Dolphins regress, not progress, in second season under Adam Gase
MIAMI (AP) — Miami Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry wore a sleeveless T-shirt last week bearing the team logo from the early 1970s, and said he liked the old-school look.
“They should bring it back,” Landry said. “They were undefeated.”
A few days later, the Dolphins lost their season finale, the glory days further away than ever. Things have gotten so bad Miami now looks upon the Buffalo Bills with envy.
With a 6-10 finish, the Dolphins will sit out the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years, and they’re 65-80 (.448) since 2008. It has been 17 years since the Dolphins won a postseason game, 25 years since they reached the AFC championship game and 33 years since they played in a Super Bowl.
The undefeated season was in 1972, and the Dolphins’ most recent NFL title came a year later. Current coach Adam Gase has only heard about those achievements, because he wasn’t born yet.
Rather than show progress toward ending those droughts, the Dolphins regressed in their second season under Gase.
After overachieving to go 10-6 in 2016 and make the playoffs, Miami deteriorated into a wildly inconsistent, undisciplined team undone by a five-game losing starting in Week 8.
“Something has to change,” Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones said following his eighth year with Miami. “It’s tough not making the playoffs, knowing the potential we have in this locker room. It’s just another season I feel like we’ve wasted.”
Said Gase: “We need to do a lot of things better.”
Owner Stephen Ross opted for stability and will keep the organization’s core leadership intact. That means Gase, executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier all return in 2018.
But a major roster upgraded is needed. Here are things to know as the Dolphins begin another long offseason:
The Dolphins were bad but also unlucky. Even Mother Nature worked against them: Hurricane Irma caused the postponement of the first game, forcing Miami to play 16 weeks in a row.
In retrospect, the season was probably doomed when quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury early in training camp sent him to the sideline. Jay Cutler came out of retirement as a stopgap replacement, but he was erratic and twice injured. The Dolphins also lost their most promising rookie, linebacker Raekwon McMillan, to a season-ending knee injury in the first exhibition game.
Tannehill is expected to return as the starter in 2018, but there are doubts about his durability after two serious injuries to his left knee since December 2016. Cutler, 34, likely will resume his retirement.
Under Gase, the Dolphins have committed more penalties than any other team in the past two seasons, and there were other reasons to wonder about discipline.
Linebacker Lawrence Timmons went AWOL on the eve of the opener, was briefly suspended and returned to have a poor season. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster resigned in October after a video on social media appeared to show him snorting lines of white powder. Linebacker Rey Maualuga was released the day before a game following a morning incident at a nightclub. Landry and running back Kenyan Drake were ejected from the season finale for their roles in an embarrassing brawl with the Bills.
Long snapper John Denney summed up his 13th season with the Dolphins: “It was pretty abnormal — a lot of things going on.”
Miami beat both reigning Super Bowl teams but won only four other games. Three losses were against teams that went 13-31 versus the rest of the league.
“This team has a lot of talent,” cornerback Bobby McCain said, “but talent doesn’t get you anywhere.”
The Dolphins lost eight of the final 10 games, including the last three, and it’s hard to argue they were better than their record. They led to start the fourth quarter in only two games and were outscored by 112 points, fourth worst in the NFL.
The biggest offseason issue involves Landry, whose contract expires. He’s likely to return, even though his combustible personality causes headaches for Gase.
Miami’s dink passing attack gave Landry one of the NFL’s most bizarre stat lines: 112 receptions to lead the league and break his own franchise record, but an average of 8.8 yards per catch to rank 110th. He finished 13 yards shy of 1,000.
Receiver Kenny Stills has perhaps the Dolphins’ best offseason plan. A nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, Stills said he’ll hit the highway with friends in his early-1970s Volkswagen bus to do volunteer work in other states.
“I want to find some grass-roots organizations that need the help or might need the recognition, and lend a helping hand in any way I can,” he said. “The whole idea would be to film the trip, let people track it, and then possibly collect donations, and put all of that money back into the organizations we visited.”