to 27th under Matt Burke who was promoted to replace the departed Vance Joseph, while Miami’s offense also dropped all the way down to 27th in DVOA. In advance of the 2018 regular season, Miami shipped off leading receiver, Jarvis Landry, to the Cleveland Browns. Within 18 months of wrapping up their 10-6 playoff season in 2016, they had traded away their leading rusher and receiver, both of whom exceeded 1,000 yards and were 25 or younger when moved.

Heading into 2018, the Dolphins got Tannehill back under center and had an active offseason adding veteran players to replace their traded away skill position talent by signing Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson and Frank Gore. They also added 31 year old Josh Sitton at guard, Brock Osweiler to be the backup quarterback and let both Mike Pouncey and Ndamukong Suh walk in free agency. On the coaching front, they stayed with Matt Burke as a Defensive Coordinator and replaced Christensen at Offensive Coordinator with Dowell Loggains, who had been fired by the Chicago Bears. Loggains had previously worked for Gase in Chicago during the 2015 season.

After a 3-0 start, Miami’s season quickly went off the rails en route to a 7-9 finish. Despite finishing near .500, their point differential was 30th worst in the NFL. and they closed the season with three straight double digit losses to non-playoff teams (Minnesota, Jacksonville and Buffalo). Over their final 13 games, 2 of the 4 wins came on the Miami Miracle and the now infamous Spencer Long Game. Miami finished 26th in Offensive DVOA, as they struggled with an inconsistent Tannehill and Gase’s handpicked backup, Osweiler under center.

This article summarizes the final weeks of Gase’s tenure well but he finished with a contentious relationship with ownership and his front office, while also having issues with multiple players. Gase’s popularity with the local media also declined over the three years due to interactions like this. 

Despite all the above, Gase was able to compile an impressive 20-6 record in one score games over three years and keep a Dolphins team with inconsistent quarterback play around .500 throughout his tenure. Part of what pushed his hiring over the top for the Jets was the glowing endorsement he received from Peyton Manning and despite problems with some former players, has received words of praise from guys like Alshon Jeffrey and CJ Anderson. He left with a reputation of wildly intense, tireless worker who regularly had personality clashes and unnecessary levels of loyalty to certain players or coaches. Gase’s ability as an offensive mind is rarely doubted but his ability to run a coaching staff and develop a young quarterback is still unproven, at best.

In totality, Gase left this final resume over three years with the Dolphins at this:

    • 23-25 overall record
    • 1 winning season
    • 1 playoff appearance
    • An average offensive DVOA of 22nd
    • An average total offense ranking of 26th (24th, 25th and 31st)

You can point to personnel and quarterback shortcomings as reasons for Gase’s struggles in Miami, although he was in charge of the personnel. He will not have that responsibility with the Jets but will also be paired up with a GM who has struggled substantially in his first four years on the job. With the hire of Greg Williams, Gase will be as hyper focused on just the offense as a Head Coach can be and taking on the dual responsibility of play calling while it sounds like Dowell Loggains will be more of a QB coach.

The Jets are betting that Gase can learn from his previous mistakes with Miami and coach Sam Darnold up to maximizing his potential. If Darnold can be the player everybody in the organization expects him to be it will help mask many other prospective deficiencies, in a way a player like Ryan Tannehill never could.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports