Several years back, Jeff Ireland, then GM of the Miami Dolphins drafted players because they were good leaders and captains. His gamble never came to fruition during his tenure that is until Adam Gase arrived.
Fast forward to this offseason and specifically the draft, the Dolphins not only drafted leaders, but talented players.
Define talented? Minkah Fitzpatrick, talent, strength, and a strong football acumen made him the Dolphins 2018 pick at 11 in round one. Fitzpatrick will push TJ McDonald for the starting job. At Alabama he shined brightly in the big lights of the SEC and more importantly, head ball coach Nick Saban loved him.
Then there’s Tight End Mike Gesicki. Yes PSU’s Mike Gesicki who high points the ball when he catches it and is being compared to the likes of Rob Gronkowski. Obviously a red zone threat and Tannehill’s security blanket. Gesicki comes from Franklin’s system at Penn State and demonstrated a knack for big offensive touchdowns.
Could the Dolphins have leapfrogged some teams to get into the Top 10 to select a QB; Josh Rosen perhaps, yes. But then what?
Giving up draft picks that turned into potential fulfillment of roster needs would have been stupid at this juncture when a QB, although a nice luxury in the draft could have crippled the team for seasons if both the offense and defense were not addressed.
As an arm chair GM, I’ve noticed that teams can afford to gamble when they already have a good team and the Dolphins are merely a team in progress who aspire for bigger and better things like playoffs. Some Dolphins fans say “we can’t have nice things.” My answer to that-look at the Cleveland Browns. No matter who they draft, they are still missing a major component-winning.
This year’s offseason for the Dolphins was all about drafting the best players and leaders and filling holes left vacant after an offseason which saw the Dolphins get into the black in terms of cap space and straighten out their balance sheet.
Gone is the rather needy Landry.
Gone is Suh who could never build a consistent portfolio of games even though he was the highest rated player according to PFF.
Clearly, Head coach Adam Gase, GM Chris Grier, and finally VP Mike Tannenbaum had a plan in mind and they all made sure that one: the Dolphins locker room didn’t divide when dealing with a tough loss or two and players were traded or rumor to be traded and two-add depth to every position.
As of now, OTAs have passed and the Dolphins like the look of their team with both young players and veterans buying in to Adam Gase’s system-straight laced, fair, and learn the X’s and O’s before you step on the field.
Based on my observations from training camp: Gase provides a structured environment and every player on the field knows exactly where they should be and the practices are uptempo. It’s truly a thing of beauty. Coaches coach and most of all teach.
As of now, Adam Gase has put the rookies on notice each of his past three seasons with meetings the weekend before OTA’s and what is expected if you play in Miami as a pro-such as meeting all staff at Hard Rock Stadium, the Dolphin’s home stadium. It’s an orientation of sorts which takes a page from Fortune 500 companies who invest in their people.
Gase’s response on why he goes over this with the rookies: so come first days of OTAs they can “hit the ground running.”
When I see what Gase has established in three seasons in Miami it comes down to one word-trust.
Last year when there was clear dissension or division of the locker room, Gase’s ride or die moment with Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams to do the job of Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi, he proved us all wrong even though the experiment didn’t lead to many wins.
Last season when he called out certain players, not by name about spending more time in their playbooks-he was critical of what he wanted from his guys-leadership. Last year, the Dolphins craved leadership.
You could point to a number of instances where Adam Gase could be seen yelling at Jarvis Landry and for good reason-Landry clearly showed that the games were all about him and when things didn’t go his way-we saw it versus Buffalo in week 17, temper tantrum and ejections.
Here’s what I can see based on the various reports from OTA’s: the defense has a new leader and his name is Raekwon McMillan. From telling players to where line up and giving the Dolphins enormous intel and trust his judgement to draft his pal Baker from OSU (might be the steal of the draft even though I love Kiko.)
On offense: Ryan Tannehill sat an entire season due to a second torn ACL and then watched Jay Cutler make a mockery of his job and could barely keep it together as the season wound down and Gase has no choice but to evaluate David Fales.
Tannehill is the leader of the Dolphins and don’t be fooled. He has grown up from that deer in the headlights look and if he has a strong season, he’ll have an argument for big money anywhere he wants to play.
Leadership. It’s a role that can be daunting and fleeting in an NFL locker room.
Gase has his guys and for now, he has some good players that are buying in and ready to lead the next chapter of Dolphins football.
(Photo Credit: Palm Beach Post)
Column originally featured on Finsfreelance.com