Culture Shock: Comparing Adam Gase’s Winning Ways to the Collapses of Joe Philbin’s Dolphins
Coming off the heels of an impressive comeback win in Los Angeles, the Dolphins, especially their head coach, have lent themselves to rave reviews. Not just the locals, but even national pundits are beginning to mention Adam Gase’s name in coach of the year talk. While some still aren’t willing to buy in on these 2016 Dolphins, its clear Gase is the real deal. Through a small sample size of 10 games, the proof is in the pudding; the Miami Dolphins have a new identity, a new culture—a winning culture.
We decided to take an extensive look at just what makes these Dolphins a winning team; we contrasted the winning plays with the losing plays that the Dolphins would make under Gase’s predecessor, Joe Philbin.
Philbin’s Dolphins essentially were the opposite of what Gase’s Dolphins are molding themselves into; Philbin’s Dolphins lacked physicality, leadership, and a team-wide sense of accountability, which lead to the team coming up short on Sunday when it counted most. Think about it—how many BIG wins did Philbin’s Dolphins have? You’d be hard-pressed to find more than the five that Gase’s Dolphins have been able to eek out during their subsequent five-game win streak.
Below, we break down both the winning plays that have been made under Coach Gase, and the losing plays that ultimately represented the Philbin era.
Week 3 vs. Cleveland:
Because of how ugly the win was, Ryan Tannehill never got enough credit for this clutch throw to Jarvis Landry. Although the team was struggling with inconsistency at this early stage of the season, this was the first noticeable winning play made by Gase’s team. Unlike recent years, Tannehill senses the pressure and throws across his body to hit his man. These are the types of throws franchise quarterbacks are expected to make. Under Gase, Tannehill made these throws early and has continued to do so throughout the season. In this specific situation, this huge gain through the air set up the winning score and gave the ‘Phins their first win in 2016.
Week 6 vs. Pittsburgh:
Up one score with 61 seconds to play and two timeouts still in the Steelers’ possession, the Dolphins weren’t out of the woods yet. Under Philbin, typically this could have been a three-and-out situation for the ‘Phins. Instead, on the first handoff, Ajayi took it all the way to the end zone, capping off an impressive win for the Dolphins. Pittsburgh came into Miami boasting an impressive 4-1 record. Even though the Steelers have fallen off a bit since, make no mistake, this was an impressive win for Gase’s team. If the Dolphins continue to build on their newfound success, we very well may remember this game as a springboard for the 2016 ‘Phins.
Week 7 vs. Buffalo:
This play was another signature moment for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins during their five-game win streak. Up only four with over two minutes remaining, this 3rd and 6 was a money down; in this situation, we had gotten used to short pass plays and the occasional draw play. Instead, Gase made the call to chuck it down field. While the ball was underthrown, Kenny Stills makes a great adjustment and is able to reel in the ball for a game-clinching touchdown. Following the win against the Steelers, many were quick to call it an aberration; after dominating the fourth quarter against a Bills team that came into Miami riding a four-game win streak, and possessed a 17-6 third quarter lead, the Dolphins began to turn some heads.
Week 9 vs. New York:
After Matt Darr inexplicably botched the snap from John Denney, the Jets had the ball deep in Miami territory and took advantage of it quickly. Miami found themselves down 23-20 in a game in which the Dolphins had every opportunity to take control of. You began to question the validity of the Dolphins’ past two wins and wondered if this team was just another tease, like the ones from 2013 and 2014—but before you could finish labeling this team as the same ole Dolphins, Kenyan Drake happened. The rookie from Alabama returned the kick all the way to the house in stunning fashion. The Jets possessed all the momentum, but these rebellious Dolphins didn’t care; after Drake gave his team the lead they never looked back. The Dolphins’ 27-23 win over New York marked their 2nd division win on the season; its important to note that the 2015 Dolphins got their first division win on the last week of the season.
Week 10 @ San Diego:
After the Dolphins tied the game up with a field goal, Phillip Rivers would have a chance to make amends for two earlier interceptions and lead his team to a win. Rivers quickly got his team near field goal range with a little over a minute to play. Suddenly shades of Seattle and New England came to mind, where the defense wasn’t able to get a stop when the team needed it most. Then, Rivers dropped back, fired and, in a blink of the eye, Kiko Alonso returned a game-winning interception. After this play, many who didn’t believe in Gase’s Dolphins, officially purchased their share of the stock. The Dolphins were now 5-4, and playoff talk in late November became a thing.
Week 11 @ Los Angeles:
The Dolphins went into their clash at The Coliseum without Mike Pouncey and Brendan Albert; the concern leading up to the game was if the Dolphins could continue to effectively run the ball, and if Ryan Tannehill could be kept upright for most of the game without the two star offensive linemen. The short answer was “no.” The team punted nine times on its first 11 possessions. While the weather wasn’t helpful, the Dolphins’ struggles were due to much more than bad weather. It was clear the offensive line still didn’t have adequate depth. After the Rams missed a long field goal that would have pushed their lead to 13-0, the momentum incredibly swung. These Dolphins turned a game that seemed so far out of reach on its head in a way we haven’t seen in years. The team, most importantly its quarterback, took after its head coach and refused to give up. The penultimate drive was capped off by a play that could very well be the epitome of the 2016 Dolphins; Jarvis Landry was held up at around the three-yard line and for a split second it seemed 3rd and short was upcoming for the offense. But then, sheer will took over every Dolphin offensive linemen as they willed Landry into the end zone.
Riding the momentum the offense had injected into the team, the defense got the three-and-out they needed and returned the ball to their offense. DeVante Parker, much like every other playmaker on the field hadn’t been able to get much going during this war of attrition. However, Adam Gase made sure Parker was targeted often during the game-winning drive. Ryan Tannehill connected with Parker three times during that final drive, including the go-ahead score. The throw was a thing of beauty from the five-year starter; he threw the ball into a window where only his receiver could come away with it. Chalk this up as another signature moment for Tannehill and Gase. Many also considered this play Parker’s true arrival; his springboard to becoming the star receiver many hoped he would become when the Dolphins drafted him. When asked about his play-calling on the final drive at his post game presser, Gase admitted he was going for the win; he wasn’t settling for overtime.
Week 4, 2013 – @ New Orleans:
On this play, the Dolphins were around midfield and looking at the possibility of cutting a slim four-point lead or possibly taking the lead with a touchdown. Ryan Tannehill doesn’t notice the defender jump the slant route and throws a deflating interception that lead to a Saints’ touchdown before halftime. We selected this play because for those of you who don’t recall, both the Saints and Dolphins came into this game 3-0 in a highly anticipated Monday Night showdown. The Dolphins were in prime position to make a statement on national television. Instead, the team laid an egg.
Week 7, 2013 – vs. Buffalo:
This play is also from the 2013 season. After dropping two in a row following their 3-0 start, the Dolphins needed a home win against a bad Bills team in the worst of ways. Despite struggling most of the game, the Dolphins held a late one-point lead and just needed to work the clock to secure victory. The team was moving the ball up the field well and it seemed the ‘Phins would hold on for the win. Instead, Ryan Tannehill didn’t sense the pressure coming and loses the ball while getting crunched. The Bills recovered the football deep in Dolphins’ territory and allowed Dan Carpenter to exact revenge against his former team in his return to Miami.
Week 16, 2013 – @ Buffalo:
The Dolphins came into Buffalo on the heels of an impressive home win against the New England Patriots. At 8-6, and with a favorable schedule to finish the season, the Dolphins appeared to be playoff bound; the Bills, on the other hand, had other plans and crashed the party. The Bills would go on to shutout the Dolphins by the score of 19-0 and put a serious dent into the squad’s playoff hopes. On the first play, the Dolphins find themselves in field goal range with a chance to take an early lead and build some momentum. The Dolphins pick up a costly delay of game penalty and Ryan Tannehill gets sacked on the next play, knocking the team out of field goal range; the Bills never looked back.
Week 17, 2013 vs. New York:
Despite the team’s poor showing the previous week in Buffalo, the ‘Phins remarkably found themselves in a win and you’re in situation against a mediocre Jets team. The Dolphins had an early second quarter 7-0 lead, but that was all they would get on the afternoon. The Jets scored 20 unanswered points as the Dolphins couldn’t solve the Jets’ defense the rest of the way. Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions in a forgettable second half; and for the first time since his hiring, questions regarding Joe Philbin and the team’s future began to be asked.
Week 10, 2014 – @ Detroit:
Miami was playing some of its best football under Joe Philbin and was on the verge of closing out an impressive road win at Detroit. On 3rd and goal, Ryan Tannehill scrambled and spotted Charles Clay momentarily uncovered in the end zone. Tannehill got the ball to Clay, but Clay couldn’t hang on. Instead of taking a touchdown lead, Miami settled for the field goal. After a quick Lions’ three-and-out, Miami returned the favor; Matthew Stafford was given a second chance and did not disappoint. On a 3rd and 4, Stafford scrambled and found Theo Riddick for the game-winning score. Yet, another opportunity to make a statement squandered under Joe Philbin.
Week 4, 2015 – vs. New York:
The Philbin era came to an abrupt ending, as the Jets dominated the Dolphins in every single facet of the game. The ‘Phins fittingly succumbed to the Jets’ physicality, as New York rushed for 207 yards. Chris Ivory was menacing, and the offense simply couldn’t get out of sorts across the pond. Thus, Philbin’s fate was sealed. The former head coach’s final game says a lot about how his players truly felt about him. Going into this matchup against New York, it was clear Philbin was on the hottest of seats, yet his players didn’t come out to play with the type of intensity you would expect from a team who wanted to save their head coach’s job. While the sample size is small, hypothetically speaking, it’s hard to imagine Gase’s Dolphins coming out flat if his job was on the line. Philbin never connected to his players the way it seems Gase already has.
Unlike his predecessor, Adam Gase has changed the culture in Miami into a winning one. After a rocky start to the season, the Dolphins have bought in to what Gase has preached, and it clearly has paid dividends. Under Joe Philbin, the Dolphins often played small in the biggest of games, and unlike Gase’s Dolphins, they played not to lose rather than playing to win. For instance, under the tutelage of Joe Philbin, Ryan Tannehill had five game-winning drives. Under the tutelage of Adam Gase, however, Tannehill has had three game-winning drives through 11 games.
These Dolphins play to win. The five-game win streak is an epitome of that statement. The ‘Phins haven’t necessarily looked convincing in any of their five consecutive wins, but they make winning plays consistently. Something Philbin’s teams were never able to do enough. In fact, we remember Philbin’s Dolphins for the losing plays they made during his tenure. No game during his tenure encapsulates that more than the 2013 season finale loss to New York, when a win would have secured a playoff berth.
Shortly after hiring Gase, owner Stephen Ross said his new head coach would lead the Dolphins to many Super Bowls. While a possible Super Bowl appearance still seems years away, one thing is certain: Adam Gase just may lead the Dolphins as a rookie to a place this franchise hasn’t seen in eight seasons.