After investing tens of millions of dollars on both sides of the ball last offseason, the Miami Dolphins were a trendy pick in many circles to take the "next step" in 2015.
That next step turned out to be a step back, and head coach Joe Philbin was fired before the season was even halfway over.
On Saturday, the Dolphins settled on the next man to lead the franchise, and while former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase may not be able to personally fix a Dolphins defense that face-planted in 2015, Gase is the perfect hire to fix a quarterback who did the same.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport was among the first to break the news that Gase had signed on with the Dolphins:
It was news that wasn't really news. It was no secret the Dolphins coveted Gase, and Jay Glazer of Fox Sports tweeted Miami has had the 37-year-old in its sights for some time:
The hiring of Gase, who followed John Fox to Chicago last year after two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, met with the approval of one of the more well-known fans of the longtime kings of the AFC East:
And it isn't hard to see why. Even if you want to apply an asterisk to Gase's time with the Broncos at the helm of an offense brimming with talent and led by a Hall of Fame quarterback, his impact in Chicago last year was undeniable.
Or more specifically, his impact on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
To say that Cutler entered 2015 on a short leash is a misnomer. There was no leash. Short of changing the locks at Halas Hall, the Bears did everything in their power to rid themselves of Cutler (and his contract) last year to no avail.
Then Gase arrived, took lemons and made lemonade.
|Jay Cutler 2014 vs. 2015|
Yes, Cutler's passing yards, completion percentage and touchdowns all dipped. But that had as much to do with the loss of wide receiver Brandon Marshall (traded to the New York Jets), wideout Alshon Jeffery (who missed seven games in 2015) and rookie first-round pick Kevin White (who missed the entire year with a fractured shin) as anything.
Something else dropped as well. The number of Cutler's mind-bendingly bad decisions with the football that resulted in turnovers.
Cutler's 11 interceptions last year were his lowest total since throwing seven in 10 games back in 2011. Cutler's 92.3 passer rating was a career high. His QBR surpassed 60 for only the third time in 10 NFL seasons.
Cutler admitted, per the team's website, that he'll be sad to see Gase go:
The question, of course, is if Cutler is kitten-sweater sad:
Gase's success with Cutler last year was no doubt a huge selling point for the Dolphins. Of all the problems Miami had last year, the most alarming lied under center.
After progressing steadily in each of his first three seasons and earning a six-year, $96 million contract extension, quarterback Ryan Tannehill took a significant step back in 2015. His completion percentage, touchdown passes and passer rating all fell compared to 2014:
|Ryan Tannehill 2014 vs. 2015|
Tannehill's QBR free-fell by nearly 15 points.
Per NFL.com's Marc Sessler, Tannehill sat in on Gase's first interview with the Dolphins, with Sessler's colleague Jeff Darlington reporting the pair "hit it off."
That's most assuredly a good thing, because Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post expects Tannehill to be coached up like he's never been before:
Gase's work ethic and dedication to his players have drawn praise from at least one player who knows a thing or two about the quarterback position, as NFL Network's Albert Breer reported:
But while Gase has also been hailed for his diligence, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote he possesses a trait that will serve both him and Tannehill even better in Miami...
In 11 years as an NFL assistant, Gase has seen and worked in various systems and from each he's cribbed ideas to develop an offense that is adaptable. It's an ever-shifting paradigm whose base function is to cater to the quarterback and the players he's been handed.
The concept also apparently applies to Gase's personality. His players describe him as flexible, but not to the point that he is a pushover. They say he is personable. He relates to everyone on the Bears even though he primarily works with the offense.
"He goes up and talks to everyone on the team," Bears defensive lineman Mitch Unrein told the Chicago Sun-Times recently. "You need that as a head coach. You need that ability to have the respect of the players, but also have that close-knit team where somebody doesn't feel where you're too big where they can't come and talk to you."
Simply put, it cannot be overstated how important that trait is. It's what separates great coaches from good ones. Bill Belichick is a perfect example. Darth Hoodie isn't so enamored with his schemes—his style—that he keeps bashing a square peg into a round hole until it breaks. He adjusts on the fly. Takes what he has and makes the best of it.
Gase has done the same, whether it's in Denver or Chicago. And that has to be music to Tannehill's ears.
It's been a never-ending revolving door of tutelage for Tannehill on South Beach. Mike Sherman. Bill Lazor. Zac Taylor. Every time the youngster begins to build something with the Dolphins, someone new comes along and changes everything. Tears it right back down.
In 2015, it happened midseason.
Tannehill doesn't need a coach who will come in and once again hit the reset button on his development. He needs a coach who will keep the things that work and jettison those that don't. Who will tailor the offense around the quarterback rather than ask him to change his game (again) to suit the scheme.
And Gase appears, given his track record, to be exactly that sort of coach.
Is success for Gase and Tannehill in Miami a sure thing? Of course not. The Dolphins defense regressed even more than Tannehill in 2015. The staff Gase assembles on that side of the ball is going to play a key role in whether things do indeed turn around in Miami.
But as the Dolphins welcome in their ninth head coach since 2004, there's reason for real excitement in Miami.
From all indications, Gase is smart enough to understand that you don't have to reinvent the wheel to get things back on track.
Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks.